Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Time


FountainBlue’s February When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a panel of such highly-evolved women, women who are powerful and effective, yet grounded and real and practical. In this conversation, they stimulated to our minds, inspired our hearts and spoke to our souls.
Our panelists encouraged us to have realistic objectives of what we want in life, at work, at home, and to set boundaries and expectations and communicate them in partnership with those who are affected by our decisions. So it’s not having being SuperWoman, having it all, *all* the time, it’s more about choosing when to be SuperMom, SuperLeader, SuperWife, SuperFriend, and engaging 100% in that objective at the moment.
This may involve leveraging resources to ensure that you focus fully on the people and objective at the time. It may involve changing your own definition of what’s good enough. It may involve making a plan, but rolling with whatever happens despite your plan, because life generally interferes with your plans!
Our panelists encouraged us to make proactive, considered choices in our life, and then sticking to those choices, parking the guilt, while constantly monitoring whether the choices you’re making still work for you and others involved.
They continually remarked on the importance of surrounding yourself both at work and at home with people who make you be more efficient, partner with you on shared goals, make you feel good at the perfections and imperfections of you. These people in your close network will help you navigate the fuzzy line between work and home, and support you as you navigate those lines, making you and the whole team more effective overall.
Our panelists specifically cautioned about the toxic people in our lives who just don’t bring us energy, who look down on us, or make us feel less good than we do. They may be good and well-intentioned, but this type of negative energy is draining and unnecessary.
Another common theme was the emphasis on being the best *you* you can be, without constantly comparing yourself to others, without meeting the media-introduced ideal of ‘perfection’, a perfection which is plastic and hollow at best, and beyond achievement for just about everyone.
When the theme of having children came up, we had many enlightened and considered perspectives. We got the advice to wait until you accomplished some professional goals to the opposite extreme of getting the kids out of the way. But the message was do what’s right for you, what works for you and your objectives and your value set, without the guilt and judgments.
One of the questions raised was about making the time to do something for yourself. Our panelists each stated the importance of doing this, something most people put last, and said that if you don’t take care of yourself, it is so much more difficult to take care of everything else. But everyone gets energized in different ways, so consider first what energizes you and keeps you going forward, juggling everything in front of you, and poised to take on more, while enjoying what you have (in doses).
Our panelists gained their experience and wisdom through real-life choices and experiences. Whether it’s additional managerial responsibilities, a birth or death in the family, an opportunity for a bigger, more comfortable house and materials goods, an opportunity to move closer to family, or other circumstances, the stories these women shared were a direct result of the choices they made and the reasons for these choices, and how these choices impacted their lives, and the choices available going forward.
Below are some ideas they had for working toward that work-life integration:
• Know what really matters to you and those dear to you and keep your objectives focused on what really matters.
• Consider bartering with others in your network.
• Don’t try to do it all yourself – engage the spouse and kids at home.
• Find a way to be calm and centered.
• Have realistic, yet high expectations.
• Act and think and work with intentionality. If you know precisely what you want and why and plan accordingly, you are so much more likely to move in that direction!
• Consider working with corporate for flexible time and hours, or just your management and team to set expectations about deliverables, not about specific hours worked.
• Plan for what you can predict then work with the ebbs and flows. And for goodness sakes, enjoy the ebbs, don’t add more to your plate during those ebbs!
• Be clear on your choices and manage any guilt you might have, knowing that you made a considered, measured choice.
• Try compartmentalizing your guilt and decide to park it until late, negotiate with yourself on when you can feel guilty.
• Watch your attitude and the way you set up dichotomies; try not to make it an either-or, or a this versus that, but a blend of both, a new possibility and perspective even.
• Be proactive and plan things out, but don’t freak out if it doesn’t work according to plan. Be happy and confident with the plan; don’t second-guess it or feel guilty because of it!
• Always have open, honest communication with spouse and employers.
• Know your value and what you won’t compromise on, and stick with them as a high priority.
• Fire that guilt voice, but listen and invite the voice of feedback from your trusted circle.
• It’s not easy, and it shouldn’t feel easy. Celebrate little successes and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, even if it didn’t quite fit that master plan!
• Take the words of Mother Theresa, and trust that you are where you were meant to be.
• Build that circle of friends, role models and supporters, sponsors at work.
• Don’t plan your career based on what *might* happen in your life.

• The documentary Miss Representation, by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and aired on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.
• The report Award-Winning Career Timelines In Computer Science and Engineering from the Anita Borg Institute http://anitaborg.org/award-winning-career-timelines/ This report provides a biographies of a variety of successful technical women whose careers can serve as a touch point and model for other women working in technology. http://www.missrepresentation.org/

The bottom line is that our panelists encourage us to live an integrated life based on our passions, values, abilities and desires, without looking at the judgments imposed on us by others, and surrounding ourselves with the people and resources to help us make it so.
FountainBlue’s February 10 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times, and featured:
Facilitator Melissa McDonell, Brand Voice Marketing Consulting
Panelist Gina Diaz, Director, License Management Services (LMS) Group, Oracle
Panelist Irena Halsey, Director Women’s Initiative, eBay
Panelist Jane Helfen, Director, Human Resources, Huawei
Panelist Shilpa Kolhatkar, Engineering Manager, Cisco
Panelist Cheryl Miller, Sr. Director, Product Management, Symantec
Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at Symantec.

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