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Make Workplace Flexibility Work For You – Allison O’Kelly

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

This week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Allison Karl O’Kelly, Founder and CEO of MomCorps, about the growing consciousness of the value created by workplace flexibility arrangements. O’Kelly discussed how engaging your networks, managing stakeholder expectations, and having honest personal conversations can bring about work-life satisfaction for individuals in new and unexpected ways.

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with O’Kelly:

Stew Friedman: The conversation about workplace flexibility has changed these days. We’re operating in a different landscape now where there’s more fertile ground for innovation, and where MomCorps, as a staffing agency, can push its client firms to adjust their employment policies and become more flexible.

Allison O'KellyAllison Karl O’Kelly: Yes. I think that companies now, for the most part, want to make flexibility work. This is especially true when you’re talking about the Human Resources department of many organizations. They understand the importance of flexibility. Now it’s about understanding how to make flexible arrangements work.  I think that once the mindset is there, it’s a lot easier to help companies implement strategies to make it work.

SF: How do you get that initial mindset shift? What are your methods for making that happen for an employer?

AOK: As far as the mindset shift is concerned, I see that most people have that already. We don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince people why work flexibility is good. What we do spend a lot of time doing is trying to just get companies to understand the quality of candidates for a given role and to grasp why they can get a better candidate if they’re willing to provide some flexibility to him or her. We often talk about flexibility as being another form of currency. Sometimes it can actually be a way to save money – whether that’s not paying for full-time work that can be done part-time or not paying for office space. We’re certainly not asking companies to hire someone flexible who is not the right person for the organization, but hopefully they can quickly understand that if they give up a little bit on the flexibility piece, they are going to get an amazing candidate that they otherwise might not be able to get.

SF: They can maybe even get a better work method out of it too, in the experiment of trying a new way to get things done.

AOK: That’s also important. We hear over and over again about folks who work on a part-time basis and how amazingly productive they are. I personally think that’s because when people are treated like adults and they’re given that level of flexibility they’re just so much more loyal to their employers. They really want to perform well and do a good job for them.

SF: I’ve found that in order to make any kind of alternative work arrangement work, it has to be not only something that is good for you, but also beneficial for your employer, and even more, for your family and your community. I like people to think of creating what I call “four-way wins” among these four domains of their lives. I believe thinking that way really helps you negotiate effectively because you’re thinking from the point of view of the people around you and not just your own needs. Is that an idea that resonates with your approach?

AOK: Absolutely. We talk about that a lot when we are giving advice, not only just to our candidates, but also when we’re simply talking or writing on the subject – it really is so important that it’s not just about you. Certainly, if you’re going to ask for a flexible work arrangement, in your head it is about you, but you also need to figure out why the employer should be good with what you’re suggesting. There could be so many reasons for that. Cost savings is always a good one, but especially if you’ve been at a company for a long time, retention is also very important.

For example, maybe there are opportunities for you to bring somebody else on, and you can train that person so that the company ends up spending the same money they’re spending now but for two people. They’re not going to have that work otherwise. That’s why it is so essential to figure out what is most important to your employer. Perhaps it’s really important to them that you are at a particular meeting every Friday, and so you will make sure that you’re at each of those meetings. That, then, becomes part of your deal. Ultimately, I think you need to find a way for the employer to feel comfortable with your idea and feel as though the company is getting something valuable out of this arrangement, rather than simply doing you a favor.

SF: That’s a critical theme we’re going to come back to again and again throughout the Work and Life show. It’s really essential because what many employers fear, of course, is that when people ask for alternative work arrangements that they, as the employer, are going to lose something. What they have to be shown is that they’re actually going to gain something. It sounds like you do a lot at MomCorps to try to make that happen.

AOK: Absolutely. I agree that this idea is critical. Gone are the days when your employer would say, “Let’s just do this because I really like Allison, and she’s a nice person.” We don’t have the money or the time for that these days. First of all, you have to be somebody who is very valuable to the organization, and, second of all, whether you are already there or not, you need to prove why you are valuable to the organization and why allowing you to have an arrangement that might be different from what the general employee base has is actually going to be good for them as the employer and not get in the way of doing business. As we know, at the end of the day it is business, and they need to make sure that they are able to meet their outlined goals and objectives.

O’Kelly zeroes in on how organizations and employees can create mutual value by having honest conversations in open and trusting environments. Have you ever been a part of a workplace conversation with colleagues or managers in which you realized that your seemingly conflicting interests could both be realized through a creative solution? Join us in the comments below with your thoughts and experiences.

To learn more about O’Kelly’s work, visit https://www.momcorps.com.

Tune in to Work and Life next Tuesday, April 22 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Doug Conant, Chairman of Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute, and former CEO and President of Campbell Soup, and Brigid Schulte, Washington Post reporter and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has Time Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

 About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

The Power of Connection — Erica Dhawan on Work and Life

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

This week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with his former student and Wharton alumna Erica Dhawan (W’07) about her work studying the power of human connections and work-life engagement. The Founder and CEO of Cotential, a unique systems consultancy, Dhawan discusses the rise of informal networks and social movements as a result of our growing connectivity and how these interactions spur innovative thinking and inspire courageous change.

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Dhawan:

Stew Friedman: Tell us more about the kind of work that Cotential does.

Erica Dhawan: Erica DhawanI’ll frame it in a short story for you. A few years ago, a leading New York-based law firm realized something peculiar. It started when the CFO noticed that the Millennial associates at the firm were billing fewer hours than the firm’s historical average. This was strange because they were giving the Millennial associates more work than previous cohorts, not less.  More importantly, because law firms bill by the hour, this was also concern for the business. When the senior leadership team started to dig into this, they discovered that a group of 50 or 60 associates had all joined the firm as a class and created their own Twitter or chat-like tools to help each other solve cases faster.  The communication included questions like “Where can I find this legal citation?” or “Does anyone know that law school case we did? I’m working on a similar case right now.” Over time, this became a rapidly productive community that senior leaders had no idea about, but that was actually changing the bottom line.  Typically senior leaders would see this as a concern, but they ended up using this learning to their benefit.

SF: They would see this as a concern, because it was somehow beyond the standard way of operating?

ED: Yes. It was beyond the standard way of operating, but it also caused billing hours to go down. As we know, the legal industry is structured to make money through billing hours. The other interesting piece of this story was that these Millennial associates were to be promoted through an evaluation of their billing hours, but they were choosing to work faster with fewer hours in the service of getting the work done rather than in the service of the incentive structure of their industry. Eventually this law firm, along with others, decided to learn from these productivity enhancements. They are now hiring fewer people because they’re understanding from these informal networks how to get work done faster. They’ve created a Twitter-at-work program, for example, teaching lawyers at all levels how to use these tools to work faster. Now they’re challenging other standard practices and have created a task team to think differently about how performance metrics need to be changed in order to align with the new technologies and the new faster ways of doing work.

