With Martin G. Moore

Episode #250

Leveraging Parenthood into Performance: Marty interviews Em

One of the most intractable issues affecting gender equity in the workplace is maternity leave. Companies and countries are trying to find ways to make it easier for women to have families, without significant disruption to their careers.

Our CEO, Emma Green recently became a mother. She’s just flown half way around the world, by herself with 9-month-old Florence to attend a Mastermind of elite business owners who’ve built huge companies, while balancing the demands of motherhood and family.

As a leader, you will have to face the challenges of maternity leave at some point—if not for yourself, then certainly for others.

And if you’re a current or future mother, you’ll be thinking quite a bit about balancing the needs of family, while still maintaining your performance as a leader, and without having to sacrifice promotions, pay rises, and career opportunities!

 In this episode, we flip the script, as I interview Em about how the experience of balancing motherhood, and running a fast-growth business has been for her so far.

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Episode #250 Leveraging Parenthood into Performance: Marty interviews Em


Em: Hello. Hello. I know, I’m actually a little bit nervous, but I think this is a really important episode for us to do. It isn’t just an ode to me, it’s for mothers and mothers-to-be, of course, but it’s also for any leader who works with women. So that’s all of you. If you’re a male leader and you want to get into the headspace of a female leader who works for you, I’m hoping that this gives you some valuable insight.

Marty: Em, I want this conversation to be particularly valuable for men who lead women and perhaps don’t have as deep an understanding of what you’re facing as a new parent. One of the things I saw over and over again in the corporate world was that going on maternity leave rarely pans out the way you think it will.

Some women would say before they went on leave, “I want to come back to work as soon as possible.” But then, not long afterwards, they’d call and say, “Can I please have another six months off?” Others would book 12 months’ leave and then ask to come back after only six to eight weeks because they were losing their sanity. Did you experience that feeling of, “This is just not what I expected, and I have to rethink this whole deal?”

Em: Yes, absolutely. I thought I was going to take at least three months off, and that’s what the team and I prepared for. But the reality is that I stayed across things pretty much every day and, to be honest, it really provided an outlet for me that wasn’t just baby, baby, baby all the time.

Just to give you a little bit of background, I had postnatal depression for the first five to six weeks after having Florence. Having something else to focus on–that work outlet–was actually really important to me because I was stuck in the monotony of the three-hour feed, play, sleep cycle.

Without having that outlet of being able to check my emails or look at something creative, I think I absolutely would’ve gone insane. So, although I expected to have three full months off, I came back in a part-time capacity after two months, where I was working maybe two or three days a week.

The important thing that I just wanted to highlight here is that, with the postnatal depression, the tiniest little things would trigger me, and I had this impending doom mindset. So, that’s obviously how I knew that I needed to speak to my family doctor and get help. But it was also having the work piece bubbling on the side, that helped me to get out of that impending doom mindset, and to think about something that was positive and creative, and that the team was working on and building.

In my case, I really found myself wanting to be back at work, and maybe I’m unique in that sense. But yeah, it was honestly a massive savior for me. It was definitely not what I expected, and I did have to rethink what maternity leave looked like to me, but it definitely worked for me that way.

Marty: Right. Look, I can say firsthand, I felt the sense of impending doom every time I ran a little bit late on a content deliverable [laughter]: I was in there with you, Em!

Now, I remember you seeing some light at the end of the tunnel when you hired a part-time nanny. Having recently experienced firsthand just the constant attention that Florence requires? Man, it’s nonstop, and she’s a really happy, well-behaved and easygoing baby. What did you learn about being present with Flo and still keeping the other plates spinning?

Em: I had to outsource. There’s that cliche, “It takes a village”, and it absolutely does take a village to make this stuff work. I honestly don’t think in our modern society that women are equipped with the village, especially people like me who don’t have any family around.

Obviously, you live in Boston. My mum lives on the Gold Coast. My husband’s family lives on the Gold Coast, so we don’t have anyone around locally who can cook something, or just do a load of washing. I had to figure out, “Okay, how am I going to do this? What is my village going to look like?”

What I did was that I got a nanny three days a week to help, really just to give me the opportunity to look after myself and be the best version of myself for Florence. But, also, to get all those other bits and pieces done that typically your village would do, your family would help you with.

One of the things that I realized about myself, and about keeping all these plates spinning, is that I had been so controlled about everything. I didn’t know this about myself at the time, before I had Florence, but I found it really difficult to give other people those plates and to really trust that other people were going to keep those plates spinning for me.

