Top Tips on job sharing from senior finance leaders

Top Tips on job sharing from senior finance leaders

Industry: Tech
Interesting to: Employers

Burnout jobs. Writing Sci-fi books. Kids. Ageing parents. How this HP exec managed to do it all and stay sane while working at HP. They were two. Two leaders sharing one role. Céline Barral and Hervé Chastel shared finance executive roles at Hewlett Packard for 10 years. They were promoted together three times managing teams up to 120 people in EMEA. They were praised for high employee satisfaction scores and team spiritedness.

"Job share was a must for me, so I would not quit the company."

On the personal life front, Barral  managed to look after kids and also write a science fiction book, while Chastel managed to care for school-aged children and ailing parents. For most people, this would lead to burnout or negatively impact performance at work. But for them, it was the opposite. Optimal performance and the happiest chapter of mutually impressive careers.  Roleshare interviewed them for a Roleshare blog earlier this year and had an incredible response. We invited them back to continue the conversation. 

"You can have different soft and social skills. This difference is a real strength and they complement each other. We are covering a big spectrum with our skills."


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Sophie Smallwood: We recently ran a story about you on our Roleshare blog, and the feedback from people was incredible. So many of your HP colleagues raved about your leadership together, and when you reflect back, what do you think made your partnership such a success?

Céline Barral: As a job share, we worked 10 years at Hewlett-Packard as finance executive in three different roles, and yes, as you said, feedbacks have been always excellent, both from the management and employee side. So we think that what made our partnership such a success is seamlessness and trusting of each other. So seamlessness means stakeholder should not notice any additional complexity due to the set up. So it means people never had to repeat anything. We kept each other aware of all topics and established a handover process with a joint inbox and calendar and trusting of each other means to stick with the decision made by the other previously. And also, no need to say that you need to be very structured and organized and taking notes, doing handover planning workload meetings. You can have the highest motivation ever. If you aren't organized, it won't work.

Sophie Smallwood: And so you mentioned you had a joint calendar joint inbox that sounds relatively simple and that you typically what one person decided on you would go with. Was there anything else that you think made you work really well? Common question that we get is around handing over.

Céline Barral: Yes, so it's pretty simple. The key factor, then, is discipline is that you need to seek what you have agreed and defined. So it's discipline.

Hervé Chastel: And something important too is, I guess we shouldn't under estimate the time of the end of the end of us to be. If it has to be one hour, it's one hour. If it has to be two hours because there are a lot of topics subjects, then it's two hours. So it's what Setien said is a structure and is a great tool, but you need to spend time during the handover. It's not a 15 minute exercise and then bye bye. So I think it's really important and easy as such. But to spend time and to go into details is very important.

Sophie Smallwood: What would you say to somebody that says, well, the handover is perhaps like a duplicate effort, so this is something that in essence, the company is paying extra for.

Hervé Chastel: Well, first, the handovers generally are usually where at 8 p.m., so I won't say it's outside working hours, but kind of. And the second is and those are making you more efficient and what you're going to get is far more important and bigger than if we were only one person. Sometimes our handover were on Saturdays, Sundays. So I mean, we need to be flexible.

Sophie Smallwood: So that's something I've heard a lot. If you're going to be working in a flexible fashion, you need to be flexible. Exactly. Why did you decide that you wanted to share a role at the point in your life that you decided to do it? And the second part that question is what would have been the alternative if sharing a role hadn't been part of your career at that point?

Hervé Chastel: I think it was a strong personal wish. I strongly wanted to spend more time with my daughters and be fully involved in their education before being in job share. I missed far too much opportunities and important moments with them. And I'm a big believer to say we have only one life, so we have to take advantage of this one life. So I really wanted to spend more time with my daughters. They were teenagers and it was the first and second reason with no ranking between both. But at the time, my mother was very sick, very ill. My father was a little overwhelmed and I wanted to help him. So it was there were two reasons. And obviously, spending two days dedicated to my families enabled me to when I was at work to be totally focused, motivated and without this guilty feelings I may have when I was not in job share. Because when you work with guilt feelings, you are only at 80%. If I had not done job share, actually, I never thought about this question before. So I guess I would have carry on with my current job, my 100% job and try again, again and again because job share was clearly a must for me, so I won't have quit the company. Obviously, I would have stayed in my current job. Do the best as I can.