Cotential fits into this story because we help organizations identify these untapped informal networks, just like this law firm’s group of Millennials. We help them first identify, and then think about how to harness informal networks to become a source of value for the organization. Beyond that, we consider how a company can turn these informal networks into systemic sources of value across the organization, especially given that we’re living in a world of hyper-connectivity. Today, we can connect much faster, and that’s leading to immense breakthroughs, whether that means solving a business unit problem through a crowd or network or connecting customers in a way that gives insight to an organization to solve a problem in minutes rather than months.

SF: Is Cotential’s purpose to go on an anthropological search for innovation that already exists inside the organization, or do you introduce ideas for tapping informal networks that haven’t yet been tried?

ED: It’s a combination of both. I think there are many organizations that try to develop ideas on the outside of a company and help companies implement them, but then they never get executed. I truly believe that all the best ideas are actually inside the people currently in the organization, but they’re often not activated because there aren’t networks within the organization that enable these ideas to be generated, tested, and executed efficiently. Frito-Lay is an example of the positive potential that internal networks hold. At Frito-Lay, there are employee diversity groups, including a Latino group. A few years ago, the Latino group said to themselves, “Why don’t we have a Doritos guacamole chip? It would do so well with the Latino customer segment.” They came up with this new idea because they had already been “recombined” within Frito-Lay in this Latino network, and then they tested it and made it come to life.

SF: When you say “recombined”, what do you mean?

ED: I mean that they had already built an informal network within the company; they were already seeing each other on a consistent basis because of their membership in the Latino employee resource group. Because they were connected through this niche group, they were able to come up with this idea and pitch it to the product innovation department. This idea ended up being a $100 million product.

SF: Wow. That wouldn’t have happened had they stayed within their normal job functions and had not been able to communicate with each other across the firm in this informal network set up.

ED: Exactly.

Dhawan’s work demonstrates the creative potential that informal networks can bring to stagnant companies and industries. Have you ever witnessed the power of a chance encounter in generating a great idea? Is there anything that your organization does to encourage the development of casual connections across the firm? Join us in the comments below with your thoughts and experiences.

To learn more about Dhawan’s work, visit her organization’s website at cotential.co or send her a shout out on Twitter @edhawan.

Tune in to Work and Life tonight, Tuesday, April 8th at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Julie Smolyaksy, President and CEO of Lifeway Foods and the youngest female CEO of a publicly-held firm, and Maggie Jackson, former Boston Globe columnist and author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

 Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Let Go of Guilt

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

Ashley Milne Tyte is a storyteller. Ashley Milne -TyteShe began her career as a journalist, and reported for American Public Media’s Marketplace for many years; she now hosts The Broad Experience, a podcast on recent best-of lists from The Guardian and Yahoo!, where she covers topics on women in the workplace, including women in tech, female confidence, women and negotiation. She joined Stew Friedman on Work and Life to talk about women’s communication at work, and how letting go of guilt can free them up to be happier in every sphere of life. Following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about what led you to bring The Broad Experience to life.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: Some of my favorite stories when I reported for Marketplace had to do with women in the workplace – women’s careers, women in negotiation, the ways in which men and women behave differently in the workplace, how women can subtly undermine themselves without realizing it, how most organizations are still unwittingly stacked against women. I had never noticed those kinds of things before, but I started to notice them in my own life. I realized I was playing into all the stereotypes. Self-promotion, for example; I loathe it. However, I’ve become better at it, because I think you can’t live in America and not know how to sell yourself, or not at least try. I realized over the years, in various jobs, that if I didn’t talk myself up, no one else was going to. Women still don’t get this to a great degree. It may feel very uncomfortable to talk ourselves up and go to managers and say, “Let me remind you that this is what I’ve been working on, these are the results I’ve had. I’m good at these things.” There are lots of people out there and managers are busy. If you don’t remind them of the good work you’re doing, you could easily get passed over for something.

SF: What advice would you give to women trying to combat some of these behaviors that can fly under the radar?

AMT: For women, I would recommend starting with guilt. Many women suffer from mother guilt. They always feel they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time – when they’re at work, they feel terrible that they’re not spending enough time with their children. One of the people I’ve interviewed on the podcast is Mrs. Moneypenny, the very no-nonsense Financial Times columnist; she has bracing advice for women who have a tendency to feel guilty, which I think women really need to hear – we’re almost programmed to be guilty. She advises not feeling guilty about the fact that you’re working as well as being a parent. To broaden it, don’t beat yourself up about things in general. We are so apt and quick to blame ourselves for so many things, but feeling guilt saps energy you could be using to achieve something in your work or your family life.

SF: What should one do to reduce a lifelong pattern of feeling guilty, grown from a cultural imperative?

AMT: Mrs. Moneypenny has shared that she is always open with her children, telling them why she has to miss a sports evening or a parent teacher conference. When your children are old enough to understand, making it clear that you’re supporting the family and enabling things for your children makes a difference in helping them to understand the connection between work and family.

SF: When you take action that’s clearly intended to benefit the people around you in the long run but that, in the short run, might seem like a drain on them, it’s important to be conscious and deliberate about sharing with those stakeholders how your actions are for them. When you make your choices and your rationale known, it really makes a difference not only in how they see you, but how you see you.

AMT: I think women are sent overt and subtle messages all the time that being a mother is the most important thing you can possibly do. That contributes to the guilt and makes this tricky. I try not to lurk on Facebook at the apparently perfect lives of women I know. I haven’t bought women’s magazines for years, because they make me feel inadequate and guilty. As I’ve gained more confidence in myself as a person, I’ve become less susceptible to the messaging from society that I’m not doing enough.

Hear more from Ashley on The Broad Experience podcast and her blog, and follow her on Twitter @ashleymilnetyte.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, April 8 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Julie Smolyansky and Maggie Jackson on creating harmony among all parts of life from the perspective of young leaders in the information age. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author:

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School.

Work/Life Integration is About Culture Not Time: Alyssa Westring on Work and Life

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit). 

Alyssa Westring is an Assistant Professor of Management at DePaul University, where she studies work/life issues and women’s careers, and director of research for Total Leadership.  She spoke with Stew Friedman on Work and Life about recent research that reveals the surprising factors that influence work/life satisfaction. Following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: You just published an article on the HBR Blog Network about how the culture of work matters at least as much, if not more than, the actual time spent at work in determining work/life satisfaction. Tell us more about this research and what it means for people and organizations.

Alyssa Westring: alyssa westringIn general, when people study work/life topics, they either study big, high-level organizational policies like parental leave and flex-time, or they focus on the individual level and the strategies and techniques that best help people own their work/life balance. My research team was really interested in what’s happening in the middle, when individual people are managing work and life in a specific department or division at work, and how the nature of the work environment impacts their experiences. Not surprisingly, we did find that people who worked longer hours tended to have more conflict between their work and family lives – it’s a lot harder to manage everything if you’re working 80 hours than if you’re working 40. But we found that it also really depended on the work environment itself. The study looked at women in academic medicine, and found that if women were in a department that was really flexible and supportive of women’s careers, they could work longer hours with less work-life conflict.

