Drink Like a Lady Podcast

Can Being a Caregiver Help My Career? In Conversation with Tracy Brower

February 16, 2022 Joya Dass
Drink Like a Lady Podcast
Can Being a Caregiver Help My Career? In Conversation with Tracy Brower
Show Notes Transcript

Are you a caregiver to an aging parent? Are you back to homeschooling children in the not so post pandemic environment? You will learn these things from this interview

Sociologist and Author Tracy Brower shares the capabilities that you develop as a caregiver and how you can leverage them to fuel your career:

  • Leadership.
  • Empathy.
  • Stress Tolerance.
  • Communication
  • Time Management.

So you have built great skills which you know are relevant to business. You can convince your employer about your capabilities by making a strong business case. Tracy shares how.

[00:00:00] Joya Dass: So the topic today is can being a mom or alternatively being a caregiver help your ? And our next speaker says, yes, she's sociologist and author Tracy Brower. And she shares the five capabilities that you develop as a caregiver and how you can leverage that. To fuel your career. Tracy has also written two books.

One is called the secrets to happiness at work, and the other one is called bring work to life. So beyond the topics that we're going to be covering today, I know that we in our peer mentoring calls have been talking a lot about work culture. So feel free to ask questions about that as well, but Tracy, welcome.

[00:00:37] Tracy Brower: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Nice to see all of you. 

[00:00:41] Joya Dass: The first capability that you develop as a caregiver, a mother is leadership. So let's talk about that. 

[00:00:48] Tracy Brower: Actually there was this wonderful study that was done by a company in London called incredible in parenthesis and, found that lots and lots of people were developing leadership capabilities and the ability to motivate others, think about caregiving and all of the orchestrating and directing and modeling the way.

 It really is logical that leadership would kind of be at the top of the list in terms of skills that we develop. Leadership is defined in so many different ways, you know, sometimes you're coaching and supporting. Sometimes you're directing sometimes you're, behaving in new ways and kind of modeling as I mentioned.

So I think that leadership is just really clear. 

[00:01:26] Joya Dass: I want to follow up on the role modeling because, I know there's some new moms on the call. There's some veteran moms on the call when you're role modeling behavior that you want your children to espouse down the line. What does that look like?

[00:01:40] Tracy Brower: Yeah. You know, I think it looks like being as authentic as we can, you know, being open, being transparent, doing our best, showing up, like I think sometimes as moms or caregivers, we can be perfectionistic, right? Like, oh, I'm just not at my best today. And I think it's okay to be transparent sometimes, you know, like my husband and I have two children, and there were days when I wasn't at my best in that.

And there were days when I was better. Right. I never, I never had it all figured out for sure. I don't think any of us do, but you know, I think it's okay to be authentic and say, I'm really struggling with this today, or, oh, you know, I I'd really like for us to have time to take a nap together today, that kind of thing.

 Or no, I really need you to help do the dishes or help clear the table. And you know, when we work hard, we demonstrate that for our children, when we demonstrate empathy, we demonstrate that for our children. You lead the way in terms of taking initiative or speaking up for ourselves. Those kinds of things are clear lessons for children.

And interestingly, if we look sociologically, the number one way that we learn is through watching, experiencing, listening to others around us. So I have more influence than we even realized. And we've learned that in all kinds of places and particularly as moms and caregivers. 

[00:02:55] Joya Dass: Now let's translate that to the workplace.

When you're a role modeling behavior. Fatima earlier this week was talking about a direct repore who's just not wanting to take direction. How do you role model the behavior that you need to sort of bring into the workplace every day in order for that person to feel inspired, to want to do the same?

[00:03:14] Tracy Brower: Yeah. I mean, I think what we need to do is I think we need to be really consistent in our behavior. So they see our behavior again and again, they see us taking turns. They see us speaking up for ourselves or they see us doing a presentation that's done really well. Or they see us giving feedback.

We're predictable about our behavior. I think we can also be transparent about. This is what we need, and this is what I need from you giving feedback to others. So being transparent about it. And I think we can also be transparent about our thinking process. You know, like one of the things that I did with this presentation is that I added a slide on rationale because I knew that the leaders would need to hear the rationale for the recommendation.

So you're making your thinking process explicit. So you're behaving predictably, but people also see the why behind your behavior. I think some of those can be really helpful as well. And I think the other thing about role modeling is that we are admitting mistakes. Like professional courage can be about admitting mistakes, being open to feedback.

And so role modeling is also modeling that authenticity modeling our strength, modeling our confidence, showing up and playing big and being willing to admit mistakes.

[00:04:27] Joya Dass: I once had a mentor say to me, joya, you can take the month of August off, and here's why you need to role model that for others who may want to do the same, but don't have the courage to do that.

[00:04:38] Tracy Brower: So true! 

[00:04:39] Joya Dass: Empathy is the next capability that you cultivate, not only as a parent, but you need to cultivate as a leader. Let's talk about that. 

