I heard a quote in that about how management is about watching people less adept than you try to do your job and then, that you should kill them. Not the best metaphor for leadership, even for an assassin, but if I were a teacher observing my home ‘classroom’ since lockdown for my Year 2 and Year 3 kids, I could see where that perspective would come from.
TEACHERS: you are incredible! How on earth you do this day in, day out is totally beyond me. Plus, I have also discovered that having closed deals for FTSE100 companies, managed teams of 60+ individuals across many sites and worked for venture capitalists on mergers, acquisitions and major restructures with very complex cultures… I thought I was rather good at motivation, leadership and oooh yes “results driven management”. Not with a 6 and 8 year old it seems. There, I suck.
Here is the job description for home schooling whilst working:
Job Title: Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmyyyyyyyyy where are you?
Role Description: You will be required to maintain a sense of control whilst simultaneously attempting to educate the fruit of your loins, who would rather poke their eyeballs out with a spoon, whilst maintaining a healthy and productive relationship with your colleagues and peers and managing to meet your objectives for each day (or at least keep checking on what they are and sighing a lot). This may include writing press releases, marketing plans, social media strategies and lead generating content whilst weaving a dream catcher out of two toilet rolls and a shoelace, attempting fractions and long division with the ‘bus stop method’ (I have not been on a bus since 1992 but apparently this is not relevant – phew) and considering the emotional motivations behind Claude and Sir Bobblysocks when they went on a trip to the museum. Don’t forget adverbs, conjunctions, pro nouns and PROPER nouns (nothing worse than an improper noun) in all of your sentences and self-managing horrendous guilt at the amount of screen time your kids are having (thanking the sweet lord for Storybots, as you can kid yourself its educational screen time). At all times, keep presentable from the waist up for all your zoom calls and impress your friends with your virtual backgrounds and ‘adaptability’.
Your team: Several adults you will keep apologising to as you give them a perspective on the edits for the new campaign (that you wrote on the loo as this was the only time you had alone in the last three weeks) and two children who you love more than life itself but who also drive you clinically insane and point blank refuse to accept you have any authority or knowledge compared to “Mr Foster” or “Miss Dall”. These god-like humans will be referenced at every opportunity, yet they will prove to be your virtual team saviours as three words of praise for them on the home learning app, makes up for the four hours of tears, snot and foot stamping (the kids were fine, that was just me) that happened on Thursday.
Culture: Values based on love, honesty and hunger. Not hunger in the sales closure sense but in the proviso of a zillion snacks every hour including a bowl of dry pasta after every nutritious lunch you have ever prepared. Final value: Innovation. Innovate your approach to life constantly with creative ways to count in tens and ones (“the gin bottles were in tens, now we are left with ones”) and keep life interesting. These values drive behaviours of camaraderie, alignment in working towards goals and a collaborative and relaxed culture of team working. Or not. Alternatively, be aware of a sub culture like a dysfunctional emotional rollercoaster that involves; ‘Zoom Fatigue’, ‘Lockdown Weight Gain’, ‘Despair That The World Is Over’, and ‘Saddle Pain’ ( a sore behind from taking the kids out for an obligatory ‘hour exercise’ on a bike ride EVERY SINGLE DAY, when you have not been on a bike since you were 13 and it had Bros stickers all over it, therefore you purchase a new bike and realise that you have not forgotten how to ride it – apparently it’s just like riding a bike!!! Who knew!!). Finally, be wary of the cultural saboteurs such as ‘husbands’ who commandeer the study for ‘important conference calls’ just as the latest school task of 'design a model of an ancient settlement out of recycling material' pops up. Grrrrr.
Skillset required: Multitask. Everything. Keep smiling whilst talking like a children’s television presenter on crack cocaine whilst slowly dying inside. Be VERY adept at the ‘mute’ and ‘stop video’ buttons on zoom so your boss does not see that you are offering a very insightful perspective on the FCA stance on pensions in a post-COVID world, whilst measuring how far the seedlings have grown in the ‘science experiment’ with a Trolls ruler and pencil (which one was more accurate..…time will tell).
Salary: Dependent on the circumstances of your company in a global recession. Nothing for the homeschooling bit. You are paid with kisses, unconditional love and food for the soul.
There are many key workers out there who would love the opportunity to do what I am doing, potentially. I know that. I get to stay safe at home, thanking my lucky stars I am healthy and can protect my family and juggling work and home is a privilege and a side effect of working for a digitally enabled business. The reason I am writing this article is really a plea to everyone who succumbs to the ridiculous social media ideology that you can ‘have it all’. Maintain your usual productivity 100% of the time, stay positive, be an exceptional parent/colleague/boss/mentor/friend/wife/daughter and still have time for yourself.
That, frankly, is complete rubbish.
Therefore, I would like to ask everyone wanting to ‘handle it like a boss’ to adopt one of the characteristics of great leadership that has always helped me over the last 25 years or so. So I refer instead to another quote I heard recently that we are, in fact not home schooling or home working at the moment. We are instead “at home, during a global pandemic trying to work and trying to give our kids and ourselves a sense of structure and happiness to give us hope.”
Sometimes you will collapse in a corner in tears that you are rubbish at it all. Sometimes, however you will have a great day and enjoy meal times with your kids, no commute and the opportunity to cuddle the little people you love more than anyone in the world, whenever you want. I will go for that. Like a boss 😊