How to Pivot Your Role Into an Exhilarating Co-Leadership in Return for "Time"

How to Pivot Your Role Into an Exhilarating Co-Leadership in Return for "Time"

"We were able to develop personally and professionally by building on each other’s skills and previous experiences."
- Katie Hillitt and Kate Alexander shared the role of Philanthropy & Trust Team Leader at WaterAid

Katie Hillitt and Kate Alexander shared the role of Philanthropy & Trust Team Leader at WaterAid for 2.5 years. Sharing a role enabled them to move their careers forward whilst wanting to work part-time. Today, Katie is the Head of Philanthropy at Wateraid and Kate is the Major Gifts Manager at Combat Stress. 

What has sharing a role helped enabled in your personal life and at work?

Katie - The job share set up has been brilliant – I was able to return from maternity leave to a demanding and rewarding role, which I knew would benefit hugely from a job share set up. At home it meant I was able to spend more time with my one year old than working full time allowed, and in work it meant there was no compromise on carrying on a leadership role with a varied workload of projects and people.
Kate - The job share enabled me to progress in my career at a time that, because of my family commitments, I thought I was going to need to stand still for a couple of years. I was able to balance the incredible learning opportunity, managing a busy and ambitious team, whilst having two young children moving from nursery to primary school.

What has it brought to your greater team, manager, organization, stakeholders?

For us it has been a real opportunity to learn from one another, Kate was new to international development and I (Katie) really benefitted from her know-how on philanthropic giving circles and event strategy. For the team, the continuity of always having a leader in the office over the week was a real bonus. We also shared a client, who enjoyed the variety of joint account management, sometimes joint, sometimes one or the other!

What has it done for your performance at work and how does it compare to previous roles you’ve had?

In terms of our performance, we were able to develop personally and professionally by building on each other’s skills and previous experiences, and of course keep our careers moving forwards. By leading individually on projects too, we represented the department from within the job share which was great. The ability to divide and conquer is also very helpful – there are times you can be in two places at once!

In terms of previous roles, we needed to reflect in much more detail on how we work and communicate, to find the best ways for each other, the team and our stakeholders. Being clear about demands and expectations, and getting much stronger at estimating how long things take! Returning from my (Katie) maternity leave it felt like having a whole new job again, as a lot had changed in the year I was away. There was a real opportunity to reset and rebuild, and we both really enjoyed making our mark on that.

How did you secure and set up your job share?

Setting up the jobshare from my maternity leave (Katie) was a convoluted process, particularly as I had never done it before and there were few precedents at WaterAid. I originally set up the share to partner with my maternity cover. As we had both done the role successfully independently, this helped hugely in terms of providing reassurance to the organization. Circumstances meant that this jobshare did not take place upon my return, which led to externally recruiting for the role. We had some amazing candidates apply, recruiting directly. I was very involved in the selection process, with additional steps such as a coffee meeting on my own with the final candidates to scope out our interests and compatibility outside of the formal interview.

What do you do to make your roleshare successful? 

This is a huge question! So many things. From the start we were both so committed to the idea of a jobshare, and to what it means in terms of genuine collaboration, transparency and always being a shared team, of two! Through complete trust and openness we were able to understand one others’ strengths and support one another. Our values and vision for the team were very closely aligned, which is crucial to success. We were clear on our responsibilities and setting them to each other and others. At times we also went the extra mile out of hours and we understood when other priorities had affected the other partners’ plans. Day to day, a shared inbox and One Note system was a useful way of working for us, and shared objectives gave us a structure to work within on a more strategic level. We also took time out every few months to really focus on the partnership, for example through a facilitated strategy and jobshare review day. The strange thing in a jobshare is that your team see you so much more individually, than you do each other!

How do you handle your personal growth?

From the start we were open and supportive of each other around our skills, interests and ambitions. This meant that we were able to actively assign work and tasks that contributed to our growth plans. We had separate and individually focused meetings in support of our development. We also allowed time in a busy schedule to focus on learning as a team and for keeping up with the sector, where possible we would book opportunities into our shared day.

Training courses, organization wide events and external events were a challenge, related both to days worked and timings. With enough notice we were able to flex our working days by exception and we would delegate, cover for each other or prioritise these quite strictly! In some ways it was easier to keep up externally, we could split external events between us meaning fewer evenings away from family commitments compared to doing the role solo.

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