SF: This helps explode the myth that work/life integration is all about time, and it sheds light on other factors that influence whether we experience conflict here, specifically factors that are within our realm of control. What were the cultural factors in departments or divisions that made a difference?

AW: The first was whether the department supported employees’ work/life balance; whether there was a shared understanding that there’s more to life than work, and whether it was okay to talk about those other elements of life.

SF: Is this mainly about how your supervisor treats you, or is it something broader than that?

AW: Supervisory support for support for women’s careers is another dimension, but this is independent, and speaks to shared assumptions in the department.  You could have a supervisor who thinks work/life integration is great, but if your colleagues are judging you when you leave work early to tend to family, or if it’s not okay to talk about those things, that’s a separate factor.

SF: So it’s really about group norms and the cultural values of the group, independent of your specific supervisor’s attitudes.

AW: Exactly. The supervisor impacts those group norms, but they have an independent effect on how women experience their work environment. The third dimension was tolerance or intolerance for subtle gender biases – ideas that women aren’t as effective as leaders, or that their input in meetings isn’t taken seriously when they speak up. No one reported overt sex-based discrimination, but this more subtle and insidious gender discrimination is a factor in the work environment that impacts the culture for women. The final dimension was women’s equal access to resources and opportunities. In a medical department like the one we studied, this might be size of lab space or prestigious committee assignments, but this idea can be translated to any kind of work environment.

SF: Are these factors truly more important than the amount of time one works in determining work/life satisfaction?

AW: At a certain point, work hours overwhelm everything. Once you get to about 75 hours a week, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in a supportive environment or not. But before that point, it makes a difference. You’re much better off in a more supportive culture across the range of work hours. In our study, the women who worked 65 hours in a supportive environment reported less conflict than the women who worked 45 hours in a less supportive department.

SF: What could people even in mid-level positions do to enhance the quality of their work environment and create a culture that supports life beyond work?

AW: By challenging unhealthy, unsupportive cultural norms, you could shift the way your department treats women. This is true for women and for men as well. If you see unequal distribution of resources or you hear people being shamed for having life outside work or discussing things that are not work-related, you can and should say something.  I’ll give you an example from my own life. One time, I posted something on Facebook about the types of novels I like to read, and asked for suggestions for future reading. The first comment I got was, “How do you have time to read novels, Alyssa?” My first instinct was a need to justify – I read when I’m on the bus, so I have more time for reading than someone who drives a car. But my second reaction was to stand up and be proud, to say yes, I do have time to read. It’s relaxing and healthy, and I’m not going to pretend like I don’t do other things in order to seem fully committed to my job.

SF: The key insight is that time at work is certainly important, and you want to try to contain the amount you devote to work at the expense of other parts of your life, but it’s also important to target those aspects of your work environment that you can influence by making them more supportive, not just for yourself but also for your colleagues.

Westring’s research highlights nuanced cultural dynamics that can have a big effect on the workplace experience, but it may also over-simplify what it takes to speak up.  Subtle gender inequalities, for example – women’s leadership taken less seriously, or men given less latitude than women to miss work for family commitments – are hard to prove and easy to defer or explain as differences in competence. Have you witness or experienced circumstances like these in the workplace? Did you speak up, and was it effective? Join us in the comments below with your experiences and perspective.

You can read more about Westring’s study on the HBR Blog Network and follow Westring on Twitter @alyssawestring.

Join Work and Life on Tuesday, April 1 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Roger Schwartz, author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results, and Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School.

What I Wish I’d Known: When Work/Life Integration Doesn’t Mean What You Thought

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

What I Wish I’d Known is a series in which MBAs offer lessons learned about integrating work and life in their first jobs.

In my first week at my first job out of college, I worked from 8 am until 4 am every single day. I was working for one of the Big Three consulting firms and trying to get assigned to a competitive project – I wanted to hit the ground running, and I decided I was willing to do whatever it took. By the end of that week, I wasn’t sure I understood what I had gotten into. I asked a colleague who had started a year before me whether what I was experiencing was normal, and she was a little evasive about it – she didn’t seem to want to give me bad news. Another friend told me I should try to see my job – which I agreed was very intellectually engaging – as a sort of hobby, since I probably wouldn’t have time for any others. My hours did eventually get more reasonable – I got that first project, and it was grueling, but I also got some projects later that let me work a more normal 45-hour week. Over time, I figured out that when professional services firms talk about ‘sustainable lifestyles,’ they might mean sustainable year over year – not week to week.”

-Elizabeth, 26, MBA candidate

In an era when firms know that in order to attract Millennials, they must claim commitment to work-life integration and care for their employees, Elizabeth’s experience isn’t extraordinary. Her story and many others like it highlight two lessons for recent graduates:

Don’t be surprised by your work-life integration reality.

Candid conversations about realistic work-life integration expectations in your new organization will save you a lot of heartache. Talk to someone currently in the role you’re taking, or recently out of that role; your firm’s recruiting team may be able to recommend someone, or if you attend a university with related graduate programs, see whether any alumni of your company are on campus. Specific questions about day-to-day details often paint the most honest picture – “What time do you sign off email or turn off your phone most nights?” or “What activities that you were involved in during college are you still involved in now?” Answers like “After midnight” or “I don’t have much time for hobbies now” don’t mean the job isn’t a fit, as Elizabeth’s example shows; they just help you know what to expect.

See “integration” in a broader sense.

Many of us hope – and much of the public discussion on the issue encourages us to believe – that “work-life integration” will mean that at each point in our careers, we’ll be able to devote balanced amounts of time to our jobs, families, communities and selves – the latter including sleep. For many people, however, starting a career with a job that doesn’t permit that kind of balance right away is a strategic choice. The prevalence of entry-level jobs in investment banking and consulting alone suggests that many young people make this trade-off. Elizabeth is among them, and plans to return to the firm she talked about above after finishing her MBA. Your first job is a springboard, and long hours can be an upfront investment that pays work-life balance dividends later. Examples of those longer-term benefits might include fast access to more senior jobs with flexibility to define your own hours, or savings which enable you to take time off to travel, start a business, or have a family. This is one reason why “integration” is a better word than “balance” for the relationship between work and life. As Stew Friedman, Director of the Wharton Work-Life Integration Project, has said all the way back in 2004, “balance is bunk.” Few people truly “balance” the time they spend on work and life because we seldom prioritize them equally, and our priorities for each change over the course of our lives.