That was one of the things that I really had to do if I wanted to be present with Flo and I wanted to be a great mum to my other kids, my two beautiful stepdaughters, to be a good wife, and do all those other things. So, letting go of control first manifested in our wonderful nanny.

I think another really important thing when you’re talking about keeping plates spinning is the ability to compartmentalize. I didn’t do this very well before I had Florence. I would be thinking about five or six different things at the same time, or I’d get home, and I’d be thinking about work things. I’d be at work and I’d be thinking about the girls’ assignments or whatever was happening, or my husband, Royce, traveling.

One of the best things that being a new mum taught me was how to compartmentalize. When I’m with Florence, I’m not worrying about emails. I’m not worrying about what the team’s doing. I’m not worrying about what our community is doing. I’m not worried about social media. I’m not worried about anything else. I’m just solely focused on her and vice versa. When I’m at work, I’ve learned to go, “Okay, Florence is safe. She’s fine, she’s happy. I’m just working on the work stuff now.”

That has meant that I’m completely present in whatever I’m doing, and giving my fullest to whatever the task is that I’m needing to do at that point in time. That’s been an absolute game changer for me in terms of being present for anyone in my life–Florence, my husband, family, whatever–and also bringing my best self to work.

It really taught me where your body is, let your mind be there as well and just relax about not getting back to everything straight away. Just let some of those plates fall and see what happens. Most of the time, nothing bad happens. It’s just the fear of them falling and what will happen that actually sends you into a bit of a tiz.

Marty: Yeah, that’s very insightful. Particularly something that I learned throughout my executive and CEO career is that you can’t get to everything. You’ve got to make choices and you’ve got to be okay to let go–and some stuff isn’t going to get done. That’s why focusing on the highest value levers is the most important concept to grasp, if you’ll pardon the pun.

You’ve just finished the Mastermind with the wonderful Natalie Ellis and a select group of entrepreneurial women who’ve grown massive businesses in the U.S., while still raising young children. I know this is a lot different to corporate jobs, where we have to struggle against well-meaning, but often ill-formed HR policies, and the sorts of prejudices that I mentioned in the intro.

I know you’ve covered a lot already, but without breaching any confidences, what were the predominant themes coming from this group of high-powered women who’ve had huge success (in business, at least)?

Em: Okay, the first thing, and I’ve touched on this already, is that they outsource. They have their parents or family members really involved in their lives. If they don’t have those people around them, they might have nannies or housekeepers, cleaners, food delivery services… whatever they need to be able to spend time running their businesses and being able to spend time with their families, that’s what they prioritize.

So, making sure that they’re not doing those things that they could pay someone else to do and that they’re really protective of their time: where they spend their time and what they spend their time on. I think one of the things that I also saw was that they really prioritize their well-being, so that they don’t burn out. They know that their well-being keeps everything else running. If they’re not happy mentally and physically, then everything else is going to fall down around them: their businesses and their family.

That’s something that I definitely learned, because I’m not very good at doing that, so that’s something that, coming back from this mastermind, I’m putting a lot more effort into. I think coming back to leadership, they build capable teams so that they’re not in the weeds. They work at the right level and they expect a lot from their people. They have very high standards, and the letting go piece is quite amazing.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or whether you’re an executive within an organization, being able to work at the right level is the key to everything. They spend time being CEOs. They’re spending their time on the most valuable activities: strategy, and really training and leading their people to be the best versions that they can be so they don’t have to be in the business 24/7 in the weeds.

That was definitely something that I saw shine: they really trusted their teams, and they’d built really strong capability around them.

Marty: When you talk about working at the right level, making sure you’re staying out of the weeds, which I know you’re focusing on a lot more these days, has that become harder or easier? I know the focus is there, but have you changed the way you interact with the team at YCM Global HQ as we like to call it?

Em: Yes, definitely. This is the stuff that I want to share for people who are actually leading mothers. After having Florence, I realized that I had to get the same amount of work done in less time. But what was really interesting was that my focus and my productivity doubled, if not tripled. When you only have a certain amount of time to do something, there’s no waffling, there’s no procrastination. You just get in and you do that thing because you don’t want to have to go back and redo it or double handle it or anything like that.

I’ve definitely been far more disciplined with batching and scheduling things in, like review time or deep work. When I have to do that stuff, I put it in my calendar now and I go, “This is the time that I’m going to do it”, and sometimes that doesn’t work. Sometimes Florence wakes up early and that’s it. My one-hour deep work session turns into a 20-minute session, and I have to figure out later in the day or the week when I’m going to do it.

