One of my biggest concerns around taking mat leave was around finding the right cover. We are based out in Oxfordshire, so it often means we struggle with getting really good people into the agency, especially at a more senior level.
I was also a little concerned about how I would run the interview process. I wanted to ensure I found the right candidate who would care about the role as much as I did, but at the same time I didn’t want to come across as some crazy lady who would be a nightmare to take over from. I had to sensor my questions accordingly!
Just when I was recruiting too, the BBC drama, called The Replacement was showing on TV too. It was about a lady who loved her career who was going off on mat leave. Long story short, she got royally screwed over by her replacement. I can’t tell you much more than that- you’ll have to watch it for yourself as I couldn’t watch much more after episode 2. It gave me the chills. All I know is that there was a death and it wasn’t pretty. Ok so I was never expecting my replacement to kill anyone, but the whole thing was very unsettling that’s for sure.
You go through a number of feelings when hiring your mat cover and meeting new candidates. For instance……
- What if they aren’t good enough?
- What if they put me to shame and no one wants me back?
- What if the team/ clients hate them?
- What if they stagnate in the role? What if they don’t?
- What if they lose a client I have worked so hard to secure?
And many many more….
I interviewed a number of people, all of whom seemed good, but then bizarrely came back to someone I had known for a long time. I can’t believe that I hadn’t thought of them sooner to be honest! The cover would not only be a safe pair of hands, but they would grow the team in ways I couldn’t due to their expertise. And better still, I felt comfortable that they would be really good for the company. In fact they would be brilliant.
So we hired him right away and from day dot he was with me every step of the way. He was on my wave length. I was honest with him at the start about how I felt about mat leave and he never stopped checking in on me, asking “how are you coping”, “do you feel ready”, and reassuring me I was giving him a smooth and well-crafted handover. Seeing this side of him reassured me he would give the team the support they needed and clarified that I had made a good call.
One of the best things about all of this was that my MD put the hiring decision in my hands. She knows me well enough to know that this was something I needed to do and something I needed to own. Yes it means I only have myself to blame if it all goes wrong, but it also allows me to call the shots one last time and make my mark on the year to come. This would be my main piece of advice to you if you are anything like me, it will not only feel empowering to be involved in or run the hiring process, but you will feel one million times more reassured doing it this way than if you are just lumbered with someone picked out for you by the higher powers.
Oh and that concern I mentioned earlier about my cover being better than me…. well it’s never going to completely disappear, I am human after all, but I guess I have just come to the realisation that he is different. He isn’t a like for like replacement for me and so we both offer very different things. The term ‘replacement’ is in its nature, incredibly negative and we must stop using it in the workplace. No one need replace anyone – rather they can add value in ways that can only build a better workforce.