At Rank & FIle, I decided as a founder and CEO of a purpose-driven business to take a maternity leave where I did NO work besides answering a weekly check-in Slack message from my team with updates in order to welcome my baby girl into the world with the respect she deserved and to give my body time to rest after the mental and physical strain of giving birth.
It was one of the best decisions I have made for my business, to date. Today, I’m taking you behind-the-scenes to share all of the lessons I learned during my maternity leave in hopes that you will learn from my experience and apply the lessons to your own purpose-driven business so you can be more effective at building a financially-sustainable, socially-impactful and personally-fulfilling business.
How I Was Able to Have a 5-Month Maternity Leave as a CEO of a Purpose-Driven Business
If you are curious about how I prepped for my maternity leave, make sure you check out episode #34 where I talk all about How to Step Away From Your Business Without It Falling Apart.
In that episode, I break down how I hired new team members, prepped them and organized everything beforehand so I could truly step away 100% for 13-plus weeks and return on a part-time basis for a total of 5 whole months!
The whole maternity leave process taught me a TON as a CEO that I want to layout for you today!
Here are the 5 lessons I learned on maternity leave that made me a more effective CEO of a purpose-driven business:
#1 Get Your Financial Forecasting in Order
I wish I could say that I understood financial reporting before I got pregnant, but the truth is, I didn’t. Before the countdown to maternity leave, I wasn’t really using my financials to make smart strategic decisions for my business — looking at what was working financially inside of the business month-to-month and what was not, and forecasting for the future, were two items I added into my monthly CEO-day check-in. If you want more tips on how to use financial reporting to make smart strategic decisions for your business, check out Episode #36 — Building Founder Financial Literacy with Stephanie Skryzowski. In my conversation with her, we talk all about the three financial reports you need to have and how to look at them on a monthly basis to become a better CEO. It’s a fantastic conversation I know you’ll get a ton out of if you are serious about taking your business to the next level.
#2 Hire a Wing-Man As Soon As Possible
One of the best parts about my maternity leave was that after hiring more team members to prep for my maternity leave, I was able to identify that go-to person on my team that is really there for Rank & File on an operational level — a person who can take the reigns and really organize things when needed on a schedule with minimal hand-holding.
I hired an assistant before my maternity leave who has become that go-to person for me.
If you don’t have an assistant yet, I would suggest that you work on finding one ASAP.
Even if your budget is limited and you are just starting out with your business, you can begin with an assistant at minimal hours in order to start building the relationship and teaching the person the foundations of your brand and values. Then as you grow, that person could end up becoming a very important part of your core team in the future.
I really wish I would have started hiring sooner, but it took a maternity leave to really push me into it.
Before I was pregnant I would always say things like “I’ll build a team when I can afford it” or “when the timing is right” and I really wish I would have done it a lot sooner. Learn from my mistake and work on hiring an assistant now. You can start them off with easy tasks or minimal hours and then build upon it based on their skill level and enthusiasm. The point is just getting the ball rolling on building your core team so that you have support for life happens and you need to step away. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of building a fantastic, talented team organically.
#3 Cut the Fluff and Lean into the Important Activities
Motherhood, as you might have guessed it, has been one giant lesson in time management. I thought I was efficient before I had my baby, but really, I wasn’t. It wasn’t until I returned to work part-time that my hours were crunched down to the bare minimum for my business that I saw two things:
- What I had been spending my time on that I shouldn’t be spending my time on
- How much less time I could spend on my current load, opening up new opportunities in my schedule for growth-related activities
My maternity leave forced me to offload a lot of tasks to my team that I was carrying the weight of. This forced me to see that I actually don’t need to be the one doing some items. Frankly, I had just been a control freak in the past. Now, I don’t have a choice. I don’t have the time to take on everything and I have to lean into my team. This has taught me how to delegate to my team based on their strengths, allowing them to grow.
With reduced hours, I am also shocked at how fast I can actually crank out work for Rank & File. Things that used to take a full day, now take 2 hours, showing me that I can open up new time slots in the future for even more strategic work to really grow Rank & File.
The truth is: we fill the time that we have.
So even if you are not taking leave from your business soon, I would highly suggest looking at how you spend your time on a weekly basis. Keep a time log for one week and analyze your hours. Is there something you could delegate to a team member that really suits their strengths that will help them grow? Do you have a high-level CEO-date in your weekly routine where you have undivided attention to look at strategy and the forward momentum of the company? A good look at your time management will help you answer these questions.
#4 Create a Family-Like Atmosphere on Your Team
I’m lucky to have an incredible team, the majority of whom are women who get motherhood. And it’s been amazing to see how they have come alongside me to support me during this personal transition, really caring about what is going on with my baby girl while at the same time stepping into their roles at Rank & File and showing me what they are made of!
I think one of the greatest parts about maternity leave from a CEO’s perspective is how honored I feel to be building a team around the core values of Rank & File and to be creating the kind of atmosphere I want for my team. I know that in the future, it will be the culture that we create internally that will allow us to create the most external social impact.
So to reiterate it one more time: start hiring that dream team of yours! And while you are at it, don’t throw something together quickly with the mindset that you will hire contractors to get through your to-do list. Dream up what kind of leader you want to be, what kind of culture you want to create and what kind of impact you want to have collectively in the future. This will attract the right kind of person to your project.
#5 Leave Room for the Unexpected
I have had some health scares with my baby girl, but am really happy to report that she is doing well! Needless to say, my plan for returning part-time to work this winter has been even more of a juggling act than I anticipated. I am the type of person who LOVES a plan and a good to-do list. But, Motherhood has taught me that no matter how much we get our ducks in a row, life can throw off our plans, causing us to have to replan!
Dealing with the unexpected reminded me of my interview with Claire-Diaz Ortiz, former Head of Corporate Social Innovation for Twitter on Minimalism and Human-Centric Goals. In that podcast episode, we talk all about how to plan for your upcoming year and the correct timeline to not over plan. It’s a fantastic episode that I know you will gain a lot from.
I’m also excited to use the goal-setting framework I’ve developed for purpose-driven founders who work with me in my signature coaching programs.
My goal-setting framework is a tool that I created after being disappointed by all of the goal-setting approaches out there. So I spent a lot of time speaking with purpose-driven founders I respect and reading books on the topic to create a tool that really works for me and my clients!