Don't Choose Between The Best Talent - Get Both.

Don't Choose Between The Best Talent - Get Both.

E8 S2 - Talk Roleshare Podcast

"My performance working in a roleshare - I step it up, because I’ve got  accountability I’ve not really had before at the micro level. It forces me to keep that momentum, energy, and keep the performance up."
-Sherelle Folkes and Nichola Johnson-Marshall, Sr PR Leader, at Open Banking. Nichola is also co-founder of Working Wonder consultancy.

Imagine you’re looking to fill a PR leadership role and you see this CV land. Sr Reporter at Newsquest, Sr. PR Manager at eBay, Chief Reporter at Clarke White Publishing, Editor at Mobile News, Global Head of Communications at Cobra Group, Director of PR at Bryden Wood, Director of External Communications at Lastminute.com, Director of Communications at LinkedIn. We’re talking about nearly 40 years experience, it would be very difficult to find this level of targeted expertise in a single individual. So, is this too good to be true? No! It’s a roleshare. Meet Sherelle Folkes and Nichola Johnson-Marshall sharing the Sr PR leadership role at Open Banking.

The chemistry and the energy that exudes from this partnership, the perspective and balance they bring to the role, and the power of their combined strengths and experiences is awesome in every meaning of the word. They, and Open Banking, are both fortunate in this working arrangement. Listen to this episode of Talk Roleshare.

Episode Transcript

Sophie Smallwood: Hey, this is Talk with Roleshare, I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare.com. Imagine you're looking to fill a PR leadership role and you see this CV or resume. Are you sitting down? Senior Reporter at News Quest, Senior PR Manager at eBay, Chief Reporter at Clarke White Publishing, Editor at Mobile News, Global Head of Communications at Cobra Group, Director PR Bryden Wood, Director of External Communication at Lastminute.com, Director of Communications at LinkedIn. We're talking about nearly 40 years of experience. It would be really difficult to find this level of targeted expertise in a single individual. So is this too good to be true? No, it's a role share. Meet Sherelle Folkes and Nichola Johnson-Marshall, sharing the Senior PR leadership role at Open Banking.

Sherelle Folkes: Myself and Nichola, together we run the external communications strategy and program for the OBIE, which stands for the Open Banking Implementation Entity, a bit of a mouthful. So in a nutshell, OBIE was given a mandate by the Competition and Markets Authority, the CMA, back in September 2016. And that mandate was to enable innovation, transparency and more importantly, lots of fresh new competition to UK financial services. So we're the only two people that sit within the communications function. We sit within the policy, legal and communications function, and of course, then we integrate with our other colleagues, like, for example, in marketing.

Sophie Smallwood: Why did you enter this working arrangement to start?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: I've worked for 20 plus years now, in PR, all in full-time roles. I've worked in-house for different companies like eBay, Lastminute.com, Barclays, and LinkedIn. And then I recently actually took a career pivot and retrained as a career coach and the other side of what I do, I run a coaching and training consultancy. I've always been really, genuinely fascinated by flexible working solutions, I think increasingly as I became a working mum. And I've always been fascinated by role shares as a really good solution to see how it would work. So I was looking for how I could combine my internal comms experience also set up and run my own business at the same time so I could have the financial security and work in a job where I was comfortable and I enjoy. And then also look after my son, who just started school as well as to have that real balance.

Sophie Smallwood: Right. It's very interesting. So it's almost as if you've got both the flexibility that you would like as a parent, but also the flexibility to pursue a career portfolio. So you're doing multiple things with the time that you're getting back from your job share.

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: Yeah, definitely.

Sophie Smallwood: And what about you, Sherelle?

Sherelle Folkes: So I started my career as a journalist, so I've always been very ambitious, shall we say. I think that comes from that intrepid newshounds sense. I then did really well within that, I became an editor at 27. I was on a very good upwards career trajectory and then moved into PR communications and a great career, lots of different opportunities. And like Nichola, I've always had full-time roles and I think within our discipline, especially, it's a real always-on culture. You have to be available pretty much 24/7. I remember starting one role and I was given a computer, an iPad, a phone, all these different things. And I was so excited with all my new kit and then somebody said, well, you know, that means it's because you could be reachable 24/7. But it's that sort of thing, checking emails on holidays, never feeling like you're off. And that didn't change when I had my daughter. In fact, I was promoted while I was on maternity leave. And I came back then with just more staff to manage, more responsibility, all these different things, while also in this unfamiliar ground of a new parent and trying to manage that as well. And so began this feeling that I always had of, not enough, always feeling guilty. Was I giving enough to the job? Was I giving enough to my daughter? And eventually I just felt like I was burning out. I didn't feel like I was getting either of them right. And unfortunately, there weren't really that many opportunities to apply for. I saw part-time roles, things like that, but it was always sacrificing on the career title or maybe salary or it just didn't seem like you could have it all. And then this role came up and it was just everything I was looking for. And I thought, meant to be.

