Instead of Or, Are You Considering And?

A client emailed me last week. She’s a senior manager in her organization. Has been for several years. She’s considering reducing her work hours and taking a different position because her children are teenagers and need more emotional and driving support.

I can understand. I have been there and done that. I wrote about that, just a little in What Does “Have it All” Mean?

I am not suggesting my client can have it all. No, she cannot have her current role and spend time with her family. (Oh, and just because she happens to be female does not mean men don’t have this problem. Some of my male coaching clients have precisely this problem.) No, the real issue is her current role and how she and the company have configured this role.

If you think only about “or,” as in “I can do this job or I can have a good family life,” you are not using the Rule of Three to consider your options. It’s quite possible she only wants one option: to change her role and spend more time with her children. I certainly have had days like that! I bet, if you have children and a demanding job, you have had them too. Especially once your children become teenagers. They have real conversations with you (when they talk to you, which they do in the car). Your children have become interesting humans. You wonder to yourself, “How did I get so lucky to have such great kids?”

On the other hand, it’s quite difficult to step across or back in a company you helped to grow from an idea to a powerhouse in the field, which is what my client did. She will have to help hire her replacement, which will take more time in the interim.

What if she thought, “and”? What if she thought, “How can I configure my current role so I can do it and spend more time with my family?” And, here’s an even more astonishing thought: “How can my family help me do the things at home, so I can spend less time on the laundry/cooking/cleaning/whatever, so I’m not exhausted and feel as if I’m doing two full-time jobs?”

We, as working parents, need to consider how we negotiate and renegotiate our roles at work and at home so we have maximum enjoyment from both.

When Mark and I bought our minivan and we decided I would do the driving to dance, gymnastics, and the variety of carpools, I explained I could no longer cook dinner. I had cooked dinner for us Monday-Friday, and most weekends up until then. But, I could not drive until 6 or 6:30 and have dinner on the table at 6:30. Nope, I did not see how to bend the space-time continuum and do that. Mark had been a whiz with the grill, but not so practiced with the oven until then. He learned. (Which was good practice, because although I can cook with my vertigo, if I’m tired at the end of the day, it’s not always a good idea.)

When one of us traveled, it was a challenge. Luckily, we do not have too many rules about what constituted dinner. Eggs make a perfectly fine dinner! Later, as the kids grew older, if one was home, we could ask that one to start dinner.

We thought of “and.” How do we make our situation work for both of us?

If you feel as if you have no other choices, you might be in “or” thinking. You might decide you have only one or two options. Try to generate more options, using “and”. I use words such as, “What would it look like if …”

  • What would it look like if I reconfigured my role at home?
  • What would it look like if I reconfigured my role at work?
  • What would it look like if I joined a carpool?
  • What would it look like if I left the carpool?
  • How long does this need to last? (When does my oldest learn to drive, and relieve some of my driving pressure? Is this a short-term or long-term problem?)
  • What would it look like if I reorganized my organization at work? Am I trying to solve too many of my team’s problems at work?
  • What would it look like if I worked partly from home? Am I working at the right level at work? (Sometimes you can work on strategic things at home, or think while you are driving, if you need alone time)

Once you start asking these questions, especially as a manager, you might have more options. You might not. But you never know until you ask the questions.

Adaptable problem solvers, your question this week is: Instead of or, are you considering And?

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