We are really aligned in our judgement and our priorities, but we have a lot of different experience to bring to the role – such that you’re unlikely to find in just one person.
-Lucy McGill & Sally Holden, Head of Media, Mencap (sharing a role since April 2020)
What has sharing a role helped enabled in your personal life and at work?
Lucy – Job sharing has been so liberating for me, both at work and in my personal life. I was concerned when I started a family that if I wanted to work part time it would mean either taking a step back or stagnating in my career. But working in a job share enables me to operate at a senior level, in a challenging and rewarding role, and develop my skills and experience - while also being able to dedicate real quality time to my young family. I have so much respect for parents that work full time, and those that parent full time – but I knew for me, the ideal would be to find balance in the middle and I’m very happy.
Sally – In my personal life, it has allowed me so much balance. I can throw myself into work on my working days and spend quality time with my family when I’m not – and I really mean not thinking about work or worrying about to-do lists. It’s satisfying that the boundaries are so clear.
At work it has enabled me to work to my strengths, to learn and accept other ways of doing things and to become really organised! Lucy is a great source of peer support and we both love to sound things out with each other - we have a good amount of challenge and drive for each other too. When your confidence at work grows, this extends to how you feel in other aspects of your life too.
What has it brought to your greater team, manager, organization, stakeholders?
We are really aligned in our judgement and our priorities, but we have a lot of different experience to bring to the role – such that you’re unlikely to find in just one person. We really hope that means our stakeholders genuinely get 2 heads rather than 1 but also a consistent approach from our role.
Because of not wanting to forever pass things backwards and forwards between the two of us, we like to get things done and completed, so we’re really attentive to our colleagues.
What has it done for your performance at work and how does it compare to previous roles you’ve had?
Sally – this is one of the most enjoyable roles I’ve had. I feel fresh and motivated when I come into work after my days off and I am a lot more productive than in other roles – it's really hard to procrastinate when you have someone to hand over to!
Lucy – I would definitely agree with Sally that the guilt of handing things back unfinished is the biggest motivator to be productive that I’ve ever had! I’ve had wonderful and supportive colleagues and peers in previous roles, but there is something really special about having someone doing the exact same job as you to bounce ideas around with – we both bring different experience and ways of doing things, so learning from each other is another big perk. Another huge plus is that our manager used to be part of a job share earlier in her career, so has been a huge advocate and support to us both.
How did you secure and set up your job share?
We had both freelanced with Mencap in different roles.
After having my first child, I (Sally) was due to come into the Head of Media role in a job share with someone else who I had worked alongside as a freelancer. She ended up getting a new job while I was off so I had to find someone new. My manager put me in touch with Lucy who was working on a short term project and looking for something more permanent and part-time. We had a chat on the phone and after just 10 minutes realised we were on exactly the same page about almost everything. We talked through our ambitions for the role, what we were motivated by and what got us really fired up. It was quite a risk to jump into the role together without knowing each other well, but we told ourselves we would trial it and see how it went. We started the job in April – so took on the role working remotely, navigating a pandemic and all that comes with that. Seven months later and it’s worked out brilliantly – even though we’ve only actually met in person very briefly once!
What do you do to make your roleshare successful?
We spent a lot of time talking to each other for the first few months. We quickly knew our priorities and approach were similar – it would be really tough to job share if they weren’t. We really needed to build trust so we could let each other get on with things. Initially, because we barely knew each other, there was a lot of uncertainty about whether we were doing things that the other person would agree with or want to change – but we have been really open with each other from the start about letting each other lead on their days and even if we might have done things slightly differently, we would never question any decisions made and that has been very liberating.
We started off with a HUGE handover that went into enormous detail. We quickly realized that this wasn’t sustainable as we didn’t want to spend half a day writing it up at the expense of actually getting the job done. We now have a handover that goes into far less detail and really focuses on priorities for the forthcoming week. Less detail feels more comfortable as we have become more established in the job and you don’t feel the same need to understand every minute detail of what has gone on. We have a crossover day on a Friday when we prioritise ‘face to face’ (video call!) catch ups – it will be so strange when we are actually in the same room together after all this time on Zoom!
How do you handle your personal growth?
We have been working with a fantastic coach for the past few months who specializes in partnership coaching and has really helped us to identify our own strengths as a duo and individually. We are really keen not to just stick with what we know – we’re in this role so we can learn from each other and expand our skillset – so while there may have been an expectation initially from colleagues that each of us would lead on certain projects that were more akin our previous experience, we haven’t divided projects up in this way. We both work across everything, which has been key to ensuring our professional development.
While we have a joint 1:1 with our manager, we have separate objective setting and appraisal sessions – so personal development and objectives are something that we focus on individually.