Sophie Smallwood: That's amazing, right? It's like meeting that perfect soul mate.

Sherelle Folkes: My work wife, as I call her. My work wife wonder.

Sophie Smallwood: I love it, that's wonderful. That's great. And now how did you actually come to secure this role? So was this role initially listed as a full-time position? I'd love to hear a bit of the story there.

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: It's an interesting one because I was already working for OBIE as a contractor, I started last September, and I was officially doing about two or three days a week. So I already set it up as a part-time role but actually as Sherelle said earlier, it's a communications role. It can't just squeeze into two to three days, you're always on a deadline, etc. So actually it was evolving more into a full-time role. And then the organization itself actually went into the process of converting a lot of its team into permanent members of staff. As they were doing that, they actually spoke to me about becoming a full-time role and would I be interested in applying for it? And I thought, well, I am interested in still doing it, but I don't want to do it full-time. And so I actually floated the idea of could it be a role share? And it was interesting because there aren't any existing role shares at the company. Our manager was brilliant because he was wonderfully honest, he said I don't really know a lot about role shares, but can you tell me more about it and I'll help make this case for you. So I actually and, shameless plug for you Sophie, I did use the resources on your website. I was like, I need to present it as a rational business case and not make it just about me. So I actually presented it, and as Sherelle said, we're a very small comms function and that is actually just one headcount. So I said, well, look if it's a role share, you get two people with two different external comms experience. Actually, that would provide really, really good support for the company. So I presented it in a quite rational way, we then took it to the H.R. person who, again, was brilliantly supportive and collectively they took it to the leadership team. And I can't fault anyone because actually everyone was really supportive and just intrigued and excited for us to try and make it work. So I think a key learning I had is when you come across every step of the way, people being familiar with what you're suggesting, which I imagine happens a lot with role shares because there isn't as much awareness about them. Put together a rational business case and then they can react to that and ask the questions. So I really learned a lot through that process and I would recommend to anyone else.

Sophie Smallwood: So once you had the support from the various stakeholders, how did the two of you come together?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: Weirdly, I'd always thought, in that time when I was able to create a role share and I get to do it, I would automatically pick the person because I know the person who I would want to work with. And actually, Sherelle and I had never, ever met before. We didn't know each other prior to the role share. And that for me was really interesting because what we actually did is we advertised the role externally. So we advertised the half role externally and we were overwhelmed in a brilliant way with amazing applicants. And it was interesting, a perception of mine was it might just be women like me who have a similar situation, a working mum, but actually men, women, and all for completely different reasons. Different people who had other career side hustles or just have parenting responsibilities as well. And then Sherelle came to us and went through the interview process and for me, really stood out. I think what's so key, we had that instant connection. And interestingly, this all happened just before lockdown. So Sherelle and I actually had only a face-to-face meeting, which was the interview just before lockdown. So we based this whole decision on us meeting each other in person once. And then she had other the telephone interviews and stuff. But I think also what was key is that we could be very honest with each other from the start about what our motivations were for doing it. So in the interview, I openly talked about the fact that I was a working mum, and I said about my son, and then hopefully it made Sherelle feel comfortable enough to actually talk about her daughter and to say, look, this is my motivation for doing this as well. So I think that that whole interview process really showed me there is definitely demand out there. And there are lots of amazing candidates who I wouldn't necessarily come across if I was just recruiting for a part-time role or actually just recruiting for a normal role. I think you just open it up to a much wider reach of candidates as well.

Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely. And I think this is a really important part of shared roles. So speaking with the CEO yesterday of a scale up and they're quite progressive in how they hire individuals. And I asked him, point-blank, would you be open to listing future full-time roles and opening them up for role share applicants? And he said yes, but the first question was how would it work? How would I do it? And then the next question was, well, does that actually help improve our diversity scores? Because that would be really interesting. And I said absolutely, because if you think about it, people who are applying for shared roles typically won't apply for a full-time role because they're looking for that flexibility. So you are indeed opening up the talent pool and diversifying. So that's a great point. So when you are looking to share a role, what does it take and what should be considered to enable really a successful joint union?