The first few years of your career may be a time when you don’t make it to the gym most nights and you trade off seeing friends on the weekend for getting sufficient rest. The key to making these choices truly short-term sacrifices and not the start of unhealthy habits is connecting your first job to your long-term plan, including a timeline. Laura Huang, Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Wharton, gives a great example of this kind of planning: “I took a job as an investment banker, and told myself it was for two years only, to save money and pay back loans – after that, I would go back to school or pursue something entrepreneurial. To commit myself to that deadline, the first appointment I put in my work calendar was ‘Hand in resignation’ two weeks before my two year anniversary, and I wrote my resignation letter in my first week.” It makes for a challenging first job, but integrating work and life over the course of years rather than days or weeks can enable the best long-term outcome. Just check in with your plan and your priorities regularly to make sure the job keeps moving you in the direction of your goals.

For more from What I Wish I’d Known, read last month’s article about getting credit for what you already do. Visit the Forum next month for the first installment of a What I Wish I’d Known series on relationships in the workplace, beginning with a perspective on navigating the change when work friends become real friends.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School.

Strategies for Success for Baby Boom Women — Connie Gersick on Work and Life

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

Last week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dr. Connie Gersick about her research on how women can implement three key strategies to lead the life they truly want. Gersick is currently Visiting Scholar at the Yale University School of Management and was a professor of Human Resources and Organizational Behavior at UCLA’s Graduate School of Management for seventeen years. Her research for over a decade has centered on women’s lives and careers.

Following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: You carefully examined the lives of 40 women in a recent study – tell us a bit about it.

Connie Gersick: Connie GersickThe work that I did on how women manage tradeoffs throughout their adulthood is part of a larger study of women’s adult development. We’re used to thinking about child development. We’re not used to looking at the whole of adulthood as a time when people continue to grow, develop, and evolve, to arrange and rearrange their lives. How does that happen? What are some narratives that give a sense of what adult development is like? That was the context for the study as a whole. In total I talked with 40 women, but first, in the initial pilot study, we interviewed 10 women who were all top executives in a global financial services company.

SF: What really grabbed your attention in the initial pilot study?

CG: Talking to women who looked, on first meeting, so polished, so in command, so unruffled and finding the pathos of their stories – how much they did that they never thought they would do. There was a lot of adventure in their lives, and I wanted to learn more. I wanted to talk to women in very different settings so the other occupations I picked were executives in social service agencies, artists, and women who were running their own family businesses. I also wanted to include women of color so 10 of the 40 participants were women of color.

SF: What was the age range of these people?

CG: The age range was 45 to 55; they’re part of the baby boom generation. These women were at the front edge of graduating college having grown up in a culture that said, “You are going to get married, your husband should have a good career, you’ll have kids, you’ll stay home, and you’ll keep the floor clean.” Imagine standing on the brink – you’ve graduated college, you grew up thinking you’re going to get married and that was it, or maybe you thought that you were going to be a teacher and take time off when the kids were little. There were very few occupations that women ever anticipated, and then all of a sudden things were opening up, colleges that hadn’t been were becoming co-ed and people were wondering if women could do anything men could do. Would women be able to handle a career while taking care of the home and family? Because if a woman was not taking care of the home and family, something was wrong with her. There were a lot of people thinking it couldn’t be done. So it was an adventure, a challenge and a dare.

SF: Was the dare emanating from within them or from society?

CG: I think from both. The Carnegie Mellon Commission published a study in the late 60s on the status of women, and the conclusion was that we really don’t know how this is possibly going to work. There was tremendous uncertainty. We wanted to succeed and have all this excitement, but we were afraid too – afraid of what we might lose, afraid of failing, and afraid of being alone.

Imagine a map. On one side of the map there’s a highway with cars zooming along, and they’re all being driven by men. On the other side there’s a neighborhood street, and the homes are all inhabited by women. There’s a huge territory in between. You thought you were going to go on the neighborhood street and your husband was going to go on the super highway. Now, how are you going to make some kind of path through that territory in between that bridges both? The women in this generation had to invent a new kind of adulthood for women.

SF: What did you discover about how they somehow managed to find their own road to travel?

CG:  One of the important findings is that there is an incredible amount of diversity in how women organize their lives. One of the women I talked to had kids when she was in high school, got married, and was on welfare. Another woman I talked to had adopted kids when she was 40. One woman found her career when she was a child. Another woman finally found something that she loved when she was 50. That’s very different from the way men’s lives had gone. Men’s lives were linear and predictable – you knew when you were on track and when you were off track.

SF: So did you find patterns in what you observed about these life stories?

CG: Yes, I did. Initially, I made the mistake of first looking to see what everyone did in her 20s, 30s, 40, etc. and I found that that just didn’t work at all. What eventually saved the day was to look more in terms of what are the important tasks and dilemmas that the women shared even though they may have encountered these tasks and dilemmas in different ways and at different times.

SF: What were those developmental challenges? What is the quest all about?

CG: One was a task having to do with authority, and the dilemma was independence versus dependency. At the time the idea was that a woman needs to find a man to take care of her. The dilemma was how am I going to make my lifestyle and survive? Am I going to take care of myself, or do I need to find someone who will take care of me? Another central task has to do with relationships. The dilemma was, especially for women, if I’m in a relationship, I’m expected to take care of that person, so how do I reconcile my responsibility to myself with my responsibility to others? A third issue was achievement and vocation. Am I going to be ambitious and pursue my work goals, or do I need to be flexible and follow a husband? Then there’s the issue of putting the pieces together in life. What pieces am I going to select, what commitments am I going to make, how am I going to put that package together?

SF: You also determined from your analysis of these women’s lives that there were different strategies that people used to resolve these questions, particularly the last question of how to make choices that are well informed and that are congruent with one’s values. Could you tell us what those three main strategies were?

CG: One was Prioritize and Limit. For people who know what their priorities are, they pick a small number and say, “I will do without the other things. I need to really devote myself for life to this vocation, this calling, this art, whatever it may be.” Another, I call Sequencing: “I can have everything, but I can’t have it all at once. There are three things that I want to do. I will let them take turns.” The third I call Add and Delegate: “I am not going to be told by someone else when I can do what I want to do. I am going to have everything that I really want, although I recognize I can’t do it all myself – I will delegate and share the overflow at work and at home.

SF: What are the pros and cons of each one?

CG: Prioritize and Limit is especially wonderful for women who know that they care very deeply about one or two things in life and that they can do without some of the other things. Being able to combine two things instead of feeling like they are competing with each other is particularly wonderful. The pitfall with Prioritize and Limit comes if, in fact, you don’t want to do without those things that you gave up.

The Sequencing approach works especially well with commitments that have a natural ebb and flow. For example, with children, you know that they are going to get older and need you less, so there could be a confined time in your life when you’re devoted to them, and then a time will come when you will be freer to do other things. It’s helpful when you have the control you think you have, and you’re able say to yourself, “I’m going to do X until I’m satisfied, then I’ll turn my attention to something else.” The risk with sequencing is not having enough time. Something that you postponed may be lost, because it was postponed. The joy is that if you are able to have the pieces that you want, you can invest as much as you want into them in turn.

