Leadership advice

One small, smart message for work-from-home parents

It’s a great video.

Dr. Clare Wenham, a professor in Global Health Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science, is being interviewed about COVID-19 data by Christian Fraser on the BBC. Like many parents working from home these days, she’s not alone.

Her young daughter makes an appearance. She wants to discuss her unicorn art and where to show off her masterpiece in the room where mummy’s working.

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

Dr. Wenham is in maximum multi-task mode: live broadcasting and parenting while apologizing for the interruption.

She is now the symbol of every work-from-home parent who doesn’t want to let anyone down. Not her sweet daughter, not the organization she represents and not the audience listening for her expert advice.

We feel for her as she talks about pandemic hot spots, while just over her shoulder, her daughter continues her unicorn quest.

At this point, the program host has choices. He could ask the director to cut back to him on camera while the doctor regroups. He could end the interview early. 

But he does the best thing of all. 

With a lilt in his voice, he asks,  “What’s your daughter called?” 

“She’s called Scarlett,” replies Dr. Wenham, with a smile.

Fraser compliments Scarlett on her lovely unicorn and suggests she put the artwork on the lower shelf.

Scarlett thinks on that for a bit, then asks her mom to tell her the TV man’s name.

“Christian,” he tells her. 

Now we all smile. In the midst of a pandemic, we’re pausing to focus on what’s precious. 

Fraser’s small, smart gesture is a big lesson, one to keep in mind as parents struggle with child care challenges that are becoming even more difficult as organizations lurch into re-opening. 

In fact, I’d call it a leadership moment. 

Fraser could have made a working mother feel that her apology was warranted. 

He could have shushed a child. Instead, he chose to showcase her, right there on the BBC news.

Scarlett’s new friend Christian sent a message to parents and employers everywhere: Families matter.

Click here to read Jill’s previous posts. Click here to subscribe to Covering Coronavirus.


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