28 May, 2010

One Reason Women Don’t Make It to the C-Suite

I re-read today this smart article from HBR by Louann Brizendine, MD

Louann points out that making a push for leadership roles in our forties is bad timing for women, especially those with children. Could organisations helps themselves improve the gender balance by widening the window of promotion opportunity to women once in their fifties when life’s day-to-day stresses may be less distracting?

22 May, 2010

My Management Today blog - latest entry on Identity in Motherhood

How does motherhood impact our identity as a career woman?

I value my expert role on this brilliant Management Today blog. Here’s my latest entry:
The Parent Project: Identity Opportunity

Coaching people through transitions - lifespan development perspective

Some thoughts on how we can bring lifespan development theories to our work in coaching people through transitions.

I was responding to a question from a student today following a university lecture I gave on coaching people through the parenthood transition, as part of a coaching psychology module. We had been looking at Levinson’s (1978, 1996) ideas about transitions and life eras, as well as cognitive-developmental approaches, such as Kegan (1982). Thought it would be helpful to share these thoughts more broadly:

The way I tie the life eras and developmental stages into my perspective on transitions is:
1. that people may have different goals depending on their life stage, so it can help our empathy as coaches to tune in to that (could be very different from the goals we might assume if we are not currently in that life phase e.g. varying career goals etc) (e.g. Cox, 2006)
2. people at different developmental stages will have access to different resources, solutions and states within themselves for handling complexity, relationships and demands and we have to work with people at the stage they are at, rather than assuming they are at the same stage we are (may be further on or further behind so to speak), or wishing they were at a different stage that might be easier to work with. (e.g. Kegan, 1982, 1994)

However, an important proviso: as coaches / coaching psychologists, while it can be helpful to have insight into where people are ‘coming from’ the most important thing - in my opinion and experience - is to be present to the real individual in the room rather than getting caught up in our imagination of who they are because of their life stage (so we carry the psychological knowledge ‘lightly’).

For more on the references behind this, please see the extended text by clicking the title of this entry. And do email me if you have a shared interest in this area.

05 May, 2010

Parenting Values

I’ve just added a comment to an interesting discussion about values on the Coaching at Work LinkedIn group and thought it worth keeping it here too.

A significant area of my work is corporate maternity coaching: coaching women (sometimes men), 1:1 or in groups through the transition to motherhood / parenthood at work. An area in which values really surface and are key to resolving so-called ‘work-life balance’ issues. Clarifying values can be an important part of coming to terms with one’s own choices and way forward.

Following - with a light touch - Stephen Covey’s approach to picturing ourselves taking in the impressions at our own funeral, I sometimes encourage these new parents to look forward to the moment when their new child leaves home / has 18th birthday etc. How would they hope that person looks back on their childhood? Gives some perspective on parenting values.

It also gives perspective too to those who say that checking our values are being met in a situation shows a kind of selfish demandingness.  Rarely do parents’ values about their own children focus solely on how those children meet the parents’ own needs, and similarly when we check a situation (job role working hours etc, childcare provisions) for whether they are meeting our values, it’s not an expression of ‘me, me, me’, as criticism of the individualistic career woman sometimes supposes. For parents it’s most often about our own struggles to meet deeply generous expectations / values we hold in relation to supporting others.