Don’t make a habit of bringing home gifts

When you make your career choices, the worst thing you can do is to feel bad about them, or to keep regretting them. Your demeanour can and will impact those around you.

It helps to do whatever you can to minimise any tendencies towards perfectionism and to work out what you DON’T need to do. Setting expectations of those around you, at home and at work, is also important.

For example, in all my travelling for work I never felt obliged to bring home a gift for our children as a matter of course.

If I saw a T-shirt or a CD or something that one of our four children would love, I might buy it. But that didn’t mean I bought something for the other three.

Our kids understood that (I think!). I am aghast when women or men rush around buying presents on work trips. What this often conveys is: ‘I am away therefore I am being neglectful / not a good parent. I am buying you something to compensate for that and make me feel better’.

Often all it does is set up a situation where your kids expect to be compensated because you are doing what your role requires. My perspective was to get them accustomed to the way the world works.

Enjoy the surrounds

One of my other insights over time, was that, if you travel, don’t rush home with things half done. Stay another day, or a few hours, whatever it takes.

Arrive home with the work done so you can be fully present (at least for a while . . .). Or take a day or a half-day of downtime. Go visit a gallery or museum, walk around whatever city you are in to soak up the atmosphere, go do some shopping, take in a play or a sports game.

If you do that you are more likely to be more relaxed as well as more interesting to talk to when you get home!

I have to confess that Robert was not fully aware of this policy of mine until quite recently.

A couple of years ago, I led one of those lunchtime sessions with a ‘Women in Leadership’ group. Also on the platform was a Human Resources Executive of one of Australia’s largest companies. After I made my comments about the value of taking some downtime, she came up to me to thank me for the advice and told me she was going back to the office to redo her schedule for her London trip the following week, to include an extra day out.

She ran into Robert and me in the foyer at an event a little while later, where she commented to Robert that he was clearly a very understanding person. I then had a little bit of explaining to do.

As a friend of mind is fond of saying: ‘not everyone has to know everything all the time’.

But, back to the temptation to offset guilt with gifts, I would be interested to hear about your experience and the learnings you’ve had from that.

Adapted from: The Agile Executive: Embracing Career Risks and Rewards
by Marianne Broadbent

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