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Leading from the front on flexible work

Coca Cola South Pacific – Leading from the front on flexible work

Recently How Do You Do It ran a session on Managing Flexibility in the Workplace, with Coca- Cola South Pacific.

Following this session Patrick (Paddy) Jordan, HR Director of Coca-Cola South Pacific sent an email to his peers on the Leadership team, which he then shared with me. His email is a fantastic example of leading from the front, and great example of role-modelling to his peers and the broader business. The honesty Paddy shares with his team is a key driver in debunking myths and assumptions around flexible working.

With his permission, I share his email below.

  • “I am not a great model role around flexibility and I’m the HRD! I once left early and asked my teams permission if I could! I thought I was being nice but in fact probably gave them the impression that if I ask, they certainly can’t! I also once joked with a team member about her working from home on a Friday and how she had a ‘day off’. While they got the joke and laughed with me, what about all the team in IT and Technical who were in earshot and heard that! What feeling did that potentially leave with some of them?
  • All the leaders in the room have different understandings around flexibility, and experience the challenge in different ways! We all had our own stories.
  • There is no perfect answer to flexibility. Everyone’s case may be different. However, we can create some consistency by having standards which we lead by.
  • We have to call out, role model and/or support people with flexibility. Our words carry a long way! There is an example in our office of someone who comes in early and leaves early every day (I won’t mention their name). They know they have the full support of Coca Cola South Pacific and their Manager to do this. However, it’s the comments people say which make them feel slightly uncomfortable about their flexibility e.g. “early mark today then?”. These comments typically happen in the lift or in the foyer downstairs when people see them leave! Therefore it’s not always visible to us!
  • Please ensure you get your direct reports to think about the impact they have.’

Paddy’s experiences are common and typical of what we find at How Do You Do It when working with leaders on managing flexibility. This often comes down to the way they have been thinking about flexible work and how this comes out in what they say and do.

The reality is that Flexible working is here to stay – it is one of the most important factors for millennials who will make up about 75% of the workforce by 2025. It is shifting to become business as usual and leaders and organisations who manage it well will be increasingly appealing. So, it is important for leaders to become really conscious of their thinking, how it might be getting in the way of flexible working succeeding, as well as calling out other unhelpful behaviours such as the comments Patrick has referred to above.

Paddy’s email immediately following the workshop to other leaders in the organisation is a fantastic example of leading from the front and being a real role model in this area – someone who can recognise that there are areas to be conscious about, and change in his own thinking, as well as being supportive to others

Virginia Herlihy – Founder and CEO, How Do You Do It.

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