Sherelle Folkes: I think you shouldn't necessarily look for someone who's just like you. I think you want to look for somebody where, as Nichola said, that there needs to be some sort of connection because you are going to work very, very closely together and you have to be able to build that trust of each other's capabilities, really, because, as Nichola mentioned, we didn't know each other. I mean, you can only gauge so much from a CV. So we knew that we both had a lot of experience in our comms and PR we knew that all stacked up. But it's about, for us, this was both of our first role shares. We didn't come in with any preconceived ideas. We thought about what's the best way to do the job and divvy it up and think about being really, really organized. And number one in that was being able to trust each other and have very open lines of communication. So we were very honest right from the start about the sort of things that we liked, our way of working, what things annoyed us, that sort of thing. And again, as I mentioned earlier about comms being this always-on function, we had to really work together to learn how to switch off. What you've got to realize when you're doing a role share is you're going to start a task and you're not going to be able to finish all of them. So you are going to have to hand over. You're relinquishing the control aspect, the trust in someone else. And that person might not work or do that task or finish it in the way that you would. But you can learn from each other, quite often there is things that Nichola will pick up and certain things that she'll do, and it makes it better. And I actually think, 'oh, that's an extra thing I didn't think of'. So certainly for a firm, you're going to get double the talent, double the capability, double the experience. But you're also getting two different approaches, which I find does make the performance better. We get to use each other as a sounding board. That gives me confidence in what I'm doing, because then I'll be like, right, well, this is the way I was going to approach it. We just have constant, that back and forth. Another thing I think is really important is that whilst I'm saying you need to be able to switch off, you do also have to have a line to your role share. So we have a system between us that if something urgent crops up, we will drop each other a text. And then that gives the other person sort of that assurance that they're not going to be left out or there's not going to be something really, really important that they're not going to be involved in. And then it would be up to Nichola whether she wants to then go and read the email or get involved or whatnot. And that gives you that peace of mind to know that I can just let go. I can do what I'm doing, spend time with my child, and if something happens, I'll be notified. And I think that really works well.

Sophie Smallwood: So you mentioned trust, and I find your particular story very fascinating because you met once in person and you had the opportunity, obviously, to communicate through other means, but you didn't know each other. And that's a key question I get very often is how am I going to trust this person? Is this person going to take my job, is this person going to outperform me?

Sherelle Folkes: So when I first started, Nichola and I actually had a discussion about our values and what principles we wanted to abide by in our role. So you've got to kind of sit down and really talk that out. In our case, it was through Teams or doing it visually in this new virtual world. But that's what we basically set down by doing. And we tried to get to know each other personally as well. What made us both tick, what are we passionate about? And that's some of those principles of things that we keep on going. So we have a handover document that we use, but as well as all of our work task, we also have things on there that are personal or important to us. My thing was taking up Couch to 5K during lockdown and it's three runs a week. So we've got that on our handovers. When we were also measuring what good looks like, it's like, yeah, have we done the things that we wanted to do? And Nichola's was maybe going for a walk and listening to a podcast.

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: You're doing a Couch to 5K and I'm just going for a walk.

Sherelle Folkes: But your walk might be a lot longer than my 5K run. Bear in mind that you don't actually get to do the 5K until you are about in week 12 so I am nowhere near. I think it's just important, as I say I always call Nichola my work wife, but it's about having that relationship. And like I said, you have to be able to trust that the other one's not just got your back, but they're going to, we're both very much high achievers. So I think we had that synergy straight away is that we're both very determined to do the best job we can for the organisation. And I think quite often in these roles until I came across this role share principle, is that companies often end up the winners rather than the person themselves, because even I was considering doing a four day a week role. Everyone was like, 'oh, but be careful because you just end up being expected to fulfill a five day job in four days and you've lost a day's money', all these different things. It's the same way, part-time. If I was doing this role part-time, something would drop or I'd be forced to pick up things on my off days because you would never manage to complete that seamless approach to the job. That's what I think is really important for companies to bear in mind, is that they might have had a request from somebody for a flexible, for some flex. And they might have said, but for the company demands or client demands, we can't really put that in place.

Sophie Smallwood: Yeah.