I also delegate much better now because I don’t have time to do the things that I used to just tinker with. I used to go, “Oh, I’ll just spend a little bit of time tinkering here or tinkering there or having to play with this.” I don’t have time to do that anymore. So, I delegate much better because I know, “Okay, I want this done by this timeline so that we can keep moving forward fast.”

I think I also put a lot more trust into my team, and it has absolutely paid off. I thought I trusted them beforehand and now they’ve become so much better in their roles because they’re not looking to me all the time to make decisions. I think I had unconsciously trained them to look at me for the final answer, even if they did all the work getting up to that point. Now they’re really confident to come to me and say, “We’ve done this work. This is what we think, and this is what we’re going to go ahead with. Let us know if you have any issues with it.”

Marty: So you’re actually keeping the accountabilities pure now?

Em: Well, yes, and I thought that I was keeping the accountability structure really tight before, but nothing compared to now. Look, I think overall that it’s increased everyone’s capability, not just mine. There are a couple of things that I still need to work on. For example, I’m not in the office as much as I want to be, and that’s something that I’m working on changing.

We have a hybrid work model, as you know, and we do work from home days and work in the office days. But I’m only in the office maybe two days a week, for four hours or so. I just think me being with the team, physically, keeps us all hyped and happy because I am the visionary and the driver of all this work. So it just keeps us feeling more together as a team.

I get a lot more done when I’m not at home hearing Florence do something cute, and then I quickly run downstairs to see if she’s crawled. So that’s something that I’m working on.

I would say that my communication has gotten both better and worse. I’m now a lot clearer in my communication, but it’s more sporadic, so that’s something that I’m working on as well.

You started this question by saying, “What’s changed in the way that you interact with the team?” I’m probably less available than I was. I’ll send emails and slacks at different out of hours times, but at the same time, I’m a lot clearer with the team about what I want and there’s a lot less fluff. So it’s really just me working out how to get the best of both worlds when it comes to that.

Marty: Right, yeah. Of course, because we do have such a good team, you can actually have confidence in the fact that when you delegate something, it’s going to get done well.

Em: Exactly.

Marty: So that takes a load off your mind, which is once again, the reminder that if you haven’t got the people who can do the job, then get the people who can do the job.

Em: That’s it. Yeah.

Marty: Now, I know you’re a really big believer in utilizing both mentors and trusted advisors. For our leaders out there, if you want a good explanation of the differences between them, have a listen to Ep.183: Mentors, Coaches, and Trusted Advisors. But, I digress…

Interestingly, Em, I think you mentor me in all things digital, product, and marketing, and I mentor you in all things corporate, business, and leadership: sort of a built-in, complementary mentoring relationship. But besides that, have you changed your view on the type of support you need to engage, and if so, how?

Em: Yes. Well, you are, of course, my biggest mentor. But I think, interestingly, once I became a mum, the mentors that I looked to changed. That’s why I joined that US-based Mastermind that you spoke of earlier. I wanted to join a group of people who were just like me–new mums running 7, 8, 9-figure businesses–because I knew that they would be having the same challenges as me.

You can do it in a lot of different ways. There’s mothers groups, if your friends have kids, there’s a lot of ways that support comes out of the woodwork. It’s the support that you need at that particular season of your life.

But I definitely wanted something that was business and motherhood related. And, in terms of mentoring, that’s been a really great place for me to get support. I think it’s also taught me to trust myself more, because there aren’t that many mentors in my life that I can look at who’ve done what I’m doing.

So yeah, I think it’s that whole trust your gut… trust where you’re going and, of course, you are always the person that I talk to when I need anything, so that hasn’t really changed for me.


Well, I’m glad about that too, Em! But what would you say to the women who are currently contemplating starting a family but are worried about the impact on their careers and businesses?

Em: I’d probably say, don’t hold off on starting a family because of what might happen to your career. Your life’s going to be completely turned upside down in the very best way, and you don’t know what you’re going to want to do after you have a baby.

I think that fear can really hold women back because they think, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to get in at the same level if I go on maternity leave. That’s it for me!” I think you can waste a lot of time being stuck in the, “I’m not ready because my career isn’t at a point that I want it to be at yet” stage. But you’ll work it out regardless of what happens.