[00:04:47] Tracy Brower: Yeah, this is really interesting. There was a brand new study and when people perceive more empathy in the workplace, they report greater mental health, greater innovation, greater retention, greater feelings of inclusivity, greater feelings of work life, and being able to juggle, greater willingness to cooperate.

And so the business payoffs are huge, but the people pay us. Right? So what is empathy? Really being able to put ourselves in other people's shoes to really be able to know and understand and respect where they're coming from, which may be really different from us. And so I think empathy as a caregiver is such a moment, right?

Like we might have a toddler who's in the middle of a temper tantrum and it can be hard to empathize, but those are moments where we can really stretch our capability. Wow, honey, it looks like, you know, you're really struggling right now. Why don't you come back to me when you feel like you have a hold of your emotions or whatever, however, you parents, those are all up to you.

But, I think empathy is so much, something we learn in our interpersonal relationships and then something we can take into our professional relationships as well. 

[00:05:52] Joya Dass: You just brought up something interesting, which is labeling. And I've been reading up a lot about this, that when you're angry in the workplace or when you're angry at home, actually labeling the emotion that you're feeling is a real leadership tool isn't it?

[00:06:06] Tracy Brower: Yeah, that's a really great point. And I think that we can be so confident about kind of speaking up and that labeling actually validates us. It validates our experience and validates other people's experience. It's a really good point. The other thing I think is related to that, is this idea of linguistic determinism.

Like the way that we talk about things dictates how we think about them and how other people think about them. And so we might label something in a negative way and that might emphasize the negative for us, or we could label it. So we label it as a challenge in a positive way versus a problem. Or as we think about parenting it's like, oh, I have to pick up the kids today. It's really different than I get to pick up the kids today at five. Linguistic determinism, I think that intentionality about labeling is really important. 

[00:07:00] Joya Dass: And how does that translate into the work? 

[00:07:03] Tracy Brower: Oh, I think it translates all the time into the workplace.

Like, we're labeling the problems that we're seeking to solve as opportunities. We're labeling the people that we work with as having a really different perspective versus being a difficult person. We're labeling our desire for visibility and networking as relationship building versus just building as many people in our network as we can. Right? We're really thinking about the meaning behind and the positivity behind, some of those challenges in the workplace. 

[00:07:36] Joya Dass: Alison just shared an article from the Metro UK of empathy from a stranger, with an autistic child. And we'll come back to you. Yeah. All right. The next point it's stress tolerance. We all know that having children, I don't have any, so in the spirit of transparency, but having children can be stressful. What does that teach you? What does that capability and how does that translate into the workplace? 

[00:07:57] Tracy Brower: This is like as big neon lights around it. Right? Like a lot of these might feel more obvious, but, I think stress tolerance is so much something you develop as a caregiver, as a parent, right? It is hard. You have hard days. You have down days. I think, particularly as a parent, you think you have your child figured out, you think you have that developmental stage figured out, and then they take the next developmental stuff and you're like, oh God, It's back to square one, right? And all of that stretch and that learning are about us, figuring it out. We're improvising. We're finding our strength and our resilience within when we're faced with things that are hard. That is relevant to the workplace because the workplace has become more and more stressful, right? Like in some ways we're all going through change. We're all going through this reset in terms of work, which can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be stressful, and stretch our limits. So that ability to deal with stress tolerance, I think is something that's so transferrable and a really distinctive skill as well. 

[00:09:06] Joya Dass: We've been hearing again and again, I've heard it from Devyani I've heard it from Jyothi is that retention of talent, acquiring talent continues to be a stressor in this environment because this next generation just has different sensibilities about when they give their notice. When they're supposed to show up, if they're supposed to show up. Who knew that that was actually something that was on the auction block? So I would love for you to just address that for a second before we move on to the next point. 

[00:09:32] Tracy Brower: Yeah. I mean, I think this is a really, really tough question. I've had so many conversations with colleagues about it. I'm not sure what the right answer is. I just think that we have yet to figure it out. On the one hand, I think we want to empathize. I think we want to expand the norms within the workplace around where everybody works differently and we need to be accepting. And I think we also need to be firm about our standards about levels of performance. So if the ways that we communicate about how we show up and, you know, people want to be held accountable. People want to know that they matter enough that their follow through matters and their communication matters and them showing up at the meeting matters. I hope we can find this dynamic tension to find a way to live on both ends of that. Right? Like we're respectful and appropriate about valuing diversity in the way that we all want to work. And I have goodness, we can hold each other accountable and expect the best from each other. 

[00:10:29] Joya Dass: All right. Communication with your child and then communication in the workplace. How does that transfer over?

[00:10:36] Tracy Brower: Yeah. So this one, this one comes up in a few different ways. People as caregivers develop the skill and capability of advocacy, right? And a lot of times you see that even with elder care, right? Like I need to advocate for an elder. I need to make sure that the healthcare is coming together. I need to make sure that the health providers are orchestrating or I need to advocate for my child who maybe has special needs in the classroom or who struggles in the morning to feel ready and needs that extra empathy from a teacher or another caregiver at daycare. So that advocacy, I think, is important and conflict resolution, right? Like. You'll learned conflict resolution with your children. If that is such an opportunity and the other one is just overall communication, asking questions, listening, reading situations, those matter and caregiving. So we can be more present so we can be more responsive so we can set the right kinds of boundaries for ourselves and others. And those so matter in the workplace as well, because.