Sherelle Folkes: Roleshare is the way that you can ensure that you've got that comprehensive cover and that there will be no dip in the service offering all the clients because they'll always be somebody there that's going to keep that level up.

Sophie Smallwood: Do you think that all companies should move to a position of opening roles to be shared as an option to source talent for full-time roles?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: Yeah, I really do, actually. I think that rather than making it an exception if you normalize it and make everything flexible first, I think especially in the current environment, people are needing levels of flexibility. They are needing to work remotely as well. I think you will automatically open up a talent pool that you may not have necessarily accessed before. I think it helps raise awareness. I think then you get not only a higher volume and quality, but I think also it might actually be great internally as well, because it might encourage people to think differently internally about roles and promotions and how they are structured. I've seen a lot of debates about could really senior levels be role shares and why not. But then I would argue you have a board of directors and you do have essentially, different people doing different roles. And I think it's seniority agnostic if that's such a thing, role share, I think it can be any level. It doesn't mean every role will end up being it, it just means it gives the flexibility and is more appealing for a different group of candidates who wouldn't normally apply for these roles because they had been restricted by the boundaries that have previously been set.

Sophie Smallwood: Right, and I've heard senior role sharers say that it's not about the role, it's more about the individuals sharing the role, whether or not it's shareable, and that there are certain characteristics that you want to have and a certain chemistry and you have to be willing to be that way in order to be in a role share. For example, I've heard ego is an important part of the role in the sense that you should put your ego aside when you are sharing a role and that comes down to an individual's choice to do that. Now, in your particular role share, how is it set up? I'd love to understand the practicalities. So from an H.R. perspective, how did you guys manage it? Is it one headcount? Is it two? And how are your benefits split?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: When we were researching how to do it and when I was making decisions, I had to work through all of that. So, again, I would say when you're making the initial business case, really look at that as well, but also be prepared to be flexible with what you're suggesting. So everything I have read about other people doing it suggests that you have an overlap day. So actually you both do three days each. So that's what we do. We overlap on Monday and then what we pre-agreed was what days we would each do. So I do Monday, Thursday, and Friday and Sherelle does Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. We typically stick to that unless we need to switch out for each other. And then I think we are counted as two separate part-time headcounts because there's a three-day-a-week set up and then we have identical benefits that have them all individually. So what we did was we signed individual contracts. And I think because I had already transitioned to a permanent role and then Sherelle joined afterwards. That worked for us because we joined the organization at different times. I imagine if you both joined together it might be different. Sherelle and I are quite transparent with one another anyway, but I think you might want to have an individual contract. Again, it's personal choice. And then things like, we recently went through a review process with our manager. And again, that was new, how do we do that? We have joint objectives that we came up with collectively with our manager, and then how we discussed it, we both wrote up our own successes and achievements, but again, shared it transparently and we discussed it together, then separately with our manager. So, again, I think it's all about personal choice and how you want to design it. What's great is having that open conversation with the manager and I think also, be prepared to flex along the way with how it's set up so that, if one of us ever left, it may then be set up differently again. But I think it's what's best for the pair who are in the pair at that moment.

Sophie Smallwood: So do you both get benefits pro-rata? Is that how it works?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: Yeah. So our holiday is pro-rata. And what's interesting is Sherelle and I have an informal holiday sharing system because in the school holidays we both need to flex a bit with that, with our children and child care. We cover for each other's birthdays. So, again, that's not a formal arrangement that's just something we both do and our children's birthdays as well. All our benefits are pro-rata. We get health insurance and a pension and that is based on our pro-rata salary that we get.

Sophie Smallwood: The principles of your job. Sure. I'd love to hear them.

Sherelle Folkes: When I first started, as Nichola mentioned, we'd only met in person the once. So we had this good discussion about our values and the principles we wanted to abide by our role. As I mentioned, we tried to get to know each other personally. We did things like we'd find these really funny quizzes and fill them out, what animal would you be?

Sophie Smallwood: I love it! That's great.

