By Cindy Krischer Goodman
For the month of March, Johnathan Modisett, a senior manager at Ernst & Young, changed diapers and spoon-fed his newborn daughter. When the baby napped, Modisett checked his work email, not expecting or encountering many surprises during his paternity leave: “I left the office with a good plan in place.”
While many men are reluctant to take paternity leave, Modisett’s careful orchestration of his time off came from working with a paternity coach for three months in advance. Meeting by phone each month, they strategized what Modisett would delegate and to whom, how to encourage his staff to take ownership of client work, and how to better manage multiple teams when he returns.
“My coach would bring up items I hadn’t thought of yet, things that I needed to work through with my teams and my family,” Modisett says.
Only 11 percent of private-industry workers have employer-paid family leave, and Modisett is one of the lucky few: Ernst & Young offers two weeks of paid paternity leave to all dads and another four weeks for men like Modisett who are the primary caregiver when their wife goes back to work. Not only that, Ernst & Young is one of a growing number of companies offering paternity and maternity coaches.
In the United States, the firm uses in-house coaches who advise employees on what they can expect before, during and after parental leave. In the UK, the firm works with Talking Talent, a coaching and research firm with clients in the United States that include Deutsche Bank, MetLife and Barclays. Sessions range from group coaching to one-on-one and have become particularly popular with new fathers.
“Men often don’t have employee resource groups or forums to have these conversations, so we find the men are incredibly engaged when we offer paternity coaching,” says Karen Rubin, Talking Talent’s managing director for North America.