I think sometimes in the workplace, the task is the easy part, right? Like I can run circles around that project that I'm managing or that direction that I'm setting or that vision I'm developing, but oh, sometimes people can be really interesting to work with. And so the ability to communicate the ability to advocate for ourselves, the ability to speak up, to ask questions, to listen, to take time, to be present with each other. Those are the skills of communication in the workplace. 

[00:12:04] Joya Dass: In your research. And I don't know if this is off base, how do you communicate with that next generation that doesn't want to actually communicate? They don't actually want to pick up the phone and tell you that they're not coming to work.

[00:12:16] Tracy Brower: Yeah. Oh my gosh. First of all, we have to deal with our frustration. And maybe take a breath and take a pause and do that before we engage. I think that's a really big part of working with anybody who is different. I think the other thing is that we may need to be more intentional about the norms and protocols and the way we're going to agree to work with each other. Like instead of calling somebody on the phone and they don't answer and we get frustrated and et cetera, we sit down and say, " I know the phone isn't necessarily the preference, but that's going to be an important part of the way that we work together. In addition, I'm willing to do more texting." What are we willing to adapt for our communication style?

And how can we set some clear protocols and expectations about how we'll communicate.

[00:13:01] Joya Dass: And the final capability is time management. What is it about parenting that teaches you time management that can be brought into the workplace? 

[00:13:09] Tracy Brower: Right? Exactly. As a parent, it's so much about time management, 54% of people said they developed their time management skills.

So we come into the workplace and we need to think about how we get things done when we get things done based on when we have the best energy for that thing. I think the other thing about time management in the workplace is routines that work for us. Maybe we're most creative in the morning and so we plan our day that way. Or maybe we really loved it back to back meetings so we're not fragmented and then have chunks of time where we can do more heads down, work. Paying attention to how we work best and then scheduling our time around that is part of that time management piece as well. And I think the other thing about time management is thinking about our energy.

As caregivers, we're thinking about how we're investing energy with our loved ones and in the workplace, we need to think about how we invest our energy as well, right? Like it's, our time is like a budget that we're spending and we need to spend our energy spend our time when we're at our best and our best places and develop boundaries that work for us as well.

My boundary might be a strict eight to five boundary. Your boundary might be more. interspersed where you're going to leave early and don't do something for your child and then turn back on later. So I think there's no one right answer from a work lifetime management perspective. It's more about really reflecting on what works best for us, and then setting up our time in the way that works best for us individually.

[00:14:40] Joya Dass: The title of your book is about happiness at work. How do we find happiness at work right now? Before I turn it over to question. 

[00:14:47] Tracy Brower: Yeah. You know, there are, I think there are lots of ways, but the, my five favorites one is keep a sense of purpose and know how your work impacts on something that matters to you.

 Secondly is connections, connections, connections. We are absolutely fed by meaningful relationships with others, even if we're introverts. A third thing is gratitude. When we feel a sense of gratitude, that's significantly correlated with happiness. A fourth thing is performance. When we perform well, we feel a great sense of happiness, so everything we can do to align what we love to do and what we're good at with what we have to do. We don't always get perfect alignment, but when we can have more alignment, and make choices that are as much as possible step we love to do.

And then the last one is stretch. When we learn, when we grow, when we try new things, when we do things that we don't already know how to do that is significantly correlated with happiness. So reach outside of your swim lane, take initiative, learn something new in the workplace. Those are ways that we can really foster happiness.

Yeah. Oh my gosh. I actually had a situation like that early in my career. I had somebody who we were working with her to put her on a different part-time schedule, et cetera, et cetera. And then she up and quit. She quit and went to another role within the organization. And it was such a bummer. I have to say it has stuck with me for 15 years.

So it may be something that sticks with you. And I think that we can demonstrate empathy and know that it's the right thing to do. Even if we lose somebody. And the one thing I would say is sometimes we will get an outcome that we don't want, but it's not because we didn't do it right. Like you might look back and say, you're like a great thing to do is to reflect and say, what could I have done differently?

Could we have moved faster? Could we have gotten her feedback earlier? I think we also need to clearly expect performance from people. And if they aren't in a position to do the work we need them to do, even when we work with them, then that's okay if they leave and we need to free ourselves to know that might happen as well.

 Because there's always that dynamic tension between meeting the individual, and meeting the team and organizational need. The best organizational cultures meet both of those needs completely. And sometimes you can't work it out and it might be to your advantage that that personal leaves as, as tough as that is.

[00:17:14] Joya Dass: Tracy, thank you. I hope this isn't the last time that we see you.

[00:17:18] Tracy Brower: And thanks for having me. I appreciate it.