Sherelle Folkes: We did psychology quizzes as well and we'd see what sort of thing we got, and we quickly realized that we always get different results. I think what we prove is you don't have to be like carbon copies of each other. We have a lot of differences, but I think that actually makes us stronger. For example, there was this whole little quiz we did and it was an audio clip you had to play it and it's whether you end up hearing 'yanny' or 'laurel' and we both heard different things and that's ended up being our nicknames for each other now is 'yanny' and 'laurel' because we both heard different things. I think it's also important to try and have fun with each other. That's one of the nice camaraderie things about work, isn't it, that you have colleagues that you get on with. So we try and make sure that happens. So we came up with these principles, did a bit of research, the commandments of comms. The first one is full disclosure. It's important that there are no surprises. You've got to be honest with each other. You've got to be transparent. So that's the same if something's not working or if somebody hasn't done something in the right way, you've got to be able to tell each other. And when in doubt, you've got to be able to ask and contact each other. A really important thing, is having confidence in one another. Because when Nichola's not available, I know that I've got full decision making and vice versa. So you've got to feel confident about the fact that you have got the reins and you're the one during your 'on' days that adds value to the business rather than hinders it because it is a partnership. And again, you need to be open with each other, so immediate feedback and be able to clear the air quickly. Have candid conversations with each other. We try and keep it simple. An example of this is when I first started I created this whole very elaborate way that we were going to record all of our work and in this spreadsheet. Then we realized that it was much easier because of the amount that we'd have to have is just to keep a simple Word doc that we could add to. Don't try and complicate it. It's about making it work together.

Sophie Smallwood: Right.

Sherelle Folkes: Grow together. So we measured, rewarded and promoted together. I think it's important that if you're going to go into role share, you're not quickly trying to leapfrog elsewhere in the company because it is something that you need to bed in, and you need to do for a good while. I don't think you should be thinking about a role share as a temporary or short term solution, because that's definitely not going to work for the organization. Don't drop the ball. You've got to be able to trust that your partner's got it and that one isn't coasting off of the other. I think it's important that you both bring your A game at all times. And one of the things we really do, and I think this is where Nichola being a coach really helps because she introduced this thing where we shout about each other's successes and contributions. So whether that's to the organization or whether it's when we have our weekly catch-ups, talking about something that we're both really proud of, or that the others achieved. I think it's just really important to be supportive of one another. And as Nichola mentioned we've both got our other things going on, whether it's our kids or the other things we're trying to develop, supporting each other to do that. Ultimately proving that the model works, that two heads are better than one, and that as a role share partnership, add value to OBIE.

Sophie Smallwood: So what will your manager say today? Is two people in a role better than one?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: We'll have to ask him, but I think he would. He has been so supportive throughout which is great. I think he does see the value and I think that we're quite clear with him when one of us was leading on something than the other. That was my biggest worry when we did it. How will other people react to us? Will they know who to come to? That bit has been the easiest because we're always both copied on everything and then we agree between us who will pick something up. I hope our manager thinks it's working. He certainly hasn't told us it isn't. I think he is prepared to support us, to make it work, which is great and what's good is we ask him for feedback as well. So we have one to ones with him each week. I like to think we have an open enough relationship that if parts of it aren't working, he'll give us feedback about it. It really helps having a supportive manager who wants to make it work with you, because I think that makes a massive difference.

Sophie Smallwood: I think how lucky is your company to have you both? You know, in any normal circumstance I say normal, a normal full-time job. They would only have one of you. And what a shame that they would, in essence, not have the other one potentially. So I think that that's a huge gain for the company. How do you actually divide your role? Obviously, there is loads of different ways, some people split, some people are mirror job shares. So have you decided to share your role?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: Just to pick up one thing that you just mentioned before about the energy. I think that's something that's so important about a role share because normally when you're working all week, you'll have your dips. You'll have your point where you're just literally feeling a bit burnt out or one day where you'll work like a Trojan the next day. I say with us, we're always able to keep the energy up because we've got each other. We've got each other for that support. But you don't have that midweek dip, do you? Because mid-week you've got Nichola coming in with her new blood and energy. So we are definitely the upbeat comms team of the OBIE. Because you're getting that work-life balance, I feel like I feel very grateful in this role. I feel that because I've been given this opportunity, I feel like I want to give my best. I feel so passionate about the organization and what I can do. And I think that's something that's so important that companies would end up realizing. How many people end up having to leave a job to take a career break or a sabbatical because they're burning out. This is a way that a company could think about retaining some of their best talent, which is an adjustment that's actually going to keep talent and bring new talent in. And I just think that's something that I as a newbie to this, I've really thought that it's something that works for everyone. In terms of how we structure our role. We keep it as a very much evolving handover doc. There are certain areas that we both split. So I have responsibility for certain areas. Nichola has responsibility for others. Some there will be a little bit of a hand over midweek if I can't finish something or vice versa. And then we just have our task list and we work through it and we make sure that we collaborate. Our cross-over day is a Monday, and that's when we have a really good talk about what we've got coming up that week, the best approaches. So we always feel as well that we have communicated with each other about the way that we are going to approach something, going back to our principles of transparency, communication, honesty. We've got that dial in to each other if something happens. But we've got a very supportive team within the OBIE itself. We've got a brilliant line manager. Especially when I was bedding into the organization, I felt that on Nichola's off days I wouldn't need to bother her because I had really brilliant support from within the organization that was really useful.

