Q I'd like to change from full time to part time, while remaining at a management level with substantial responsibilities. My boss is open to it, but she has challenged me to prove how it could work. How can I convince her -- and then be successful once the change has been made?
A Focus on demonstrating that you'll be able to meet your responsibilities, even with fewer hours in the week.
The inner game
First, be clear in your own mind why you'd like to make this change. Reasons may range from fulfillment-related items such as pursuing other interests to external pressures such as family care-giving responsibilities. This clarity will help you articulate your hopes as you develop a proposal.
If I were your boss, I'd want to know if you're just tired of your job. Think this through carefully, so that this potential issue doesn't derail you.
Putting on your boss' hat, list your responsibilities. It might include leading/mentoring your team, collaborating with peers, problem-solving, and serving on cross-functional committees. What other items are within your scope? Determine which she sees as strengths and which are potential areas of concern. Also consider the effect on others, including your team and your peers.
If this has worked for others, notice what made it successful. What combination of planning, communication, and execution did they use? How did it fit in the corporate culture, and how did they manage the minefields?
The outer game
Treat this proposal as a business case that you'd develop for any initiative. Lay out the recommendation, its selling points, and possible objections, which you'll then counter.
Be detailed about your request. If you're thinking, for example, of working 0.8 time, do you want shorter days or a four-day week? And be realistic. If you're there for a six-hour day, will you really be able to get out the door? If you're taking Wednesdays off, how much contact are you willing to have on your day off?
Then, talk about why it'll work. Discuss each aspect that helps you be successful, such as willingness to be flexible to participate in important meetings or to build in periodic e-mail/voicemail checks. Be explicit about how each area of responsibility will be taken care of. Also be clear that you understand that you'll have a salary reduction.
Address your boss' deal-breakers. Some might be intangible, like fear of change on her part. Others may be concrete, such as being unable to reach you when needed. Propose frequent check-ins to ensure that she's getting her needs met.
One final selling point if she's still unconvinced is to propose a six-month trial. If she's not happy, you'll go back to full time. There's little risk here for her, and it gives you time to prove that it can work.
Being successful once you start? Let people know when you're available, who your backup is during off times, and continue to provide excellent service. Be open to hearing about problems so that you can fix them, and get ongoing advice from someone who has already tried this.
The last word
Sell the benefits and mitigate the risks to get your boss on board.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-398-4765. Questions also can be submitted at www.deliverchange.com/coachscorner.