The Add and Delegate approach is really the hardest for the women that I talked with. The benefits are having a very full life and a very full cup, but the pitfall is that if you add another drop, the cup will run over. It becomes too much – you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not satisfied with the attention that you’re paying to anything, you feel guilty, you’re not enjoying all the things that you wanted.

SF: As you look at the body of your work, do you have a recommendation about which path or strategy works best?

CG: No, and the reason is that the best path is the one that suits you and is the best for the way your life is at present. You need to look at the three strategies and see what resources you have to make each one of them work. It’s not that you’re standing apart from your life and making a calculation. It’s thinking really hard about what you are okay with giving up and what matters to you at this stage in your life. A lot of times women have changed their strategy – it’s certainly not an issue of choosing one strategy for life.

SF: Which is the path that you chose?

CG: I chose Add and Delegate. My husband and I made it clear at the beginning of our marriage that we wanted an equal partnership. The partnership at home was very important for me to be able to add what I wanted when I wanted.

SF: Which of the people you interviewed to your estimation turned out to be the most gratified with their lives?

CG: Each of the three strategies had people who were thrilled, each of the strategies had a few people who weren’t thrilled, and each of these three strategies had a few people who ended up changing their strategy and making their life better. It’s a continual process of self-discovery.

Gersick is preparing a series of articles on women’s adult development, based on the life histories of 40 women leaders in business, social services, and the arts. She has also written a piece titled “Careers Outside the Narrow Path” for the Wharton Work-Life Integration Forum. To learn and read more about her research, please email BusinessRadio@siriusxm.com to be put in touch with Gersick.

Tune in to Work and Life on Tuesday, March 18 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Erica Dhawan (W’07), Founder and CEO of Cotential, about how to harness the power of people at work, and Allison Karl O’Kelly, Founder and CEO of Mom Corps, about women and work. Visit Work and Life for a schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences. 

 

Changing Work/Life Priorities for Wharton MBA Men

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

This week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with men from Wharton’s MBA program about their hopes and expectations for their future careers. Siddharth Shankar (WG’14) and David Ash (WG’15) discussed how demanding work schedules make it difficult for new college graduates to cultivate their personal lives outside their jobs

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Shankar and Ash:

Stew Friedman: We’re talking about the summer internships that students typically do between their first and second years. What’s the downside to a hundred hour work week?

Siddharth Shankar:Siddharth Shankar  I think there’s much more focus on the pros and cons than there was even a few years ago. I think back to my time as an undergrad.  My main considerations then were definitely different from how I evaluate my life now as a graduate student.

SF: What’s changed?

SS: I think as an undergrad all I cared about was maximizing income and maximizing experiences without caring too much about doing things outside of work that really matter to me. Now as I think about post-graduation and working, I put much more thought and effort into considering what I am going to be doing that makes me whole as a person.  That’s not something that really figured into the conversation before.

David Ash: I think that’s definitely right. Out of college, David Ashyou think of your first job, and you want to jump quickly to a great place. I think people didn’t really see that first job as something they would do forever so the goal was to get to that first stepping stone and see where you would go from there.

SF: So you guys didn’t think that when you graduated from college you would be working at the same company for 35 years and get the gold watch? That wasn’t your model?                                

DA: I didn’t think of it as a possibility or even an option. Most people our age assume they’re going to go to many different companies.

SF: Have your priorities shifted?

DA: Yes. I think in graduate school it’s different. You have work experience, you’ve gotten a little money, you’ve been in a job, and you’ve seen potentially how hard it can be to balance work and life. The job MBAs choose to pursue after graduation takes into consideration what they want to do for both the short-term and long-term. Many people are thinking about having families in the shorter-term, and that’s an important consideration for them as well.

SS: In my first job after undergrad, it seemed like there was a wide divide between the folks who seemed to be available for the team at all hours of the night versus those who partied at the end of every week and tended to slack. At the time, I kept questioning why these people were not as committed to work as I was – “I’m putting in 100 hours per week, why isn’t everyone doing the same?” My myopic viewpoint of just thinking about me, my work, and not anything outside of that probably led to that impression.

SF: Do you have the opposite view now?

SS: I think I’ve had much more of a reality check and seen that there are things that those individuals were thinking about at the time that I probably needed to be think about as well. I think my tolerance for allowing for and respecting people who make choices to prioritize things other than work has definitely increased since business school.

SF: How does that effect how both of you are thinking about what you’ll do next with your lives?

DA: I’m still thinking about what I want to do next, but I am saying to myself for the first time, “I want a valuable personal life.” The change is in thinking that there’s more to a job than just “where I can go from here?” and “how does this position me well?”

SS: One difference I see between the time when my dad was working and now is that most companies are realizing that employees who give their 100% at work and do not take care of anything outside of that for the bulk of their early careers become a liability at later stages in their employment.

SF: So there’s a long-term cost associated with the burnout?

SS: Absolutely. I think, especially in consulting firms, all the successful partners that I’ve seen are not the ones who seem to embody the values that I had as an analyst, but quite the opposite. They carved out time for their families, and they were very deliberate and open with the team, like, “Hey, I have to attend this particular concert that my daughter is giving, so we can’t do a call at that time.” I really respected them for that, and they have since become role models that I will try to emulate.

SF: Is that consistent with what you’ve seen, David? That the people who rise highest are those who have full and varied lives?

DA: Definitely. When I started in consulting, I had the perception that for these hard-charging businessmen, it’s all about business. They might have been divorced multiple times or spend very limited time with their kids. I was very surprised though that all the partners I saw were still married and had good relationships with their kids. I have no doubt they put in a lot of work to manage that.

SS: I also think companies are doing a much better job these days with that. I always think back to my dad’s company in India and how different his choices were than those I have now. For instance, I never saw my dad the entire week. I’d wake up at 8 in the morning to go to school, and he’d be out by then, and then I’d be asleep by 10 at night, and he’d come in after I went to bed. I’d only see him on Saturday when he didn’t go to work and also maybe on Sunday. Now, there are so many schemes at so many of these companies that are recruiting on campus. Some consulting firms even have this option called “take time” where they let you take two months off every year to just do whatever you want. They look at it as time for you to recharge and engage your entire self in an activity that you consider rewarding. They expect that you bring that new experience and learning with you when you come back to work, which I think is amazing.