If your career is important to you, you’re not going to lose that drive and ambition when you have a baby. It might just look a little bit different to what it looks like now, but don’t let that stop you. Don’t let that put you into the paralysis by analysis that can often happen.

Marty: Yeah, for sure. Em, I’ve got to really ask you, I don’t think we’ve quite hit the number of this yet. You’ve told me that the experience of motherhood has actually helped you to lift performance. Even though you’re still in the first year of motherhood, it’s arguably the most demanding year in terms of your time commitment. Can you please give us any insights on the connection between motherhood, your individual performance, and how you’ve experienced the impact on our business?

Em: Okay, so I’m definitely more focused. That ability to just click into what I’m doing at any point in time has been an absolute game changer.

I’m far more creative, so I can see different perspectives that I couldn’t see before, because I’m dealing with a brand new type of life, and I’m looking at things in a completely different way.

I definitely don’t procrastinate as much as I used to. When I think back now, I thought I was productive, but I would procrastinate so much on things that I didn’t need to.

I think I’ve just had to be a real CEO. I don’t have the time or capacity to dip down, so I have to focus on leadership more than anything else to keep the wheels turning, to keep everyone moving, to keep everyone inspired, and working to their highest potential. That is the real work of CEO-dom. That’s basically just what I have to focus on now.

Marty: It sounds like necessity is the mother of invention! Even though, in my view, you were doing these things pretty well before, you’ve had to get even better at them and really hone those skills, haven’t you?

Em: Absolutely!

Marty: All right, what have I’ve forgotten to ask you? We’ve covered maternity leave biases, expecting the unexpected, keeping the work plates spinning, and working differently. We spoke about mentors and trusted advisors, and how all this links to performance excellence. Did I miss anything?

Em: The final thing that I want to add is that, before I became a mum, I didn’t understand that they could be such ‘weapons’ in the workplace. I just want to throw back to a story. I was working in a corporate environment, a small business about 15 or so years ago. The receptionist was a mum, and when it came to 3:30 or 4:00pm, she would always leave on the dot.

I remember thinking to myself, “Why does she get to leave early? That’s so unfair.” It’s just so funny, because a couple of months after having Florence, I thought back to that poor woman. I wasn’t negative towards her, but I was thinking about the annoyance of having to stay until 5:30pm. What I didn’t realize was that she was absolutely getting all the work done that she needed to, by the time that she had to leave.

Then she had to go and do another completely full-time job until probably 9:00 at night with her baby, her kids, her family. I just think I really didn’t understand that until I became a mum. So I think for our leaders who are leading mums and those who are working with mums, really just focus on the outputs.

Give them the flexibility without making them feel bad. We already feel sh!t for leaving early, or having sick kids. We feel worse than you can make us feel, and it’s more than likely that they’d rather be working because that’s a lot of the time easier than being a mum.

I just think mums are an incredible talent to be harnessing, and you can get so much out of them if you aren’t just ‘cookie cutter’ about it, and you don’t just have one standard way that people need to be in the workplace.

Don’t look at maternity leave as something annoying that you have to find cover for. It’s actually giving you an opportunity to test your processes, and to get someone else up to speed with that capability and knowledge, which mitigates any key person risk for that role. It’s actually a positive to be doing that and building more capability through your organization.

Another thing that I think is really important is communicating with the person who is off on leave. They’re likely going to feel really nervous coming back to the office. They may be questioning their efficacy. Try and keep them in the loop during this time, so that they come back feeling confident and like they belong in your organization. That’s how you’re going to get the best out of them.

Just remember that it’s really hard to leave your baby, even if you love your job, so they’ll be feeling all those emotions too. They’ll be coming back happy, excited, and nervous, but also sad that they’re not with their baby. It’s just something that I never realized until I was in the slot for this: all the emotions and how that plays out in your workplace, when I guess you’re meant to just be work, work, work.

My key point here is that you have an incredibly productive and focused workforce in mothers. You may need to be a little bit more flexible with them to retain the best talent, but it will absolutely be worth it because they are literally super humans with limitless energy, creativity, empathy, and patience. I know that’s the type of person that I want to work with, and I want in my organization.

Marty: Well, that’s a fortunate coincidence, Em, because that’s the type of person I want leading our business too, so thank you for that!


  • Ep #183: Mentors, Coaches, and Trusted Advisors – Listen Here

  • Ep #211: Successful Delegation – Listen Here

  • Ep #23: Building Organizational Capability (Part 1) – Listen Here

  • Ep #24: Building Organizational Capability (Part 2) – Listen Here


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