A CEO on ambition and fatherhood

This week we wanted to profile a dad who successfully manages a demanding career with a family.  Our resident dad expert, David Willans, interviewed Paul Frampton, who is CEO UK & Ireland at Havas Media Group, one of the world’s most progressive media groups. He has four kids.

You’re a CEO and a committed dad, how do you make it work?

For most things I do, I think about balance. Balance is a hugely underrated attribute in this world. Take politics, one person says one thing and the other takes the polar opposite view. In life it's rarely ‘either-or’, it's always ‘and’.

With parenting there are these generational models we get ourselves stuck in. When I first became a dad 15 years ago, it was all about Gina Ford and sleep training. Then you find out she didn’t even have kids! This was a command and control parenting model, much like the old command and control approach to leadership too. This is ‘either-or’.

These days a much more balanced view is the order of the day. If your child sleeps in your bed for the first six months it doesn’t matter, what matters is your whole approach. In the past you were pushed to be a certain sort of parent, a dad had to behave in a certain type of way, so did a mum. I think with a more diverse society comes a more diverse way of looking at parenting.

I think you become a better leader by being a better father and you become a better father by being a good leader. It’s about being aware of the people around you. The ‘either-or’, old school leader compartmentalises work and home. They are task, not people focused.

Modern leaders need skills like emotional intelligence, coaching, and a question orientated rather than dictatorial approach. This is also how I think you raise kids well. That doesn’t mean I go home and behave like a CEO, I’d get told off! I mean you’ve got to have the right conversations, even if they are uncomfortable. As a CEO that’s the nature of the beast, you have tough conversations many times a day and learn that it's rarely a good idea to delay that conversation. Raising kids means working well with your partner. This means you need a strong foundation of shared understanding. Understanding each other means you don’t feel as much of a conflict between self, work and family.

Take how you manage your time between family and work. I feel comfortable that I’m present enough with my senior clients and my team. I attend enough industry events and my profile in the industry is good enough, so I don’t need to do things for the sake of it. When it comes to networking or being out in the evenings, I focus on where the business value is, rather than going out for the sake of it or to enjoy myself. If things get too out of balance my wife tells me. I don’t feel attacked because I know where she’s coming from and she knows I’m trying to get the balance right.

We can only do this because we’ve spent time talking about what’s important to each of us. It’s something I didn’t do when I was younger, so in my first marriage, when we had kids, it became hard. My wife's world was focused on them, but my world was expanding with work, international travel and everything. I was being challenged for not being a more present dad. It was a time of conflict as opposed to working to find the right balance.

What specifically do you do to get the balance right?

One of the things I'm very good at doing is ruthlessly prioritising. I change things many times a day sometimes on late notice (ask my wonderfully patient EA Amy!). You have to, if you want work and family to work together. I try to be at home for breakfast or bedtime a few times a week, so I’m not just seeing my baby at the weekends. This is a change from my older kids, back then I used to work every hour god sends in the week to make sure the weekends were free to be with them. Now I want more balance.

I know that if I get up early enough, I do a Twitter blast then I can spend time with my baby before going to work.

The other big thing I do is be very deliberate and planned with my time. When I got divorced I knew I just wasn’t going to be there for my older kids as much as I wanted to be. I knew I had to make sure I was there for the important things in their lives and had made the space to build relationships with them. I contracted with myself and with my new wife that I would prioritise being there for important moments in their lives over anything else. I've managed that 90% of the time I think. It’s hard to do but so very important.

Sometimes though, when you're just there a lot of the time, you don’t think about whether you are genuinely present in the moment. I get it wrong sometimes and have told my kids to call me out on it. They say 'it's our time' and they’re right.

What does it mean to be a dad?

It’s the most wonderful gift life gives you. With men it can often take a little too long to recognise that. You've got all these other stimuli going on, but it's being a dad that gives you true satisfaction and happiness. Work is necessary to protect and provide for your kids, but it will be the time you spent as a dad that you'll always remember.

By David Willans


Mastering what it means to be a great working dad at BeingDads.

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