Image of Cherie and Dave on a pink graphic. The text reads 'Things I've learned from working alongside my husband for two years'

 

It’s been 87 years [read: 2 years] since I began working from home alongside my husband for the first time in our 22’ish years of being in a relationship together, and I wanted to drop in today to let you know about all of the things I’ve learned working alongside my husband > during a global pandemic > for 2 years [and counting]. [but also, like, please. Stop the counting. Make the WFH with “Davey Boy” come to a complete stop. Please. #lol].

Jokes aside? It hasn’t all been bad, and if I’m speaking honestly? … there’s actually been so much I’ve learnt about my husband, and from my husband [despite both us working in entirely different industries] over the last two years of working from home alongside one another. Let’s unpack what I’ve observed [and subsequently learnt from those observations], shall we?

 

He doesn’t apologise for existing.

 

I often say to my business coach, “I’m nervous I’ll one day hit a ceiling in terms of organisational leadership here at TDP, and it’ll have everything to do with my past history of childhood trauma”. She thankfully disagrees with these sentiments and says, “you’re confusing being a Manager, and being an Organisational Leader” [and she’s right].

I’m not ashamed of my childhood. At all. But it was also no walk in the park, and whilst I found myself in a 1980’s foster care system in low socioeconomic South Australia? … I absolutely did experience unimaginable childhood abuse. That stuff? … it changes your brain. It just really unfortunately changes your brain, and my brain? Well, it’s a traumatised one. I have a lot of incredible leadership capabilities, but I also [very unfortunately] have a lot of childhood trauma wounds that are typical of kids who’ve done the childhood trauma thing, and I’d say that mostly plays out in a way where I consider myself a “forever burden” to people … and basically apologise for existing.

When it comes to organisational leadership? I’d be a dangerous Manager, but an excellent organisational leader. As a Manager? I’d resort to toxic levels of people pleasing, I’d struggle to request bare minimum from those around me in fear of feeling like a burden, and I’d find myself basically apologising for existing. Thankfully for TDP [lol!], we have a formidable Managing Director who doesn’t [at all] struggle in this space … and keeps me safe from where I absolutely fall down as a Manager, which helps to prop me up to play a bigger role in the overall vision of people and culture at TDP from an organisational leadership perspective.

But absolutely not [I repeat: absolutely not] as TDP’s Manager. My husband on the other hand? An incredible Manager, and leader tbh. He just has so much quiet confidence and lot of self-respect, and I hear this play out in so many of his everyday professional interactions and I’ll admit … I sometimes feel jealous. Oh, to have that much quiet confidence and self-respect … and to subsequently command so much respect off the back of it. Thankfully for me, I moved from feeling jealous of these qualities of his … to inspired [and I’ve eavesdropped on him a lot, and subsequently taken a lot of inspiration from the way he handles himself professionally].

 

There isn’t a single minimise’y word in his daily [professional] vocabulary.

 

Further to the above, things that I’ve learned from working alongside my husband for two years has been around just how much I [and women in general, I believe] have a tendency to use weak language that serves to “water down” the message we’re trying to relay. For me? I’ll have a strong sentence, but then I’ll f*ck it up by throwing something weak right at the end [almost to minimise myself], e.g “this is a great xyz, don’t you think?” or “this content is performing really well, isn’t it?”.

The thing is though, both of those statements didn’t need the “don’t you think?” or “isn’t it?” wrapped around them at the end, but I add them. Every GD time. Because I almost always weaken messages like that, and my husband on the other hand almost never does. Literally never does. There is no “I just” in his language, or “I just feel” to start sentences, and nor does he wrap anything like “don’t you think?” or “isn’t it?” at the end of his sentences. He says what he says, and while I’m over here incorporating weaker language into my everyday narratives that do genuinely sabotage my efforts to present myself with authority and confidence … he does not.

He literally does not do this, ever. And – again – I went from feeling initially jealous … to ultimately inspires, and I’ll admit that I’ve been actively concentrating on using stronger language in my everyday professional conversations since [and there’s been a noticeable difference]. Thanks, Davey Boy!

 

He performs better professionally, because – unlike me – he prioritises self-care.

 

He takes an every day morning walk. Religiously. And sometimes? He’ll wake really early to smash out a round of golf before his 9am work day starts, because he’s identified that he’ll go stir crazy if he doesn’t “get out” during the various Victorian lockdown/s we’ve had etc. He takes his lunch breaks. Proper lunch breaks. And he invites me to join him and I’m often like, “how do you have time?!” while I’m smashing a pumpkin soup at the desk, working to deadline. I go to rinse my bowl afterward in the sink, and he’s sunbaking on the kids trampoline [lol!] and I take photos and share them with my bro-in-law like, “does your brother work?!”.

