All the fuss about new Royal Baby made me think of all the planning that an Admin needs to do when his or her executive is departing on maternity or paternity leave. (I’ll use “she” below, but the same process would apply for an expectant father).
Here are a few thoughts and guidelines to help you assist your executive through the planning process, and to help the rest of the staff execute on the plan:
- Start planning as soon as you are told she is expecting. Be sure you know:
- What the company maternity leave plan is.
- How much time your executive is planning to take.
- Who to notify in HR or Benefits when the happy event happens to trigger benefits.
- Work with your executive to determine appropriate delegates—it’s likely that there will be several to cover your executive’s duties, and allow the delegates to continue with their regular workload.
- Schedule meetings with the delegates starting 3-4 months from the due date to allow your executive to transfer knowledge, priorities, and strategy.
- Although she likely does this already in weekly 1:1 meetings, the knowledge transfer required for a direct report to execute in this circumstance is likely larger than the norm.
- Attend these meetings yourself and document duties, deadlines and other important information
- Ensure you have complete calendar and email access to the delegates (if you don’t already).
- As the due date draws closer—6-8 weeks out—include the delegates in your executives meetings on the appropriate topics (if they don’t attend already) so the delegate can be introduced and familiarized with the topic, personalities, and political nuances of the situation.
- Don’t forget to schedule meetings with your executive’s boss as well. They need to be kept in the loop on all plans, and may want or need approval authority over the appointed delegates.
Assist the delegates in setting meetings and directives with their direct reports so there’s a clear, full, cascading responsibility chain.
Planning for the worst case scenario of team members being out unexpectedly will set everyone’s mind at ease.
- Be sure to schedule your own meetings with your executive and the delegates to set expectations for how you will support the team in the absence of you executive.
- You’ll likely be temporarily offering more robust support of more people than usual.
- Be sure you have not overcommitted yourself with other business committees or events during the time your executive is out.
- If chairing a committee or organizing a very large event is required, take time to plan for a co-chair, and back up for yourself.
- Plan your executive’s calendar for re-entry before they depart.
- Schedule check in meetings with the delegates, direct reports, and her boss over the first two weeks.
- Find out the provisions for a Mothers Room (if she will need it) and arrange for calendar access for her and you.
- Have a phone conversation with her nanny or day care provider (facilitated by your executive, of course) so you can understand the arrangements and introduce yourself as a resource for them.
- Keep in contact with your exec personally when she’s away. Just checking in with a brief call or visit to assure her that everything is running smoothly will be reassuring to you both.
- Be ready for a new work paradigm when she returns and prepare her for it:
- Rigorously label, file and purge her email. Be sure that she has clearly labeled reading folders (Read now, Read by X, Read later) for when she returns so she can quickly come up to speed.
- Changing her standing appointments to reflect any changes in work day preferences.
- She may work more from home, check email at different times than previously, or have other time constraints that weren’t present before.
- Review with your executive a few weeks after she’s returned.
- What worked and what didn’t
- Share what you learned and what new duties you can assume going forward
- Report on those intangibles that you would typically discuss with her—staff morale, internal business moves, great ideas that came about because new people were working together.
A great maternity/paternity exit and re-entry plan can keep your business running smoothly while your executive is out and will prove your worth as top-notch admin to boot!