Tune in to Work and Life on Tuesday, March 19 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Wharton alum Erica Dhawan, Author, Speaker, Founder and CEO of Cotential, and Allison Karl O’Kelly, Founder and CEO of Mom Corps. Visit Work and Life for a schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Make America a Better Version of Itself — Jerry Jacobs on Work and Life

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

In the second hour of Work and Life on February 25, Stew Friedman spoke with Jerry Jacobs, Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and founding President of the Work and Family Researchers Network. His research focuses on aspects of employment, including authority, earnings, working conditions, part-time employment, and work/family conflict, especially for women in the workplace. Friedman and Jacobs discussed differences in the challenges people face in work/life integration across countries and demographics, and how government should contribute to improving work/life conditions in America.

Stew Friedman: Tell us a bit about the Work and Family Researchers Network. What was the inspiration?

Jerry Jacobs: Jerry JacobsThe Network is an interdisciplinary, international scholarly association. When it was created, a small number of us signed up and said we would be the founding members, but we had no idea how big the audience was going to be. I wanted to make sure we had at least two or three hundred people at our first meeting, but the first meeting completely blew past our expectations. We had 800 scholars and researchers from 33 different countries join us in New York in June 2012. It was terrific – I had an email conversation with a British scholar, and she brought 11 people she knew from seven countries. It wasn’t a matter of me working day and night to generate interest – there was such a latent demand. It has been wonderful to see how much people have been learning from one another through the Network. Work/family issues are obviously different in Scandinavia than they are in the US; there are also differences by discipline, by approach, by personal versus business versus public policy issues.

SF: What are some of the important national differences you’ve observed from your perch as Executive Officer of the Network?

JJ: Social policies are very different across countries. The United States has a smaller welfare state than many other countries do; you can tell because the words “welfare state” don’t sound good in many people’s ears. A welfare state is a whole package of policies – not just about work and family, but about income security, job protections, early childhood education, provisions for the elderly. The US government is less involved in those things. It’s just different. Many people in the work/family area advocate stronger government involvement, but I think we have to be realistic and try to work at the margins with the traditions we have in the US to build in areas that are important. We’re not going to become Japan or Sweden or France. We have to be a better version of the United States as opposed to trying to copy what somebody else does.

SF:  What does it mean for America to be a better version of itself?

JJ: I think there are a lot of little things we can do, and I also think there are a lot of things that are happening in the work/family area already that are not always recognized as work/family policies. In New York City, for example, there’s a lot of discussion of early childhood education. That’s not on the list of work/family sessions we’re going to have at the next Work and Family Researchers Network conference, but in fact, early childhood education has a big impact on work/family. It enables women to go back to work earlier, to have more time to spend with their really young children, to level the playing field between parents who have more resources and parents who have fewer resources. So whether we’re talking about after-school programs, which were a major addition to the US landscape about a decade ago, or early childhood education, or various things happening in elder care, simple things would make a lot of difference. In France there’s something called l’école maternelle, which is early childhood education. It’s partly to improve the educational opportunities for children, but it’s also partly intended to be a policy that facilitates mothers going back to work. The connections with work/family are there, but when you hear, for example, Mayor de Blasio talking about these issues in New York City, he’s really been focused on the poverty and educational aspects and the question of who’s going to pay for it; it’s not labelled as a work and family policy.

SF: You’ve made a career in part investigating how these issues play out in different parts of the labor market. What’s been most interesting to you about the diversity of interests across different labor markets as people in those markets struggle with the question of how to integrate different parts of their lives?

JJ: So many people in this area focus on the issue of overwork – people having trouble getting everything done that they want to do, having long and demanding hours at the job, but also a lot of family responsibilities at home. But there’s another part of this story that doesn’t always get as much attention: underwork. A lot of people need more income than they have. Where a lot of affluent couples find themselves with both partners’ hours and work week very long, scrambling to keep everything together, a lot of people with less education, fewer job opportunities, and lower salaries and wages are looking for more work than they’re able to get. The work/family issue is not only about having enough time – it’s also about having enough financial and flexibility resources. For example, a lot of people in blue collar jobs can’t just take off the afternoon to go to a parent-teacher meeting. Part of that’s cultural, and part of that is technical aspects of their work. The highest priorities for many low-wage workers may be more job security and more economic opportunities.  A lot of low-wage workers work in the evenings, at nights and on weekends – it’s not only a matter of how many hours, but which hours. Working conflicting shifts is a very difficult challenge for families. I pass an overnight daycare center on my way to work every day, which is there to provide some childcare for parents who work in the evenings and overnight. Helping children with their homework has to happen in the evenings, getting the kids off to school has to happen in the mornings; that’s not necessarily the first thing that comes to people’s minds when we talk about work/family.

SF: What can we predict or expect for roles of men and women in society over the next couple of decades in terms of who plays what roles in the domestic world, the business world, and the social world?

JJ: One trend that seems pretty clear is that jobs are not as stable as they used to be. People have to be much more flexible over the course of their lives – they’re not going to have one job and inch their way up the corporate ladder over a 20 or 30 year period. There are people who are in those situations, but it’s just not the norm anymore. Jobs are dynamic, flexible, and uncertain. One of the things this underscores is the importance of a social safety net provided by the government. The notion of a “safety net” was Ronald Reagan’s way of describing social assistance for people; he wanted to emphasize that it was temporary and not a right or an entitlement, but there if you fall. As we move into an era where there is so much more instability in people’s lives, the metaphor of a safety net makes more and more sense.

I was just reading a book by Ruth Milkman and Eileen Applebaum, Unfinished Business: Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work/family Policy, which is an evaluation of California’s paid family leave policy. The United States’ Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but a lot of people are unable to take advantage of it because they can’t afford it. California has a more limited paid leave policy that supplements the national unpaid leave policy, with income replacement at 55% of the employee’s salary. It’s paid for by workers who contribute to a pot of basically insurance money. It’s not something employers wanted, but they found it very easy to adjust to, it was very popular among workers and made a really big difference in people’s lives. As we see evidence come in that these kinds of things are workable, practical, and don’t have a negative economic impact, we could build on them. There are two other states now moving in that direction on this issue, Rhode Island and New Jersey. That’s the kind of way in which things spread in our country – we try something in one city, and if it works, another city, and then a state, and if all goes well, we make some progress on a national scale. With any luck, we’ll have broader diffusion of this kind of policy.

Jerry Jacobs is the author of several books on work/family issues for demographics across America, including The Changing Face of Medicine: Women Doctors and the Evolution of Health Care Across America and Putting Poor People to Work: How the Work-First Idea Eroded College Access for the Poor. Visit his website for more information.

Join Work and Life on March 11 at 7 PM on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Alyssa Friede Westring and Ashley Milne-Tyte about how young professionals manage multiple roles in work and life, and how women navigate the workplace for success. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School.

Engage Your Personal Passions For Social Good

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

In the first hour of Work and Life on February 25, Stew Friedman spoke with Deika Morrison about finding the intersection between personal passions, social good, and business success. Morrison is a former Senator and Deputy Minister of Finance in Jamaica, her home country; she co-founded and now manages MDK Advisory & Consulting, a media and publishing company Moonstone Blue, and a non-profit Do Good Jamaica.

