It’s finally that 38 week point of pregnancy where I am ready to step back from Junction Point and get ready for a rather different challenge as I head off on maternity leave.
I wanted to share my experience of running an organisation whilst approaching a period of prolonged leave as it’s certainly been a big lesson for me and might be of use to you lovely people. Here’s the context…
Since finding out I was pregnant in Sep 21, Junction Point has:
- Grown to 6 staff members and reduced back to 3
- Grown from 2 Associates to 6
- Delivered a capacity building ‘Keep Going Keep Growing’ course to 24 not-for-profits and 4 pre-start enterprises, led by Chelsea
- Delivered a European funded project ‘Passion to Paycheque’ to 68 people, led by Lizzy
- Delivered The Changemakers 22 Conference to an audience of over 100 people
- Led on the SEUK Newcastle places bid, in partnership with PNE & Connected Voice, including consultation activities and events
- Provided consultancy to 15 private clients
- Provided support to 8 organisations through the Experts in Residence on the City Life BIPC programme
- Developed a new training programme to support 15 unemployed residents in Gateshead to explore social enterprise in partnership with Reviving the heart of the West End, funded by LA6 Gateshead-led by Lizzy
- Won a contract and started to deliver social enterprise initiation programmes to the Children & Families Newcastle community as funded by NTCA (24 organisations and 80 individuals)
- Set up Junction Point CIC which we are steadily moving all activities over to once existing contracts permit us to do so
Not exactly a quiet ride! The context is important because as many of you know me, you’ll know my solution to too much work is to work harder. Mainly because I love my job and love helping people. Not however a very healthy approach and one that couldn’t be maintained while cooking a baby! Instead, thanks to a wonderful staff team, associates, partners and volunteers we’ve managed to achieve what could have been impossible. How did we do it?
Key things I’ve learned:
- Get organised: When sharing my news, I already had a maternity cover plan lined up. I had done my cashflow forecast and understood what was affordable and planned based on this and what essential work needed to be covered. This helped manage any potential concerns from the team as well as clients and funders.
- Prioritise your planning: Rather than allowing the diary appointments to dictate your time, get deliberate and plan the key priorities that need to be achieved in advance. I learnt this trick a little later in the day and wish I’d started sooner.
- Work with your energy levels: This has fluctuated a lot over the 8.5 months and at most times there was no choice but to slow down when required. As such, I made sure I had one protected day each week (no meetings or events) to catch up on any work that had taken longer than planned. This day was always utilised each and provided a safety net that kept me calm on the days where I needed to go slower.
- Communicate: Seems an obvious one but finding the time to keep everyone up to date is really important. We tried a few different approaches and eventually settled on our usual fortnightly 121s and fortnightly team meetings. As we’re a remote team we also introduced ‘stand-up’ sessions each morning. This is where we shared our key priorities for that day via teams on a chat. I found this so helpful to be mindful of my time but also providing opportunities to share news quickly rather than waiting for the big team briefings.
- Record keeping: I have fallen in love with Trello. If you don’t use it, it’s one to consider. This reduces the billion emails associated with the ‘have you done ‘x’ or ‘just to let you know I’ve done ‘y’. The platform is great for having project information in one place that we can all keep up to date. It also provides a useful record once you’re off for team members to refer back to. I know there are other platforms that do the same thing but the simplicity of this really means we use it.
- Biggest lesson: Seeing this as an opportunity to hand over more responsibility and autonomy to team members. I want to this to be an opportunity for my team to grow deeper into their roles and understand this may mean changes to my role when I return. Rather than this feeling scary, I trust their ability and am excited to see what comes next.
This is not about maintaining existing operations at all costs, it’s about supporting JP into a new chapter. This has been my focus for the handover, ensuring they have what they need to succeed.
Things I’d do differently:
- Ask for help quicker. With so many people who support Junction Point, I wish I’d been more open to additional help along the way. Where I did accept help (loading/unloading my car, volunteers helping at the event, team members picking up meetings I needed to miss), it provided an opportunity to strengthen relationships. I had mistakenly seen this as being a burden rather than giving people who care an opportunity to help.
- Be less apologetic. When telling funders and contact managers my news, my approach was from a place of fear rather than excitement. This proved to be unfounded as everyone I have told has been extremely supportive and enthusiastic.
- Say no more often. It’s so easy to say yes to every meeting that is requested when a simple email will do. This sucked up so much of my time in the final few weeks and I’m not sure it served me or the company well.
Those are my thoughts on the matter anyway! I’d love to hear about your experiences in planning for maternity leave or other extended leave. Equally if you have any advice for when I come back, please drop your comments below.