LELIA GOWLAND works with women
who want to increase their impact, leadership
capacity, and career fulfillment. A regular
columnist for Forbes and NBC.com, she's
a sought-after speaker, writer, and optimist about workplace
dynamics for women. Learn more at leliagowland.com.
Not every leave is one you can plan for. Several
people shared their stories of medical emergencies or deaths in the family that prompted them
to take leave.
After Marquita Miller’s husband died, she
canceled all of her speaking engagements for
two months. The affected clients were very
understanding and supportive, moving her keynote to the following year without asking for the
Kathy Dempsey, CSP, also found that her community and clients were extremely supportive
after her husband’s death. She spent three months
fully away from her business and relied heavily on
her director of operations and NSA community
during that time. “My NSA friends stepped up to
the plate and showed up for every keynote,” she
says—and they told her to keep the fee.
LEAVE WITH THIS ADVICE. It’s no fun,
but think through a few worst-case scenarios so
you’re as prepared as possible. That may mean:
Better documentation. Could someone
step in and figure out where you are speaking,
when, and whom to contact?
A bigger rainy-day fund. We all should
have some contingency cash to ensure we can
weather unexpected downtime. Plus, look into
short-term disability insurance for yourself to
help provide an income if you can’t work.
Stronger networks. Every time you book
a presentation, think about one or two fellow
speakers who could be your go-to fill-in just in
case you can’t make it. You don’t have to make a
plan B, but have nuggets of it in your mind.
Conversations about navigating family leave
should be happening all the time. “This side of
the business isn’t something we talk enough
about,” Patrick says, “There are 8 million things
about sales, marketing, online groups and all
that,” but there aren’t a lot of resources for people to navigate leave. “This stress is something
we’re all facing.” ■
Create systems and processes for workflow
that will occur while you’re out.
Develop an escalation process: how available
do you plan to be (or can you be if you’re
experiencing health issues) if advice is needed?
Determine which topics need your direct
involvement, if any.
Identify a point person to:
Check email (share your password)
Answer phone inquiries
Cover engagements if necessary
Keep up regular communication in your
absence (blog, email newsletter, social
media posts, etc.). Write what you can in
advance or create an editorial calendar
for your delegate to follow. Don’t forget to
share your login credentials.
Draft a family leave/emergency email template
to clients and prospects
Determine and address current client disruption
Hand off any open projects to the appropriate party
Write a birth announcement or out-of-office
email alert and identify who will send it to your
notification list, which can include partners,
clients, prospects, networking groups, boards,
and professional friends
Test all of the above before you leave as a way
to identify any potential issues.
(Adapted with permission from Cara Silletto)