When Kari, BenchSci’s Leadership Director, offered me the opportunity to be the Independent Leadership Coach at BenchSci, I couldn’t have been more excited. What better way to serve, than to work with a hypergrowth startup that is committed to the meaningful purpose of improving human health and potentially helping its leaders grow?
I also found it remarkable that a company that’s still relatively early-stage was willing to hire independent coaches to serve their people. This model frees us to serve humans first, without being beholden to the biases of the company. Still, I have to admit, I took a pause in accepting the role. It meant letting go of some clients in my one-on-one practice. It meant being okay to work with a company again. The opportunity would bring me out of my comfort zone. I saw it as an opportunity to step into growth. One of the avenues where I saw a chance for growth was in facilitating the Caregivers Support Group at BenchSci.
Why startups should be conscious of caregivers
You see, when I first became a dad, I was working for another hypergrowth startup. At that time, there was only myself and one other person in the company who were caregivers. There were about 40 more people working in the startup and most folks were young and single. It was quite common for the team to socialize after work and very late into the evening. I loved working for this company and believed in its mission. I had joined before I became a parent, so the social gatherings had really appealed to me at first. However, as soon as I had a son, things started to feel different for me. I started to feel left out. Visions for the startup and the direction of the company were being decided during the social gatherings I couldn’t attend anymore so that made it harder too.
I started to question my value to the company.
I started to wonder if I had a place in the company.
I began to doubt whether long-term growth in the company was possible for me.
Needless to say, it felt lonely. I also didn’t feel safe processing these questions with anyone else. The company as a whole didn’t address workplace inclusivity at that time. It was barely becoming mainstream. So, culturally and structurally speaking, there weren’t any resources or even plans for resources to become available to support me.
As a coach, one of the most impactful things I can do with anyone I have a conversation with is to help them feel seen and heard. If only these two things happen for somebody when we sit together, it goes a long way. So, when I heard that I would be facilitating a support group for caregivers at BenchSci, I knew it was the right place for me to serve. I remember what it felt like to not have a sense of belonging in a company when I became a parent, and given that BenchSci was committed to creating a culture of inclusivity, I was excited to contribute.
How the BenchSci Caregivers Support Group works
The BenchSci Caregivers Support Group meets twice a month. Each meeting is an hour long. In the support group, we invite all caregivers to lean into vulnerability. Our intention is to create a safe space for anyone to feel seen and heard. It’s a space where we are intentional about withholding judgment from the sometimes unrealistic standards we compare ourselves to as caregivers. Instead, we cultivate gentleness and kindness towards ourselves and each other. We want everyone to feel welcome to share their struggles as caregivers.
The agenda of each meeting is driven by the participants of the group. We all play our part in holding space for individuals wanting support. For anyone willing to share, it’s up to them if they want space to vent, advice, or to be intentional about finding a specific solution for a difficult situation they might be facing. Confidentiality is the highest commitment we agree to hold with each other. This is non-negotiable in order to cultivate safety within the group.
It's only been a few months, but the depth of experience from the stories people have shared in the group is enough to last a lifetime. With the backdrop of the pandemic, there are many people out there who are seeking support, and it’s been a true privilege to be able to facilitate these groups inside BenchSci. I often find myself inspired by the strength that is shown by the participants. We’ve heard from single parents, individuals who are caring for aging parents, and brave parents who are learning about what it looks like to nurture neurodiverse children. All of these caregivers are excelling in their roles at BenchSci and the space we have together allows us to continue to sustain this journey we’re on.
Support caregivers to build a better workplace
When I first became a dad, a group like this would have done wonders for me. It would have been an amazing way to connect with my colleagues at a deep human level. It also would have been another opportunity to build trust. Trust is fundamental for any company to succeed. As a matter of fact, a report by Great Place to Work found that companies who successfully cultivated trust performed nearly 2 times better than the general market. A caregivers' group not only improves company culture. It also contributes positively to the company's performance by building trust amongst members of your team. After all, our lives outside of work greatly impact how we work. Support groups ought to be an important consideration for any company that cares about inclusivity. Here's one personal experience from a team member:
“Since I have become a father, BenchSci’s mission has even more meaning to me. I see so many parallels between my 6-month year old daughter and BenchSci. Hyper growth is real on both ends! Our remote-first culture allows me to be there for my family and for my team. One doesn’t compete with the other, it harmonizes both.”
- Rasheed Ahmed, VP of Business Operations and Delivery
If you’re inspired to create spaces like this at your company, I encourage you to advocate for it! Change doesn’t need to come from the top. It can also be generated from anywhere within the company. The new normal is all about creating more belonging in the workplace. There is an open invitation for all of us to do our part and advocate for the support we want so that we can continue to succeed professionally.