Sophie Smallwood: I think one thing also that's really interesting with role shares is that there's a matrix internally and you both have different relationships across the organization. Right. So you came and Nichola had been there already she had relationships, that benefits you, Sherelle, because you've got someone who already knows a lot of people and wants to give you that access and vice versa. As you continue to establish your presence within your organization, you meet different individuals. And so you by default, you're helping broaden each other's networks, which is a powerful position and a powerful benefit as well. So what has it taught you to be in this particular working arrangement?

Sherelle Folkes: That two is better than one, and that I can still keep evolving and keep learning because it's brilliant to have a role share partner whose as experienced as Nichola, I get to learn new things all the time with the way that she might approach something. And it's helped me be really organized in terms of thinking about the role holistically and then how to divide and conquer everything, because that's what we have to make sure we do. I've learnt to not be such a control freak and to let go because, and Nichola has been brilliant at that because I will try and meddle or I will respond to emails and she'll be like, 'off you go'. It's natural! Especially when I first started, I was trying to learn, so I'd be like, 'Oh, let me finish this. Let me carry on with this, because I want to see it because it's a brilliant learning experience'. Then I was like, right no. Nichola was the one who was like, 'get your out of office on, go and do something with Sienna', and be really, really supportive in helping me to do that. And now it's absolutely great. I'm getting to live the life I wanted. I get to go and do yoga on a Thursday. Living the dream.

Sophie Smallwood: That's fantastic. How about you, Nichola? Have you learned anything special from this working arrangement?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: I'd say it's taught me so much and you keep learning. So what I feel, is really reinvigorated in the role because I was trying to do a role in a part-time capacity as a full-time with full-time responsibilities, and it was hard. So I was just surviving. And I think Sherelle coming in has reinvigorated me in my career. That's where we are now. And I think the biggest learning is to be more tolerant and not just to expect people to do things the way that you do them, because seeing how Sherelle does stuff is brilliant and I really learned from that as well. And I think that whole delegation point is very good for handing over and stopping because especially even more so at the moment when we were both home schooling as well when I'm trying to run my business as well, I have to be very strict for my working days. Banking working days versus my other days and having a role share partner enabled me to do that. I think you just continue learning and recognising that actually you're going to keep learning, working this way so it's great. It's really empowering.

Sophie Smallwood: When we've done our research, just trying to understand why people would not want to be in a shared role. The primary concern is always around being outshined, outperformed, having someone you're sharing a role with who might actually take over the role. So how would you address that if you heard that objection come up today?

Sherelle Folkes: I can understand that that's the sort of misgiving people have. And the other one I was always told is that the person, they'd either outshine you or they wouldn't give enough and you'd literally be the one carrying them and they'd be coasting. And that was one of the things even when I mentioned doing that they were like, 'Oh, you know what if you two aren't both as good?'. And I think people need to push past those fears because ultimately you want to do a role share to give yourself better freedom for whatever that is in your life that you want to do, whether it's like with Nichola, whether it's her career coaching. With me, I've got this ambition that I keep putting off, to write a book. In that process of finding that role share partner, you want to find someone that you have that you know, obviously, it's not going to work if you've got two people coming in and one is much more senior than the other or, one hasn't got the right tools to do the job because it's not two part-time people doing it. You should look at it as one headcount performing that role. So if you've found the right person for the role or a company put two strong candidates together, why wouldn't it work? And as Nichola mentioned earlier, people need to get past the idea of a role share as being different to, I came from a PR agency prior to joining OBIE, and so there were two of us that were senior account directors. And we sat across some of the same clients, we had different clients, things like that. But we were responsible jointly for the performance of the whole PR function. And I think you'd find that that's a similar case in many companies. A team has to collectively make their department or their role happen. So I think if they thought of it from that basis, had that accountability with each other, I think if anything, my performance working with Nichola, I step it up because I've got that accountability that I've not really had on a micro level, because when Nichola picks up the reins on a Wednesday, she's going to see exactly what I've done. Nichola knows the same thing on a Monday. So I think it forces you to keep that momentum, to keep that energy, to keep that performance up. And I think you'd very quickly realize if one of you wasn't picking things up and like with a marriage like with a friendship, not everything's going to work. We're lucky, ours has worked brilliantly. But I think if you did the due diligence in the first place to get the right foundation, I think it can only be a formula for success rather than failure.

