A 5 minute read on how career break return coaching can help both the individual and the long term aims of law firms, with evidence-based benefits for organIsations.
The perception that coaching is used to “fix” women irks me. Used in the right (and more meaningful) way, coaching support can become a useful tool by which to engender lasting, systemic change within organisations. Law firms and other businesses using career break return coaching to shine a light on their genuine commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. Returner coaching offers a tangible, measurable way in which to retain female talent. Women in law who feel they are valued members of a team, by being offered such coaching, are more likely to want to stay within it.
One of my proudest business stats to date is that of the over one hundred women I have coached on a one to one basis over past 5 years or so in business, each and every one of them has been retained by the legal profession, and indeed their firm. That of itself has huge business benefits, given the investment cost of coaching is fractional compared to the expense of recruiting and training new people.
Having said that, as a specialist coach for career break returners, it is fascinating to observe how many female returners feel alone, in extreme cases isolated, around their fears or anxieties about their return to work. Yet, to a certain extent, the topics and challenges coming up in coaching sessions are carbon copies of each and every other career returner session. Themes become very readily apparent, for example:
- career progression, particularly when another baby may still be on the cards;
- time management;
- working parent guilt; and
- the work/ life “juggle”.
With coaching support around such topics, I see time and again returners not only retained but also seeking promotion and elevation within the ranks more quickly than they otherwise would without that intervention.
Often in initial sessions, first thoughts rest on the practicalities of “surviving” a return, in terms of the all too familiar work life/ childcare “juggle”. But once the day to day routine settles, discussions around short, medium and long term career goals, and making an action plan to get there, very quickly reveals ambition, a desire to succeed and workable steps to achievement. Potential is tapped. Doors of possibility are opened. New-found authentic determination and clarity are harnessed.
This is particularly true when working with an external coach, as opposed to one inextricably linked to the business, in HR for example, or even more problematically, a line manager. Less pressured. More opportunity for discussions to run freely, without agendas, judgement, expectation, and fear of recriminations even.
The benefits of returners applying for promotion, at the right time, should be clear to all within the business, not just women themselves. A recent McKinsey report revealed that companies with better gender diversity in their senior leadership teams are 25% more likely to outperform their competitors. Another strong argument in favour of such an investment then.
5 Evidence- Based Benefits
I’ve put together an evidence-based list of benefits to law firms offering career returner coaching as a way to demonstrate that investment value. Your organisation could harness these 5 easy wins too, by introducing or enhancing career break returner initiatives.
Demonstrate to your people that the organisation…
…Cares enough to invest in tangible (meaningful, independent) career returner support
[Since meeting Nikki] I’ve been very impressed with her authenticity and drive for empowering and supporting women in the legal sector. As a business, we have enlisted her support with a coaching programme for our ‘maternity returners’ and all my colleagues, without exception, have been full of praise for her role in supporting their development and confidence building upon returning to work. Nikki ensures the coaching she offers is bespoke to their individual needs, spending quality time with them and delivering measurable outcomes, whilst remaining congruent with the aims of the business: Helen, Head of People, Clarion Solicitors (Coach Sponsor)
Nikki helped me to identify my short and long term goals, and break down my journey to realistically achieving those goals. Nikki helped me to “dig deep” to find solutions myself and her approach to self-accountability focuses the mind on achieving and not letting things drift. Nikki understands the legal profession and challenges that all lawyers (male and female) face. I think that insight provides an invaluable angle to her coaching style: Kayleigh, Senior Associate Solicitor, subsequently promoted to Legal Director (Coachee)
…Prioritises the retention of female talent
Nikki has helped me to become more strategic in the way I work and to take more ownership of my career direction and skillset. Nikki has…offered some great resources and perspectives on areas that I have been thinking through. I feel that my time with Nikki has helped me to not only return to work confidently, but to make lasting changes that will enable me to have a more rewarding career: Stephanie, Senior Associate
…Supports the career progression of returners
I wanted to thank you for planting the seed [of promotion] last year when I returned from maternity leave. I never thought upon my return that I would get promoted in the year. You were somebody that believed in me from the start. I really appreciated your encouragement and support. It just shows what you can achieve if you put mind to it!: Recently promoted career break returner, Legal Director.
…Values empowering returners to re-gain the confidence to return
I found the sessions very useful and thought-provoking and gave me an opportunity to truly reflect on what I wanted from my career and how I could set a strategy to achieve that …Nikki took the time to really understand my needs and provided helpful and supportive guidance. As a result of the coaching sessions, I have become more disciplined in completing tasks and getting things done. She challenged me to act in ways beyond my comfort zone which has helped rebuild my confidence following my return to work: Louise, Senior Associate Solicitor, subsequently promoted to Legal Director
I have just finished a course of [career break returner] coaching. I learnt a lot…and it has made a huge difference to my confidence and motivation since returning to work after maternity leave. I have come out of the sessions having a clear career goal and will continue to check back at the goals I set myself in the short and long term to ensure I am progressing as I would like. Nikki motivated and inspired me throughout and hit the nail on the head each and every session: Kerri-Anne, Associate Solicitor.
…Enables returners to upskill around working efficiently and productively
The sessions with Nikki have… really made me reflect on existing habits and how I can change these to improve my working day and become more efficient… I liked that the sessions were tailored to me and what I wanted to achieve: Charlie, Senior Associate Solicitor, subsequently promoted to Legal Director.
Benefits for all
Whether it’s one to one coaching or even a one off Career Break Returner webinar, there are many ways in which to support returners to enjoy a confident, meaningful return. Supporting them in the achievement of their longer term ambitions within the business, will help both them AND the organisation to also retain and promote female talent. Over time, organisations reap further rewards by creating improved gender equality within senior leadership teams.
To learn more about how you can similarly support both returners and the longevity of a diverse, inclusive business through career break return coaching and training at your firm, please contact Nikki at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07956 612190 or read Raising the Bar: Empowering Female Lawyers through Coaching https://amzn.to/309vfz6
Nikki Alderson Biography
Nikki Alderson, specialist coach, speaker and author, and former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience:
- supports organisations, law firms and barristers’ Chambers to retain female talent; and
- empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions.
Nikki specialises in 3 areas:
- Women leadership transition and change;
- Enhanced career break returner support; and
- Workplace resilience, mental toughness, confidence and wellness.
She is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching, (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX) nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category and finalist in the 2020 Women in Law Awards, Legal Services Innovator of the Year and 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.