During research & development for Work Muse, I ran across Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas. The job share co-presidents of The Mulberry Partners are strong advocates of women partnering for better results, including job share partnerships. Their book Power Through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together shows why women partnering in business works so well.
Work Muse: How did you both meet and how has your relationship evolved?
Betsy & Maggie: We met in a high school English class in Charlotte, North Carolina. We teamed up for a class project and had so much fun working together we decided that someday we’d like to work together for real
necessary conversations before partnering
Work Muse: You’ve been co-presidents for over a decade. What conversations and considerations did you have when deciding to become partners?
Betsy & Maggie: It was most important to us to preserve the friendship at the core of our partnership so we did all we could to be intentional about how we worked together. First, we sat down at Maggie’s kitchen table and thought through every possible scenario about what the future might look like. We discussed our values and made sure our work reflected them. Importantly, we decided who our mediator would be if ever we found ourselves in a situation we couldn’t resolve. Luckily, we’ve never needed to use him.
how they realized they were job sharing
Work Muse: Did you initially think of yourselves as job share partners?
Betsy & Maggie: No, we always thought of ourselves as 50-50 partners who would handle all aspects of leading our business together. It wasn’t until we started writing Power Through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together that we realized we were job sharing in many ways when researching job sharers and partners.
Work Muse: How do you job share?
Betsy & Maggie: We cover for each other and make sure at least one of us is available and accessible to clients. Though small, this means our capacity to get work done flexes far beyond what just one of us could do.
how they reap the benefits of job sharing
Work Muse: What days of the week and times do you work?
Betsy & Maggie: Because we cover for each other and conduct much of our work from our home offices, it seems we are almost always on, in ways that are responsive to our clients and have also allowed us to be present for our kids throughout their childhood. The partnership has made this magic work, even though many times we’ve described our lives as 3-D chess boards.
Work Muse: How do you share and divide responsibilities?
Betsy & Maggie: We both are fully involved in designing and facilitating meaningful processes for our clients. Maggie handles operations and Betsy focuses on marketing and outreach. We started out both doing pretty much everything together but found over time that it made sense to designate roles.
what they’ve learned from their partner
Work Muse: What strengths did you bring to the partnership? What are your partner’s strengths? And what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned working with her?
Betsy: From Maggie, I’ve learned to listen first. That’s so important. Maggie is one of those rare people who is truly wise and thoughtful and very insightful.
Maggie: From Betsy, I’ve learned to say what’s in my head and put stuff out there. Betsy is someone who has both incredible confidence and compassion, a rare and beautiful combination of advocacy for self and others.
how they overcome partnership challenges
Work Muse: What were the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your partnership and how have you overcome those?
Betsy & Maggie: We are always learning as we face new challenges in the day-to-day leadership of Mulberry. As a consulting firm, we’ve learned more and more how important it is to take in feedback but follow your own gut. In the beginning, we were so receptive to feedback from others and sometimes assumed that others had answers we didn’t. Now we trust our instincts and our abilities to find the answers to our own questions.
the job sharing misconception they want to change
Work Muse: What is the biggest misconception you’d like to change around job sharing?
Betsy & Maggie: That it’s impossible to find the right partner. In reality, partners are everywhere when you know what you’re looking for.
benefits of job sharing
Work Muse: What do you wish others knew about job sharing?
Betsy & Maggie: How many benefits from flexibility to confidence to built-in support, just to name a few, come from job sharing. Communication can be learned and conflict is crucial. It doesn’t have to be so hard.
advancing and learning from coaching job sharers
Work Muse: How have you advanced job sharing?
Betsy & Maggie: We’ve written a book that features and showcases job sharers’ stories.
Work Muse: What have you learned by coaching job sharers?
Betsy & Maggie: In our work coaching has reinforced that communication is the key to being able to reap the benefits of job sharing. At the heart of good communication is unpacking the assumptions and expectations that we bring and being willing to listen to other points of view while trusting our own selves. Good communication includes dealing with conflict in productive ways.
Melissa Nicholson is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse, a job share solutions firm. Job sharing is a partnership between two people to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Work Muse drives adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance. Join the #JobshareRevolution here –– events, resources, and relevant content to empower you in work and life! For more info, firstname.lastname@example.org.