Sophie Smallwood: Your situation, your story reminds me of sort of the sandwich generation, right? Where one you have children and you have the parents. And so you were in that middle position of exactly in support both sides. And I think it's a growing trend, you know, people are living longer as a result. Parents are looking after their own children, but then at an age where their parents are getting older as well.

Céline Barral: My motivation was to explore one of my unmet dreams, which is or was to be a science fiction writer and to write books. You need time. You just can't write books during the night and go doing finance in the morning. It won't work, so you have to dedicate some time. And I reached that work-life balance and I was able to fulfill that dream because I'm now also a science fiction writer. And because of that at work, I always felt full of energy and motivation because I was able to get enough energizing time in my personal life. So because I reached that work-life balance, I was, I think, more performant and competent at work as well. And back to your question, I cannot imagine not doing job share, so I would have managed to do it one way or another. So for sure, I would have done it.

Sophie Smallwood: Yeah, I think one thing that really strikes me with individuals who share in your story is that there is one common thread and that common thread is ambition and it's ambition on all sides of life ambition to be there for your family. Ambitious to have a career, ambitious to explore external aspirations and passions like you said and you. So it seems to be a very commonality that we're seeing across individuals who share jobs. It's not taking it easy. In fact, it's trying to be everywhere, but in a way that is possible and the setting. I'd love you to tell us a bit about your books. Maybe we have listeners who are into science fiction. Tell us a little bit about the books that you ended up publishing.

Céline Barral: So I wrote several books, but two were published. Also, a couple of novels that is mostly it's not space opera. It's really, I would say, normal life science fiction. Right now it's in French, but hopefully it's going to be translated soon.

Sophie Smallwood: But you could be on and on and say

Céline Barral: Hello to the more remarkable, self-taught or revered Blanche Lincoln.

Sophie Smallwood: Very good. Thank you for that. And for those of you who don't speak French, maybe this is an opportunity to start.

Céline Barral: Exactly.

Sophie Smallwood: I understand that together you managed anywhere from 20 to 100 employees at various stages of your partnership and got promoted three times. So how did you manage your teams together? What was your process and your operational model?

Hervé Chastel: I guess that two of the most important key success factors for a successful job, share or team spirit and structure. And since honestly, our job share was working pretty well. We said we need to apply the same principles to our team management. It was really to reinforce teamwork, team spirit and to create a structure in the team. And structure doesn't mean it's very well organized, etc. But structure means also vision strategy, et cetera. So we spend a lot of time on that, something which is more standard and actually it works. Also, if you don't do a job, share is, but we are big believers in that. It's dedication and empowerment. I think it's key. Then if I move to more tactical task or tactical approach, we are regular one to one with our managers and our individual contributors. And what we did was one time it was with Celine. It's one to one and one time it was with me. We thought that and I still think and I'm sure she didn't think to that. With this approach, our people had a real opportunity to be exposed to a broader diversity of thoughts and feedback. I think I can say it's far richer for the people, and it's a feedback we get from our people, actually, because we have two brains and they're able to be more.

Hervé Chastel: Thanks to our feedback and to develop more regarding our performance evaluation, we always and always, always, always had our year end review or media review together with our manager at the very start. We didn't want to have Celine. I think a one to one with our boss and having a one to one with the boss, it was always one to two one two three, I don't know, but it was always both of us together. What we decided and we were very clear on that is that our performance evaluation, we shouldn't be evaluated in isolation, sitting away of the same evaluation. We have the same rating. We have the same ranking. We have the same salary increases. We have the same bonuses. There shouldn't be any difference among us because if you start to create differences within the job, share, I'm pretty sure it never happened. Actually, we've said it, but it creates. Tensions, potentially jealousy, et cetera, et cetera, so it was very clear and it was kind of mandatory when we discuss with our boss. So I guess it's how we we organized and how we approach the teams. We could spend one hour in details, but very high level. I think it's I would try to manage the teams and the people.