Following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us what inspired you to found Do Good Jamaica and to start the Crayons Count project to serve children in Jamaica.

Deika Morrison: DeikaThe inspiration for Do Good Jamaica started with a book drive. There’s a very big problem with our education system in Jamaica. Although we have a national library system that serves every community through branch libraries and mobile libraries, and there are reading programs for children, they didn’t have enough of the proper books. I thought, “Jamaicans love to break records – with Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, we have the fastest man and the fastest woman in the world – so if I say, ‘Let’s break a Guinness record,’ I’ll get tons of books.” It worked – the world record was 242,624 books raised in seven days; we smashed that in the first day, and ended up with 657,061books in seven days. I was so inspired by the hundreds of organizations and hundreds of thousands of individuals that participated. It was fascinating to see how everyone could focus on a single goal and get somewhere.

Later, I wrote a children’s book, and my publisher at the time said, “You have to change this part of the book because most children in Jamaica don’t have crayons.” It turned out there were lots of things children in pre-school – which we call basic school in Jamaica – did not have. If they don’t have those materials – crayons among many other things – they are developmentally behind. I thought that was crazy, and said, “We just got 657,000 books – how hard can it be to ask for some crayons?” So for the last two years, we have sent a box of materials to every one of Jamaica’s 2600 preschools with 14 categories of recommended, developmental tools – crayons, books, play dough, puzzles, blocks, glue sticks, paint, paint brushes, paper, puppets, all sorts of things. We have also had an advocacy partnership with The Gleaner and a teaching training partnership with the US Embassy in Jamaica. We have a “learning lorry” – a renovated truck – that we use as a mobile classroom to train 60 -72 teachers each week. We break down the curriculum into plain English and encourage teachers to think about how to use the learning tools we’ve provided in order to meet curriculum objectives. I’m now working on a pilot project with 50 preschools to ramp up support even more, to include more teaching training, administrator training, materials, nutrition and health, everything.

SF: Have you had to ask people for help?

DM: Of course! I’ve had amazing friends and colleagues, and everybody felt empowered. Every single person involved is important to me. For the Guinness World Record book drive, if you give one book, you’re the difference between 657,060 and 657,061 books.

SF: You helped people see how they were contributing to a greater good, and that is the essence of what leadership is about. It’s a remarkable story. How has this affected your business life?

DM: My business life has gone very well because of it. I live in a small country, where the people you’re working with in the book drive are the same people you’re doing business with in the private sector. This is true of small communities everywhere in the world. We have shared interests, so there are people I do business with now whom I met through one of my many activities doing something for children. And I didn’t do it through “networking” the way networking is taught. I was trying to solve a problem, and in doing that, I included others and asked for their help. Out of that I’ve made a lot of friendships and business relationships. It’s just like people who play sports together. I love golf, and I know a lot of deals are cut on the golf course. I would encourage anybody who wants to do well in their business life to do other things, too, because it works.

SF: What advice would you have for people who want to make social action more a part of their lives?

DM: One of the things that really stayed with me about Total Leadership is that you can’t try to be four different people in your work, home, community, and self. You need to be one person for whom everything is interrelated. People look at my life and think I’m doing 100,000 things, and yes, I’m doing 100,000 things, but they actually all relate to each other in some way. I’m passionate about children. I’m also very passionate about Jamaica and about living in a country that’s becoming a better place. I would say the highlight of my time as a senator was working on education and legislation to protect children. It’s very important to me to try to make my worlds collide in that way. What I do with Jamaica is related to the children because the children are in Jamaica. My media company, Moonstone Blue, currently promotes Red Stripe (a famous Jamaican beer), Usain Bolt, and Bob Marley – those individuals were once Jamaican children. If you invest in them early, who knows who’s going to make the next Red Stripe?

If I were giving advice to others, I would tell people to start with themselves. Sit down and really reflect on what makes you happy, what is important to you, what gets you going. Suppose your passion is elderly people – you can say, “Who is in my family?” Start there, at home. Then take the experiences that worked at home to the local community center, and help some people there. It starts with what is important to you.

Deika Morrison holds undergraduate degrees in Environmental Systems and Finance from The University of Pennsylvania and The Wharton School, a Master’s degree in Engineering from Harvard, and an MBA from The Wharton School.  Follow her on Twitter @deikamorrison and on Do Good Jamaica’s blog.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, March 11 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Alyssa Friede Westring and Ashley Milne-Tyte about how young professionals manage multiple roles in work and life, and how women navigate the workplace for success. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School. 

Creating Four-Way Wins: Total Leadership Alumni on Work & Life

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Friedman speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On February 18, Friedman spoke with Total Leadership alumni about how the lessons have enriched their lives since they completed the course. The purpose of the Total Leadership model is to improve performance in all four domains of life: work, home, community, and self by following these principles to create mutual value among them:

  • Be Real – act with authenticity by clarifying what’s important
  • Be Whole – act with integrity by respecting the whole person
  • Be Innovative – act with creativity by continually experimenting

In the first hour of Work and Life, Friedman spoke with four Total Leadership alumni about how following the principles of Total Leadership has allowed them to lead richer, more satisfying lives.

Richard Meene, David Tucker, Goshin Mizuno and Matt Jennings

Following are edited excerpts of the conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: How do you manage to do the things that are important to you as a husband, as a father, and as an effective manager?

Rich Meene: Richard MeeneTrying to figure out how to allocate our scarcest resource – time – is a challenge. I think one of the ways I juggle it all is to continually step back to self-reflect – take a look at the situation, engage with those people I care about, and ask for their opinion. Both with my job and with my household, I think we’ve established a habit of honest and intentional communication.

SF: You took the Total Leadership course here at Wharton three years ago – what are the lessons that stayed with you that you still use today?

RM: I continue to use the program to figure out who are the major stakeholders, what are the different pieces of my life, where am I over-delivering and under-delivering, and what types of experiments can I design to figure out how to put things in better alignment. For example, I noticed that people stopped responding at 6 PM, so instead of staying until 9 PM, I cut work at the office off at 6 and head home while my family is still awake to spend some time with my wife and kids. Then, when my family goes to bed, I go back and put in that additional time. This experiment has allowed me to reorganize my time to fulfill other domains of my life while still accomplishing the same amount of work. I was able to spend more time with my kids which made me happy, I was able to spend more time with wife which made her happy, and I was still able to meet the requirements of my job – all without getting frustrated that I wouldn’t be home on time. It was a multiple-way win for sure.

