"Our goal is whenever someone is working with us, they shouldn’t have to repeat what they’ve said to the other one, because there’s been a seamless handover and we can pick up where the other one left off."
- Lisa Watch and Rhiannon Clapperton, Director of Policy, Become.
Lisa Watch and Rhiannon Clapperton share the role of Director of Policy, Campaigns and Communications, Become - UK's national charity for children in care and care leavers. They have been sharing this role for 3 months. Previous to this they were sharing another role for 18 months at Sports England.
What has sharing a role helped enabled in your personal life and at work?
Lisa - It has freed me from the guilt of not giving enough either to my family or to work and allowed me to do both without feeling permanently frazzled. I can totally switch off from work and concentrate on my kids on the days I don’t work, confident that Rhiannon is taking care of everything. And at work I don’t feel frustrated that I can’t move things forward quickly enough or that I’m not giving the team the support they need.
Rhiannon - Like Lisa, it’s enabled me to be able to be ambitious and feel fulfilled in my professional life but also balance that with spending time with my toddler daughter, without feeling perpetually exhausted or guilty. Although as a parent, there’s always a certain amount of plate-spinning to be done, I know that when I hand over to Lisa, that she’ll be on top of everything, I trust her judgment and I don’t have to think about work until the start of my working week comes around, which makes such a difference. The way we approach our job share has also had a positive impact on me personally – we kept each other on track doing Couch to 5K, with a healthy mix of motivation and accountability!
What has it brought to your greater team, manager, organization, stakeholders?
In many ways we feel the organisation gets two for the price of one, with two minds on everything we do, each with different strengths and experience. The nature of our work involves a great deal of creative thinking and judgment and this is all the richer for having two sets of ideas. We also bring more energy and drive to the role than one person could, moving things forward quickly and having the bandwidth for lots of thinking and relationship building. We have had feedback from colleagues that they sometimes feel it’s almost time to wind down for the week when Lisa comes in on a Wed, raring to go.
What has it done for your performance at work and how does it compare to previous roles you’ve had?
It makes work so much more enjoyable. It’s such a privilege to have a buddy and sounding board who cares about everything you’re doing as much as you do. We definitely believe it improves the quality of our strategic thinking and decision making as we give things joint consideration and challenge each other. We also find it really motivating and feel we both work harder as we’re keen to progress things before handing back over. We feel there’d be value in everyone having some kind of ‘work buddy’ in this way.
How did you secure and set up your job share?
We started role sharing in a previous role at Sport England where Rhiannon advertised for a job share when she returned from maternity leave. I (Lisa) had wanted to do a job share for a while but it’s so rare to find both the right partner and role, so I was really excited to see the opportunity. As it happened, Rhiannon and I vaguely knew each other- not well but well enough to know that we rated and respected each other. And from day 1 it has just worked brilliantly well - we are very aligned in terms of our values and priorities, and also in relation to our approach to work, both to the big strategic stuff as well as to being across the detail. We really value how lucky we are to have found someone who we have complete confidence in.
And then earlier this year we were really excited about an opportunity we spotted for our current role at Become, the national charity for children in care and care leavers. Although it wasn’t advertised as a job share, we approached the Chief Exec to ask if she’d consider us and she was really open to it.
Having never done a joint interview before, we wanted it to be slick, coming across as a cohesive whole with complementary answers, so we put a lot of work into prepping for it, right down to ensuring our nail colour didn’t clash! This resulted in a very intense couple of weeks working together as well as prepping for joint interviews outside of work – we were literally together round the clock for a couple of days when Rhiannon came to stay with me to prep.
It’s been really easy to settle into Become as a job share as the organisation really values diversity and we have really felt that colleagues have been so supportive and open-minded about having us on board on how to work with us. We hope that it has helped to inspire others to feel that there are different ways to balance priorities, particularly the young people we work with.
What do you do to make your roleshare successful?
First and foremost I think the key thing is that we trust each other. We have confidence in whatever decision the other makes, and even if we might have done it differently, we respect each other’s judgment and have each other’s back, no matter what. We put a lot of time and thought into communication – we do extensive handover notes to each other at the end of our working week, and also have dedicated time on our overlap day to discuss key things so that we are aligned on our approach. Our goal is that whenever someone is working with us, they shouldn’t have to repeat what they’ve said to the other one, because there’s been a seamless handover and we can pick up where the other one left off.
How do you handle your personal growth?
Whilst our work might be an entirely joint endeavor, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we are two different people with our own areas for growth and so naturally we reflect on these separately and have separate personal development plans.
However, although not one of the things we’d considered as a benefit of the job share before starting, we’ve come to realise that the partnership actually provides real benefits in terms of our personal growth as we often end up assuming the role of each other’s mentor and coach just in the course of our conversations, and we have the trust to be really honest with each other, as well as about our own mistakes!