Ca­reer Coach Scal­ing back on work travel, tag­ging out of team-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, and more.

Working Mother - - Contents - By Joseph Bar­be­rio

QWhen I ac­cepted my job, I agreed to do a cer­tain amount of busi­ness-re­lated travel ev­ery year. Now that I’m a mom, it’s not as easy to hop on a plane as it used to be. How do I tell my boss I need to cut back on travel?

AAp­proach this meet­ing with your man­ager as a dis­cus­sion on your role and how to re­or­ga­nize it, says Lucy Eng­lish, Ph.D., a hu­man re­sources con­sul­tant. “Men­tion the change in your life for con­text, but don’t fo­cus too much on the per­sonal. Think of it as a work ad­just­ment, and ap­proach the con­ver­sa­tion in a spirit of col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

Ex­am­ine what you’ve ac­com­plished on the road and see if it might be worth it to make fewer, more-mean­ing­ful trips, says Kori Renn, coach­ing and stu­dent ser­vices lead for the Kelley School of Busi­ness at In­di­ana Univer­sity. She also rec­om­mends ex­plor­ing al­ter­na­tive work­ing meth­ods with your man­ager, such as telecom­mut­ing, as a way to re­duce your travel while keep­ing your role with the com­pany. If it’s not an op­tion, then pro­pose new, re­lated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties you can take on to cover the time you would spend on the road, and vol­un­teer to train col­leagues to re­place you on the busi­ness trips.

“To be suc­cess­ful in this ask, it can’t just be about you no longer want­ing to travel,” Renn says. “There has to be a busi­ness rea­son to drive the travel re­duc­tion. If you ap­proach your con­ver­sa­tion in this way, with a plan, there’s a good chance you’ll be suc­cess­ful, and you’ll show your man­ager that you’re think­ing strate­gi­cally about your role and the suc­cess of the com­pany.”

QIn the in­ter­est of sav­ing time, when­ever I lead meet­ings at work, I al­ways skip the chitchat and get straight to my point. A male su­per­vi­sor told me that I need to be friend­lier at meet­ings and that male co-work­ers have com­plained about how di­rect I am. How should I re­spond to these sug­ges­tions?

AWe can’t blame you for jump­ing to the task at hand, or feel­ing like this re­sem­bles the in­fu­ri­at­ing “you should smile more” cri­tique from inse­cure men. But it won’t take much time to be­gin with ban­ter, and it can ac­tu­ally im­prove your pre­sen­ta­tion by strength­en­ing your con­nec­tion to your co-work­ers. “Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of pleas­antries that pre­cede the for­mal time with your col­leagues,” says Lau­ren McKenna, part­ner at Philadel­phia law firm Fox Roth­schild

LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Women Ini­tia­tive. “That time can grow re­la­tion­ships and de­velop ca­ma­raderie.”

If chat­ting be­fore meet­ings de­rails them, then catch up with col­leagues af­ter­ward. Ac­cord­ing to McKenna, post-meet­ing talks might be even more valu­able be­cause “peo­ple have had a chance to think about the is­sues on the ta­ble and are more free to dis­cuss them, as well as to con­nect more per­son­ally.”

Buffy Si­moni, pres­i­dent of dis­count pack­ag­ing sup­ply com­pany Pa­per Mart, adds, “En­gage with col­leagues dur­ing the day and get to know them through per­sonal ges­tures, such as ask­ing how they’re do­ing.” It seems ob­vi­ous, but it’s cru­cial for hap­pier in­ter­ac­tions.

QMy com­pany hosts monthly “team­build­ing” ex­er­cises that usu­ally in­volve group ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter work or on week­ends. Of­ten I can’t at­tend be­cause I’m busy with my kids. I’m wor­ried that I won’t look like an en­gaged mem­ber of the staff if I keep de­clin­ing. What are some ways to bond with my team with­out sac­ri­fic­ing fam­ily time?

AThe first thing you should do is make it clear to your co-work­ers that you would like to join them on these out­ings, but you won’t al­ways be able to be­cause you’re a work­ing par­ent. “I have found that be­ing up­front about the chal­lenges in your sched­ule is the best way to han­dle it,” says McKenna. “Your com­pany and your col­leagues will likely ap­pre­ci­ate and re­spect the time you do spend par­tic­i­pat­ing even more.”

To make up for the lost team-build­ing hours, squeeze some qual­ity time with fel­low staffers into your daily sched­ule. Si­moni sug­gests go­ing out for lunch or cof­fee to­gether. Or you can of­fer to plan a week­day af­ter­noon team-build­ing event, es­pe­cially dur­ing slower times of year at your of­fice.

But it would prob­a­bly be wise to at­tend at least one post-work event ev­ery few months, says McKenna. If the prob­lem is you’re not get­ting enough ad­vance no­tice, ask the per­son in charge of plan­ning if it’s pos­si­ble to sched­ule and an­nounce some of the meet-ups ahead of time— that way you can make the nec­es­sary ar­range­ments to at­tend and have fun.

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