Sophie Smallwood: How do you think about your own personal growth?

Sherelle Folkes: So for my personal growth, I think it's making me definitely evolve because there's two of us approaching these tasks, I will check the way that I'm going to do it. And we were very honest right from the offset about what we both wanted to achieve within role, about promotions, about the things we do. And that's going to be a continual discussion and we will continue to to talk to each other about how we grow, how we move. I came in, I was very honest about the fact that I've always been going for these promotions and on this trajectory. I really wanted to just take a step back and just do a role that I really, really enjoyed without feeling like it was taking my soul.

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: I actually feel like I am being really fulfilled because the job is challenging, we're kept on our toes. We do all that. So I'm getting that career fulfillment as well. So it's not like I've gone into a role and I'm just like, 'Oh, I'm bored' or 'I'm doing this'. I feel very stimulated.

Sophie Smallwood: Say, three or four years down the line you want something different? Have you guys thought about how you would address that with each other?

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: Because we've set it up that we celebrate each other's success. So if I'm doing something for working wonder, Sherelle is equally as supportive as if I'm doing something for OBIE. And I also think that because we were open and honest with each other at the start about, our work at OBIE is very important to us, but that's one part of our career and our professional development and it's one part of our life. So equally, I think, sharing what's important to us is for our personal lives to grow and also what's important in the other element of our professional life. I'm equally, hopefully as supportive that Sherelle is going to write that book because I know that's important for her. If she suddenly became a best-selling author I would be riding on her coat-tails and any PR offerings. So I think that it is keeping that honest conversation going and being genuinely happy for each other. I think we're grateful to work with each other for as long as we can. And then if circumstances change, I'd like to think we would be one of the first people to tell each other, actually, we might have to re-visit this and I really don't think there be hard feelings, because, again, we feel quite fortunate we stumbled upon each other in this way anyway. I could see our careers being intertwined forever now because we've got a friendship as well as a professional relationship.

Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely.

Sherelle Folkes: You become cheerleaders for one another. People think perhaps that there'd be this competition and again, I think those sort of things that people need to just push aside, why would you want to compete? You would think of yourself as one person in your job, you want to do the best you can do, so when there's two of you, it's just two people trying to do the best that they can do.

Sophie Smallwood: That is really powerful, what you just said, but carry on. That was very powerful.

Sherelle Folkes: Yes, to give you an example, the connection that we've got is that we do really want to support each other. So for my birthday, one of the most touching gifts I got was Nichola, she got me this character development journal because I have still procrastinated and not written a page or done anything. She sent me a link, it was like right on Thursday you're going to do a little something towards it. But it's just so lovely to know that somebody understands my world and is pushing me to be the best I can be. And I hope I can do the same for her. So I don't see that that would ever change. As Nichola said, I think we're stuck with each other now. I think we'd only ever want to see each other grow and do better. I always feel like I won the lottery, but this has been such a great opportunity for me. I'm really, really thankful I get to do this.

Sophie Smallwood: How would you complete the sentence? So let's start with Nichola on this one. Sharing a role is.

Nichola Johnson-Marshall: Sharing a role is rewarding, empowering, and great fun.

Sophie Smallwood: Sherelle?

Sherelle Folkes: Sharing a role is the secret to a better work-life balance, you can have it all.

Sophie Smallwood: And that was Sherelle Folkes and Nichola Johnson Marshall sharing the Senior PR Leadership role at Open Banking. Open Banking were open-minded and supportive of trying something new and with this, they are now so much richer in talent. The chemistry and the energy that exudes from this partnership, the perspective and balance they bring to the role and the power of their combined strengths and experiences is awesome in almost every meaning of the word. I invite you to really think about the fortune that comes from these types of working arrangements, both for employees and for companies. Thanks for listening and join us for the next episode of Talk Roleshare.Interested in a roleshare? Sign up

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