“Did I REALLY Sign Up For This?!” Moment: A Balancing Act

Posted June 27, 2018 in Latest News & Insights

By Sharon Broughton; CEO Prince’s Charities Canada (PCC)

In celebration of Did I REALLY Sign Up For This?! hitting shelves, we’ve invited members of The Roundtable community to share their own “did I really sign up for this?!” moments, which we’ll be sharing over the coming weeks. These are times when things have gone to sh*t (been there!), when they’ve thought that perhaps they aren’t cut out to be a leader (ditto!). One is so juicy the author even requested to remain anonymous! We hope you’ll enjoy the candour and vulnerability shown by these amazing leaders.

The picture tells part of the story.  A woman standing by a makeshift podium holding a cordless mic, facing a group of people gathered outdoors on a misty morning, holding umbrellas and mini flags, some Canadian, some American. TV cameras rolling. Just behind the woman, crowd control barrier fencing is visible, caution tape urging passersby to stay back from the edge. If you look closely, you’ll see the woman is holding tightly to something with her other hand, just behind her. Hmm… it looks like a child’s ankle. What’s just outside the frame is a toddler, perched beside her six-year-old brother, balancing on the edge of the staging area. It looks like the mother has an extra grip on her daughter, while she faces the crowd, readying for her speech.

The full story: It’s a Sunday in October, a kick-off event for breast cancer awareness month,  honouring a collaboration between Canadian and US support organizations—at the Canada-US Border in the middle of a bridge in Niagara Falls. I’m the woman, recently appointed CEO of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, somehow juggling my leadership role with my parenting one, demonstrating to one and all that life is a balancing act and that sometimes we just have to bring our full selves to work.

All these years later, I can’t look at that picture without feeling every part of that day—the importance of the work moment, the stress of realizing, due to a range of circumstances, that I would need to have my kids with me, the worry about how it would all go, not wanting to let anyone down (kids and job), and wanting to come across as a professional, committed, compassionate leader and effective media spokesperson. Not too much pressure! Did I really sign up for this?!

Fast forward to last year, as my daughter completed an assignment for her business leadership course. She was asked to interview a female leader, and I was honoured that she chose me. She covered many questions about leadership, asking for insights and advice. And she asked whether I could share any pictures of me ‘CEO’ing’ that she could include to ‘make it seem real’! Laughing, and loving the phrase, I offered up a classic array of charity-leader pictures—of giant-cheque presentations, events, gala dinners and even a boardroom gathering. But my favourite was the photo of me clutching her ankle with Niagara Falls as the backdrop, because for me this one most clearly captures the juggle, the tension of leadership, trying to do the right thing, not being sure if you’ll succeed, but finding the way to stay true to yourself, your responsibilities, remaining authentic—with a sense of humility and humour.

In the moment, I didn’t know how I was doing in any of my roles, but I did know that all I could do, each day, was my best. As a parent and leader, I have learned that part of that best was role-modelling ‘being real’ to my now young adult children who remember many adventures they had, in interesting places, because they got to ‘come along for the ride’ while their mother was ‘CEO’ing’.

In the moment as leaders, we aren’t always sure how things will turn out.  We don’t have the benefit of hindsight. But if we find the way to do our best, we may be pleasantly surprised at the memories we’ll create.

Want to share your own “did I REALLY sign up for this?!” moment? Email us here. Don’t have your own copy of Did I REALLY Sign Up For This?! yet? Head over here to grab one!


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