In order to make things tick in all areas of my life, I have always assumed the role of Project Manager, the holder of the mental load, the lone wolf working behind the scenes to keep things functioning on a daily basis. So, when my husband took a well-deserved nine weeks of gardening leave last year (during one of the hottest summers on record AND a world cup year - he planned it well!) I was surprised by how much I ended up learning about myself.
It’s fair to say that the reality of the first few weeks differed quite dramatically from our initial expectations - how did it somehow feel harder to have two of us at home, sharing the load? It wasn’t until I took a step back and reflected on what had changed that I was able to realise that whilst everything had changed for my husband, I was still trying to maintain the status quo. As household Project Manager, I knew what needed doing, the food shop menu for the week, the cleaning of the house and the washing days (yes, I REALLY like to be organised!) My husband, whilst part of our family team, hadn’t done this role before. I began to realise that for him, it was akin to working in an organisation for years and then starting in a new department. He needed to be shown the ropes, supported and allowed to do things in his own way. I soon realised that much of what I’d learnt in my professional life was transferable to this situation; including:
Giving others freedom and trust to perform at their best - set clear goals but allow those around you to come to their own answers and succeed in the way that works best for them. There’s little point in expecting your people to do things in exactly the way you would, diversity of skills and expertise is hugely important to the overall success of your team.
Communicate openly, honestly and often. The key to successful collaboration is communication, up, down and all around. Honest feedback helps you to learn and grow and you need to be open to receiving it no matter how long you have been in your role.
Play to strengths - your own and those of the people around you. Nobody is brilliant at everything, but everybody is brilliant at something, so establish the skills and strengths of those around you in order for each person to flourish.
After nine weeks, my husband returned to work and I returned to project managing. But this time things were different, and I was able to really appreciate what we’d learned together, no longer feeling the need to go it alone. Above all, I realise that we were so lucky to have that time to grow and it’s a summer I will always treasure.