David Tucker: David TuckerTotal Leadership really teaches you how to define what success means to you. In the path leading up to becoming a Wharton undergraduate, the next step is always prescribed for you – here’s what you have to do to advance to the next level, here’s what you have to do to get a certain mark in a class. The hurdles are very clear. I found myself after graduation in a highly coveted management consulting job where, again, the hurdles are very clear. But at some point, because I had done all this introspection and all this work in Total Leadership, I realized that those benchmarks weren’t the benchmarks by which I wanted to use to measure my own success. I realized that I was stressing out about benchmarks that don’t actually matter to the people who matter most to me. So I started to think, “How can I change this situation so that I’m able to live a life that’s successful by my own terms?” I started by clarifying what risks I was willing to take. I struck out on a new job hunt, and instead of taking the job that seemed like a continuation of the path that I was already on, I ended up interviewing in the marketing field, which felt better aligned with my values. I knew that even if this choice was going to decrease my long-term earning potential, this was a place where I could feel successful based on how I define success.

SF: Rich, how do you think about success? How does success in certain parts of your life affect the other parts?

RM: In thinking from the perspective of a 15-year plan, I try to think less about what specific job I want in 15 years or where I want to live. It’s more about what I hope to have achieved living by my principles. If I’ve followed through on my principles – like successfully raising my kids and being a good husband – then that is success for me.

SF: David, what is it that you look to as you think about the next stage in your life and career?

DT: When I changed careers from the job that I initially had out of college, my partner elected to make a career change as well and is now preparing to enter medical school in the fall. That’s going to require me to have a conversation with my bosses about either changing the office that I work in or how frequently I come into the office. The Total Leadership principles have equipped me to have that conversation when the time comes. One of the tools I’m going to try to think about is how to define this change and how it might be beneficial for the people that I work with. If I can show them that I can meet all their demands even if I’m not physically present in the New York office every day, then everyone can still be happy with the end outcome, and I will still be bringing my full self to work every day.

SF: That’s exactly what I mean by four-way wins. You’re entering the conversation thinking about how this change, which is clearly good for you, your partner, and perhaps for other parts of your life, like friends and the local community, is also a benefit for your employer. How did you develop a greater sense of confidence and power in being able to adjust things to suit your needs?

DT: I think a lot of that comes back to defining who are the truly important people in your life and what you need to do to serve them and make them happy. When you are confident that the move you’re making is the right move to serve those critically important people, it’s hard to feel like that’s the wrong move.

SF: Goshin, Matt, how has Total Leadership helped you tackle the major challenges that you face in integrating the different parts of your life?

Goshin Mizuno: Goshin MizunoBefore Total Leadership, I felt passionate all the time but I didn’t know why I was passionate or what my purpose was. I found that I was aggressively and ambitiously looking for results rather than engaging with the stakeholders in the four domains in my life. After learning Total Leadership, I now feel like I have a gyroscope that tells me where my center of gravity is.

Matt Jennings: Matthew JenningsTotal Leadership has allowed me to have many different conversations with the key important people – the stakeholders – and one of the things that I’ve learned is that you have to approach different relationships in different ways. Some of the changes you want to make may be more immediate but for the longer-term changes, if you can define what you want your life to look like, then you can start working backwards and plant the seeds for a better solution in the future.

SF: We talk a lot in our course about small wins and the power of taking steps within your control to build towards a bigger vision. Goshin, how have your conversations with people that matter most to you helped you be more aware of the other parts of your life and become more purposeful?

GM: Engaging in dialogue with my stakeholders has allowed me to start understanding what they care about most. Before pushing my goals onto my colleagues in the workplace, I try to understand their goals and interests so I can be more respectful and considerate. Although I can’t touch the king in the first chess move, I can use my voice and my delivery to gradually start building trustworthy relationships. Before Total Leadership, I was always trying to solve the problem individually, but now, after Total Leadership, I delegate more of my responsibilities and goals.

SF: Matt, how have the stakeholder dialogues you’ve had given you more confidence?

MJ: Before the dialogue, I thought, “This person’s expectations of me are X, Y, and Z and that’s completely related to my job.” However, when I got into the conversation, I was surprised when they said none of the things that I had listed and, in fact, mentioned expectations that matched much more closely with what I had hoped. This conversation served as a great foundation for us to continue to grow our relationship, and it’s even helped create a new opportunity for me at work that doesn’t require as much travel as I’d been currently doing. So it’s a real win for the company, it’s a win for me in the career-sense, and it’s also a great benefit in the other areas of my life to be able to spend more time with my family, my friends, and myself.

SF: What a great example of a four-way win that blossomed out of a conversation with someone you identified as being important to your future about what matters to each of you. What I find with many clients and students is that they are afraid to have this conversation. What is it that’s terrifying about this conversation?

MJ: One, it’s the unknown. Two, it’s putting yourself out there. So many of us in the workplace and/or in our personal relationships don’t want to rock the boat, but sometimes you have to break some glass in order to build something new. And you have to do that in the context of understanding who are the important people in your life and what risks you are willing to take in order to better serve those people and yourself.

SF: Goshin, how did you discover your capacity to have these dialogues? What was the most important lesson you learned to be able to more effectively see the world through other people’s eyes?

GM: In my case, I know I can be a perfectionist, and sometimes it’s a disturbance to other people. By making minor adjustments to my attitude, I have reached an even higher level of achievement. I think that being humble – showing respect to others and praising their strengths while admitting my own weaknesses – has allowed me to bring others closer.

David Tucker received his undergraduate degree from Wharton in 2009 and is currently Vice President of Global Intelligence at UM Worldwide where he is responsible for conducting global research and serving as a thought leadership editor supporting UM’s “Curiosity Works” brand proposition. Follow David on Twitter @tuckerda where he tweets about his work (media, advertising, research) and passions (travel, travel, more travel, books, and personal finance).

Rich Meene received his MBA from Wharton in 2011 and has worked for the accounting firm PwC LLP since 2001, where he is now a Director. Rich works with Boards of Directors and executive management teams on projects involving corporate investigations, regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, process improvement, organizational change management and strategic planning. To learn more about his professional practice, visit the PwC forensics consulting page.

Goshin Mizuno received his MBA here at Wharton and is a Global Nomad, having traveled and lived in different environments, cultures and social regimes. He is originally from Tokyo but has spent nearly two decades outside of Japan.

Matt Jennings received his MBA in 2012 and is the Vice President of Program Management for the Construction, Transportation & Industrial Global Business Unit of De Lage Landen Financial Services, Inc.

Visit the Forum this Saturday for the second segment of Friedman’s conversation with Total Leadership Alumni, Sean O’Reilly, Eugene Lebedev and Judith Duval.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, March 4 at 7 PM on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Connie Gersick, Visiting Scholar at Yale’s School of Management abouthow women can implement three strategies to “have it all” and male Wharton students, David Ash (WG ’15), Siddharth Shankar (WG ’14), Vikram Madan (WG ’15), and Ben Shephard (WG ’14), about how today’s businessmen see their future work and family lives. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author:

Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences. 

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