Sophie Smallwood: I also understand that you together had very high employee satisfaction. You touched on both. What do you think about your partnership? Help to contribute to that? Do you think that your employee satisfaction levels would have been as high? Say just one of you was managing the team? Do you think that your partnership really helped to contribute to the high employee satisfaction levels?

Céline Barral: I think if you do a job share you develop and you have those key skills that are also needed to manage teams. So definitely trust empowerment, delegation, communication recognitions, all those skills to make a job real successful. Also, the ones that make a team management successful. So I think they are both connected. Our success in managing the team and managing our jobs are very connected because in the end, they are tied to the same strengths.

Sophie Smallwood: And one question that we get from time to time from people who are not very familiar with sharing jobs is is it more work for the person who's managing the pair? What was your perception of that from your manager?

Céline Barral: No, it should not. It shouldn't. You shouldn't.

Hervé Chastel: I think at first, especially for our second and third job share, because the first time the manager acted is a VP. Wired US used to work with job shares, so it was not a big change for him. But at first it can be for the manager. What's the word? Unsettling. It could be a little lost at the beginning because it's not used to work with job shares, so it's up to us. It's what we try to do. And I think we successful on this one is to help him in this approach. So it's a very beginning if you have a manager who has never been accustomed, if I may say with job share. There is a kind of time where you need to actually to support and help him to understand, right?

Sophie Smallwood: And it sounds like this is sort of the reverse mentoring opportunity. And that's exactly. And would you say that's sort of your plan? You thought about how you want it to work. You had this operational process and that is you present that to build that confidence level to your manager.

Céline Barral: Yeah, exactly. Because typically, for example, the manager will think he or she needs to repeat things. And so very quickly, you just need to tell him or no, you should not repeat anything. I know because Hervé told me, so I know everything. And then after a while, he or she understands and never repeats anything. But maybe the first time it's human, I would say he or she will say things twice until they understand.

Hervé Chastel: And so people, let's be honest, also, some people were testing us, OK? You know, I have said to Celine, Blah blah blah blah blah blah, which was not true, actually. So they are testing, but it's as Celine said. It's human. And actually, when it work, it's a proof that job share is working. But people are testing sometimes.

Sophie Smallwood: So sort of on the topic of testing. People are by default, different and more often than not, a strength in a job share. That difference is a strength, and in large companies, you know, there's many agendas. So what would you recommend to co executives to prevent direct reports, whether it's internal or external customers or maybe stakeholders from sort of consciously going to say one or the other leader to try and test to see maybe if one leader is maybe a little bit more lenient on certain subjects.

Céline Barral: So we identify the strategic meetings and made sure that we both attended them each other week so that both of us got exposure to the key stakeholders. So, for example, imagine there was a board meeting on Monday and we would go on even weeks and I would go on odd weeks so that both of us get the exposure and the important communication and feedback from the top management. It mean that we did not have a fixed schedule, so the schedule was changing each of the week. And also as we had only one male and one calendar in practice, it was very difficult for people to target specifically very specific to clear me. That's how we avoided that.

Sophie Smallwood: Great. So when you think about your partnership, what areas do you feel you needed to be totally aligned, almost completely identical to each other to succeed? And where would you say that you think it benefited you to be sort of maybe different in those areas?

Hervé Chastel: I think that when you do a job, share. One of the key thing we talked earlier about structure, organization and trust, but I think it's very important of when you have two people in a job share is you need to share the same core values.

Sophie Smallwood: What do you mean by core values?

Hervé Chastel: Core values are what are the key values in life for you? Ok. It means about life in general, about economy, social, human, et cetera, et cetera. I think it's very important because if you have very different values, your values with your job, share partner are going to collide. I think it's very important. It's why it's important to know the person you're going to do job share before.

Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely. It's interesting because your point about how you can't know each other, it's something that you should know each other at the time. It's something that we thought as well. You know, how do you build trust? Trust is such a big part of working together through the research that we did. We interviewed people who knew each other beforehand, but we also interviewed people who didn't know each other before, and one person was already working at the company, and then a new person came in to share the job with that individual. And as part of the interview process, they managed to actually establish trust relatively quickly. And one thing that's become clear to us is people who are friends necessarily don't make the best job shares, but it's about having good professional chemistry up front. I do agree based on our research that having common values is important and that keeps coming up. And the values that we have heard are important are sort of how you value time, how you value work, your work values, how you execute on work, the things that you consider important in work, those types of values is what we've discovered as important when people share jobs. So I agree with you the one thing I would say is based on our research, we've discovered that you don't have to know each other, but that there's definitely a requirement for alignment areas of the personas to actually make a sharing arrangement work.

Hervé Chastel: And obviously, you can have different soft and social skills. I mean, obviously, we've said in all day and soft skills are slightly different. But at the end, they are adding up and it's how you are making this difference is a real strength. They complement each other because I think we are covering a big spectrum with our skills. One is maybe a little better in an area while the other is. And it means that these two people. And it's not necessarily set in L.A., but his job share it means a broader skill set. Actually, this is a key strength for the company because it means more quality and by the way, far quantity in the work we are doing. And I think it's something we have to be to sell also to the managers or managers of the company is you have guys, the broader skill set,

Céline Barral: The leadership of a job share is stronger than the one of an individual

Sophie Smallwood: In the end. Absolutely, absolutely. And when we look historically through examples and role models, when you think about just even just generally flexible working, oftentimes the persona is working, mom. What I love about your example and others that I'm seeing pop up more and more is that it goes far beyond that. You know, the fact that Selena's main motivation and I don't even know if you have children selling, but you do, but that your main motivation was to in essence, focus on this other craft that you are passionate about and that for you as be your motivation was to be there for your family. You know, I love that. I think it's so important. And what do you think it will take for more people to sort of. And I think men in general to feel more comfortable to sort of look at other ways of working because as you said, life is short and human is human right? And whether you're a man or woman, you have that one shot. And so how can we encourage more men to sort of take ownership of that life that they have and not feel that pressure, the societal pressure that the workforce pressure to be there full time? Because I think if we enable men, we can enable women to.

Hervé Chastel: I think it's very tough question because I tell you, you touch it, the social pressure. First time I said I wanted to do a job share. I had strange reactions. You mentioned ambition earlier and I'm a big believer as you actually that people in job share are very ambitious, but they have several ambitions. And it's this message we should pass. Being a job share doesn't mean you don't have any ambition. No, you have an ambition for your work, but you have an ambition for your life, your family. Writing a book being I don't know what. So I think it's immediately when you are doing your job, share. People may think that you are not ambitious and therefore with the social pressure, it's maybe even harder for for the men. Women have other issues in the world, but I think for men, I think it's the ambition message we need to pass out to change up to because social pressure is very important. I had several reactions reflections when I decided to move to job share. So.

Sophie Smallwood: And then you proved them wrong. I hope you proved yourself right. Let's just say that.

Hervé Chastel: Yeah, exactly. I proved myself right. But if you want to expand to men, I think it's around ambition then to be able to sell that to executive.

Sophie Smallwood: If you had to try to inspire a leader who today is on the fence about enabling this way of working inside of the organisation, what would be sort of your very short message to them?

Céline Barral: I would say you need to dare to make your life successful, not just your work successful, but make your life successful.

Hervé Chastel: On my side, I would say that in job share at work, I've never been so happy when I was at job share and I never felt so motivated and contributing as when I was in a roleshare.

So, their happiest working experience was sharing a role together and a time where companies are scrambling to retain employees post-pandemic. Bringing the sharing economy to jobs is part of the solution to drive retention, employee engagement, diversity and equitable career opportunities. Thanks for listening. I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roll Share. Join us for our next episode.

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