“Guess What? I’m Pregnant!”

What four words can send a leader’s emotions into panic, shock, and fear while still masking a look and response of complete happiness and joy?

“Guess what? I’m pregnant.”

As a mother and business woman, I know the issues and pressures of dealing with pregnancy, pre- and postpartum emotions, and maternity leave. I get it but only because I’ve been through them all. One of the benefits of having women leaders in your company is the ability to mentor future women leaders who desire to grow their family alongside their career.

Of course, as a leader I worried about losing my top producer to maternity leave. I also worried about losing a teammate because of their decision to become a stay-at-home mom. Even with those concerns lingering in the back of my mind, I love seeing working women grow their families. Call me crazy but I’ve helped plan a lot of careers while also encouraging women to grow their families. My motivation isn’t just because I’m a woman, it’s also because of the long-term benefits it provides me, the company, and future women leaders. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about.

The heart.

Becoming a mother can soften the heart of an aggressive producer, so they are able to better transition into a more empathetic and caring leader.

Empowering others.

Maternity leave forces proper delegation. I love this process because it teaches a young leader how to empower others. They teach others how to think through handling their work instead of just passing off tasks. It’s easy and acceptable to just pass tasks off to cover for vacation days. However, due to the length of a maternity leave, a teammate will need to be coached as to the purpose behind the additional work they’ll be getting because they’ll be taking on not just the tasks, but also the decision-making. This is empowerment. The process teaches a young leader how to let go, thoroughly prepare and trust others with their work. The last thing a new mom wants is to be called all the time while on maternity leave!

Encourages opportunity and growth.

If the young leader going on maternity leave reported to me, I typically took on additional leadership for their area in their absence while teammates assisted with key production areas. This process enabled teammates to step up and learn new things and take on new responsibilities while allowing me to see the strength of our bench and who I could rely on for future growth opportunities.

Reinforces planning.

If I’m doing my job as a leader then my relationship will be strong enough that I’ll know my teammates’ personal goals. Once I show enthusiasm in their future family planning, then I’ve earned their trust in being part of the planning (but only if the relationship is there).

The great thing about pregnancy is that even if it’s a complete surprise, we can still usually expect at least eight months to prepare. Don’t you wish you had eight months to prepare for everyone that was leaving your company for an extended period of time? This time is critical for everyone. Next week we’ll hear from some young leaders and how they planned for their maternity leave.

No woman should feel they must sacrifice their family growth to be a business leader. Likewise, no business should suffer, or feel handicapped, due to their women leaders wanting to start a family. Both parties can benefit from this process!

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