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Rebuilding respect as you return to work

Updated: Apr 21

Every individual feels different when they return to work after parental leave, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t commonalities and themes that crop up


One experience that I see shared by many is the struggle to rebuild respect and gravitas as a leader after a break, particularly in a virtual world. It can feel challenging to get back to work with impact and influence, especially if your cover has done a particularly great job in your absence


So what can you do to rebuild the professional gravitas that you'd worked hard to create before your little one arrived?


Here are my 5 top tips:

1. Listen


Take time to listen to what has been going on in your absence. Don't feel the need to be the most dominant person in each team meeting or discussions. Showing care for your team by listening and leading with empathy will increase respect others have for you as you respond to what they need from you as their leader. So:


- listen to what has been going on

- make time to recognise their wins

- ask them for their input

- respect their opinions


2. Boundaries


Set your boundaries and be clear about the type of leader you want to be. What will your working hours be? Will you be taking a proper lunch break? how will you manage your health and wellbeing to improve your work performance? If you are pulled in a million directions make sure you are prioritising your tasks and communicating to your key stakeholders. It is better to manage their expectations on when things will be completed than to miss deadlines


3. Own your value


Own your unique value and strengths that you add to the team, and focus on leveraging those. Your maternity leave cover may have led your team differently, this doesn't make them better than you, just different. Focus on your zone of genius and unique set of strengths to have impact and gravitas at work. Don't shy away from showcasing your abilities to others so they see how competent you are


4. Courageous conversations


Lean in to the more challenging conversations that you face as a female leader. Aim to state your knowledgeable opinion and allow others to express theirs. Don't worry about agreeing with everybody, and don't worry about having everyone agree with you

5. Team player


Now is a time where you may need flexibility from the team to help you manage the dual demands of work and parenting, but don't forget that your team and peers need support from you too. How can you work to further the interests of others? Can you volunteer to support a cause outside of your main domain? Could you become a mentor to someone about to embark on the same journey to parenthood as you?



For more ideas to help you make your return from parental leave experience a brilliant one, read these:


10 essential tips to to have a successful return after maternity leave


5 ways to positively frame your career break


9 top tips to successfully negotiate work flexibility


How line managers can ensure that maternity leave doesn't stall female career progression


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