But he does. He absolutely does. He works so hard, but he doesn’t overcomplicate self-care. He literally just does it: daily walks, a round of gold when he needs it, an early walk where he’ll send me a photo of a sunrise like “look what you’re missing, hun” [I’m usually sleeping, because I’m ADHD and pull some late night’ers here and there, lol!]. He takes a proper lunch break [30-45 minutes], and he lays down in the sun on the trampoline because he knows how important vitamin D is in a lockdown climate. Honestly? I need to #BeMoreDave, tbh.

In my defence? While he’s snapping sunrises from early morning walks, I’m flying around getting x2 kids ready for school [before you think what you’re thinking, he offers to help … but our x2 neurodivergent kids prefer brekky made by Mum, as well as their school lunchboxes prepped by Mum, lol]. In Dave’s defence? He throws a load of washing on, and unpacks/repacks the dishwasher.

 

We work in entirely different industries, we experience the same problems.

 

Entirely different industries, same problems. I can’t go into too much detail here, as I’m still TDP’s current organisational leader and anything I could potentially [over]share within this section wouldn’t just be disrespectful, but it would also be unprofessional.

I’m incredibly proud of my company, our people, our culture, our humanistic and encouraging approach to every human being we interact with via TDP [employees, clients, our online community etc.] … but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. This has been especially true throughout the last two years of this global pandemic, because it all just obviously adds extra layers of difficulty you never anticipated having to work through [and … work through].

Any time I’ve flopped on a couch, a little defeated, on a Friday and said, “I try so relentlessly hard, why does it have to be difficult?” … and Dave’s just like, “because most – if not all – workplaces employ human beings, and not robots”. And he’s right. Entirely different industries, very similar experiences … because they’re human experiences, and we’re managing the human experience throughout a global pandemic.

 

Outside of my company’s very own Managing Director, Cat … I don’t think I’ve met anyone who is as good at managing difficult conversations as my husband.

 

Over the last two years, I’ve experienced some of the greatest highs [off the back of some of TDP’s biggest wins] … and – of course – there have also been some incredibly tough moments. I have gone from what I would consider as being someone who was an absolute amateur at managing difficult conversations, to … being a lot better [with still a long way to go, ha!].

Thankfully, again, our Managing Director is incredible at managing difficult conversations … and she has even said, “Cherie, you are so much better in this space than you used to be” [which is a huge compliment from her]. My husband? Also incredible. Honestly. Absolutely incredible. I remember it being November’ish last year, and I felt like I’d seemingly done one difficult conversation after another [not just professionally tbh, but personally, i.e we’d pulled our x2 neurodivergent children out of a horrifyingly non-inclusive school … and that came with it an absolute sea of constant difficult conversations].

I was fatigued. I was so fatigued. I’d done about as many difficult conversations as I felt I could pull off for one year, and it was only November. And – of course – there was another difficult conversation on my horizon and I said to Dave, “I actually haven’t got it in me. I haven’t got one more difficult conversation in me”, and he said “do you want me to manage this?”. [disclaimer: this was not a TDP-work thing he was offering to do, so he wasn’t – at all – overstepping].

I looked at him and said, “yep. Absolutely. Can you please manage this one? I haven’t got it in me”, and he took the phone and made the call and I listened to the difficult conversation … but I also listened to just how incredibly well he managed it. It wasn’t easy. But he was just so calm, and kind, and empathetic, and understanding. And he managed it. And I laid on the bed nearby while he was managing it, and I just thought to myself, “there’s a special place in heaven for human beings who just nail difficult conversations … and I am so flipping grateful I’m married to one of them”. It’s a skillset. It’s a genuine skill [and life skill, and professional skill] to be good [really good!] at managing difficult conversations … and Dave is an absolute master.

 

We forgot something important here, that probably needs to be said, because in all o’ the [very deserved] celebration of Dave above? … he’d add something similar with regards to what he learnt from working alongside me for the last two years.

 

He said to me, “I have worked next to you in almost every meeting you’ve hosted, or participated in. You never don’t laugh. You are literally always laughing, and you’re almost always making your team laugh. You are light, easy, fun, and funny. They are so lucky to work alongside someone who is so happy and positive, and a genuine people-person”.

He then said, “what I didn’t hear? The meeting where you had to end a contract with someone in their probationary contract who didn’t work out for TDP … but I was the person you spoke to directly after, and you told me how you agonised over that decision > but had to see it through, because they just … weren’t suited to working life at TDP > and you then went on to let them know that whilst it hadn’t worked out at TDP, you knew of a company they’d be perfect for > used your networks to score them an interview > paid them out for six weeks so they had regular pay to see them through their job search period, despite the fact that they – very happily – landed the role we’d put them forward for, leaving no more than two weeks between jobs”.

Admittedly, Dave has learnt a lot about empathic and servant leadership working alongside me for the last two years. Together? We’d be the perfect blend, tbh. That said, I could never work with him at TDP, ha!

 


 

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