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Tips from the
- Becoming an EP is not the only way to balance work and family,
as many a corporate working mom or dad can attest. Here's the
"other side of the story" for those parents who are
lucky enough to have found reliable, quality childcare...and
have become "master jugglers" of the executive kind.
Master jugglers are not confined to the
Big Top but alive and well in Corporate America. Successful corporate
executives, particularly those with children, are blazing new
trails in a quest for lives characterized by balance and excellence.
Their strategy is to first define, address, and integrate the
needs and responsibilities of each of the three major sectors
of life: the professional, the personal, and the physical. Managers,
directors, and other corporate pros are leading the charge toward
work-styles that allow them to meet all of their responsibilities.
These unique corporate players
are characterized by confidence, obsession with professional
performance, "executive cool" in the boardroom, and
unwavering control over projects. But look closely and you will
see baby wipes in their briefcases, workout clothes in the trunks
of their cars, and detailed to-do lists and planning calendars
that incorporate the requirements of their many roles.
The following are 'tips and truths'
gleaned from conversations with a few such successful master
Power is freedom.
Gone are the days when it made
sense to accept lower paying, less satisfying positions typically
in administrative, support, or sales in the hopes of a more flexible
work schedule. The truth is, the higher you climb the ladder,
the more control you have over your schedule. Take a look at
the corporate workers who enjoy staggered schedules and authorization
to telecommute from home. They are not usually members of the
administrative or support staff, but higher paid, more visible
members of management at some level. The more valuable we are
to the organization, the more it will do to support us.
Planning equals peace of mind.
It's just common sense to apply
our well-developed corporate skills of organization and management
to the most important project of all: our lives, our whole
lives. On the job, the true "movers and shakers" live
and die, not by "the sword," but by "the list!"
To-do lists and planning calendars are power tools in the effort
to integrate tasks from all areas of life. As such they make
it virtually impossible to focus merely on professional endeavors,
all day, every day or to be neglectful of our families or our
own needs. When we think ahead and plan for contingencies, we
are calmer, and our professional performance benefits.
True excellence requires balance.
Obsessive personalities are common
among successful executives. The Achilles' Heel of productive
people is the guilt, even depression that they suffer when they
feel that one or more facets of their lives have been ignored.
Achievers want to win the big bonus but not, for instance, at
the cost of neglected children. We want to excel but not at the
cost of our own well being. The merit bonus earned is less sweet
if it is earned as we watch the scale climb until we are 25+
lbs. overweight. People who achieve want to do so in spite of
the challenges that must be overcome. It's not enough to do only
one thing (our jobs) well.
Personal means private.
Fair or not, it is counter-productive
to discuss home life, children, diet regimens, etc. on the job
-- especially for executive women. Sympathy,
empathy, understanding, fellowship and the like are not what
we get when we bear our souls in the corporate environment. Unfortunately,
there are preconceived ideas of what corporate "mommies"
and "daddies" are willing and/or able to do. If you
want to be evaluated on performance alone and play with the 'big
boys' -- keep your personal life to yourself.
Tap the power of the word "NO."
First, learn to say it, firmly,
and mean it when inordinate requests for your time or involvement
will conflict with your goals -- professional,
personal, or physical. Balancing all of your responsibilities
means fully contributing in each area of life and not obsessing
in any one. It's a safety valve!
Second, conversely, never take
'no' for an answer if it means compromising the important objectives
of your balanced life. Successfully surfing the corporate tide
means aligning your resources, planning your schedule, and demanding
needed tools and support. Never let a 'no' get in the way of
your goals. Research, rephrase, re-propose, but get there.
The single most important thing
I have learned is that the population of each area of my life
expect a different part of my multi-faceted personality to come
forward, consistently. My children don't appreciate my cooler
professional demeanor when focused on them and the things important
to them. My staff and peers rarely appreciate parenting. My physical
self needs my focus at least 30 minutes every day regardless
of what my children or staff may need or want. Sometimes I need
a moment to refocus and I give myself that time. Part of my desired
standard of behavior is to treat my staff, family, and body with
the respect deserved.
Prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize.
You can handle it all. You just
can't handle it all at the same time. I might miss a PTA meeting
on a night when I am working on a presentation to the Board,
but never my child's Birthday party. I might pass on a small
extra departmental project, but I simply don't decline a business
trip with high visibility. I make conscious, measured choices
and I discuss them with my family and often my staff because
they inevitably are effected.
The trends over the last decade
in Corporate America have included telecommuting, remote and
mobile staff support, outsourcing, and other flexible work-styles.
Hat's off to the master jugglers, those quietly pushing these
positive trends, developing the supportive technology, and proposing
process changes that support the pursuit of more balanced lives.
- For 20+ years, Rosanna Pittella has served Corporate America, providing
practical strategies and facilitating their implementation. A
strategist focused on the "human side of technology"
she has educated IT audiences (NYC's PCEXPO/1997&1998, IT
Forum, San Francisco/1998), been featured in PCWeek, PCWeek
Online, and Executive Female, and appeared on Silicon
Spin, Ziff-Davis/TV (Sept. 98). Rosanna Pittella may be
reached at either PRGL/Catalyst Group headquarters (NY Metro
or West Coast) at 800-749-8446, or via [email protected]
or [email protected].