Work-Life Balance

Transition with Ease and Grace. 3 Powerful Coaching Questions to Ask Yourself

golden gate cloudyOne of my potential clients is going through a major transition and called me to inquire about executive coaching.

She is a new mother of 15 month twin girls and is having a tough time balancing her work and personal life.  After working in a senior role for 15 years in a major company, she felt compelled to put in her resignation.  She needed time to rethink her career, finances, and family life and hopefully find a family friendly employer.  She is now in the process of winding down and closing this chapter of her life.

Transition times are tough and can be very stressful.  There is a sense of loss, maybe some humiliation, and a lot of anxiety about the unknown future.  There is also a tinge of excitement and anticipation about creating something new.

You may find yourself in the midst of a major transition.  Here are some coaching questions that could help you during these times.

  1. As you go through this process, notice how you are feeling.  Label it and acknowledge your feelings of the moment.  Do not judge or make this feeling wrong.  Whatever you are feeling is yours and you are entitled to this. Notice the change in your feelings as the transition progresses.  Do not be alarmed if it gets tougher before it gets better.
  2. Notice your thoughts.  What would you like your team and colleagues to remember about you?  What would you like your transition theme to be?
  3. Who are you being throughout all this process?   I’ve been through several transitions throughout my career and continue to do so during my encore career.  We moved 17 times and lived in 3 continents, all transitions have been very stressful, some more than others.  I have a theme or mantra that helped me tremendously whenever I am in transition and that is — “Move with Ease and Grace”.  I meditate on these words every spare moment I have and it never fails to center me.  It keeps me calm and greatly influences how I behave.

Transitions are wonderful, they give us hope, enable us to change to have a better life.  When I think of my major transitions, I was fortunate to have a coach guide me through it.  My coach helped make a cloudy and foggy journey clearer and certainly made me aware when I have reached my destination.

Defining Your Non-negotiables, Part 4: Is it about child care or is it about my job?

work life balanceAnother non-negotiable for high achieving women is ensuring that they have the best child care available when they go back to work.  This was the case for Lynda Kitamura, Chief Financial Officer.

When Lynda’s first born was 3 ½ months, her baby started sleeping well. Lynda brought in a nanny and felt comfortable that this arrangement would be good for her child. In the meantime, her company was introducing a new platform that was both exciting and challenging to her and she wanted to be part of this change.

Lynda was able to go back to work feeling entirely comfortable with her choice. It was not a burden to get back to work, and she did not feel any pressure making the decision; it was simply a case where her daughter started sleeping well at night and she found a terrific nanny.

She harbored no guilt, because she felt like she had  a choice and was not doing something wrong. It’s not that she did not have fears—fears like the children would prefer to be with their nanny or their father rather than her. But she kept her relationships with her children strong, and that fear did not materialize. In fact, her children fondly recall how fun it was to go to work with her on some weekends with their crayons and snacks.  In spite of this, she prepared herself for this possibility and was willing to accept the consequences if this happened. The preparation and acceptance of the consequences of her choices empowered her to proactively manage a tough situation.

To keep herself going, she focused on the good and acknowledges what she feels really bad about or could feel bad about. This keen awareness of her feelings guided her priorities – what she scheduled, how she spent her time, and she tried to avoid anything that would make her feel bad. For example, she did not miss a birthday or an important school event—this was part of her priorities.

Achieving this priority entailed careful planning and communication with her managers ahead of time. She feels fortunate to have had understanding managers throughout her career. It is important to be clear in communicating what you want to your manager: “This is a very important date and I need to be there.”  When she respectfully makes these requests, she found out that her managers are equally respectful.

Some working women fear speaking up for family or personal needs because it might reflect negatively on them. Based on Lynda’s experience, it is probably not going to be as bad as they think it will be. This is where she thinks parents feel guilt or suffer quietly. For Lynda, avoiding feeling bad is the balance, the compromise of balancing work and personal life.

Ask yourself questions like: Why am I doing this? Is it important? Is it healthy? Do I care about my children? Absolutely! Is this a reasonable request? Are they safe and cared for? And how much of this is me and my ego, vs are they truly going to be ok?

Could it be that those who feel really bad about working and unable to achieve balance, really do not want to work? Or are not happy with their work and they prefer to be at home? There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay at home, but it is really important to recognize the distinction – Is this something I’m really worried about for my child or is this something about myself?

Asking these tough questions help you get to the bottom of what’s really bothering you about being a working mom. Some working moms choose to blame the company, the government, the system, their boss. Taking honest ownership of how one feels about their children’s care and how much they love their job are the more important questions. Finding the appropriate care support system for your family eventually pays off. You will have peace of mind and can focus better on your work.

Being clear of her priorities is key to Lynda’s work life success.  She loves her job and gets fulfilled in her career.  She loves her family and her children’s growth and development is very important to her.  With her priorities and non-negotiables clearly set, Lynda found a way to make multiple priorities work.  Lynda is a high achieving woman.

Do you know a high achieving woman?  Describe what she is doing.

 

Define Your Non-negotiables Part 3: Career Flexibility

work life balanceWe have been discussing the importance of setting priorities and non-negotiables for work life success.  Having a set of priorities helps us make choices.  Being clear with our non-negotiables, free us from stress and indecision.  We realign our priorities as our lives and needs change.

An important non-negotiable for high achieving women is career flexibility.  This is the ability to be fully present at home when needed while having a career that supports your personal needs.

Georgia Smith, corporate executive and one of the women I interviewed for my forthcoming book – You Can Be It All, Secrets of High Achieving Women (current working title), was able to achieve career flexibility, working full time while raising her son.

Georgia always knew that she was going to be a working mom even before she got married.  Georgia and her husband discussed what they would be willing to do for each other’s career and where they will live.  While her husband was raised in the East Coast,USA, his preference is to work and live in the West Coast. They knew that they may have to pass up advancement opportunities by making this decision.  Georgia did not regret this decision. She knew that she would forego  making a lot more money and would take longer to get to executive ranks, but it was more important to her that she felt good about the positive contribution that she was making at work, still made good money and lived comfortably close to her extended family.  The ego was probably the only thing impacted by these non-negotiables and this was not an issue with her.

When she had her son, she had the classic struggle of all working women: “How can I be a full-time mom and a full-time professional and give everything needed to both, without short changing either?”.  Her husband traveled most of the time, so balancing childcare and her own career demands rested primarily on her.  She was fortunate to be able to explore different roles within a company that recognized her skills and potential.  When she  wanted to have flexible hours, she decided to stay in the same company and changed  to field work.

Georgia’s non negotiable is career flexibility. While her son was young, she benefited from a flexible schedule on the road as a Sales Account Manager. She had the ability to be in the field and would take the time to watch her son’s sporting events.  As her son moved to high school, she decided to finish her college education.  They had dinner together every night to catch up on their day and studied together after dinner.  As her son moved on to college she shifted to a regional role and was able to do more travel.

She considers herself fortunate to be have a career that met her personal needs and did not give anybody less than they deserved.  Her son is now an accomplished lawyer with his own family and never felt short-changed having a full-time working mom.  He remembers that she was with him for all the important moments in his life.  

Georgia’s non-negotiable, career flexibility, enabled her to be the best mom that she can be while achieving career success.  Georgia is a high achieving woman.  Do you know a high achieving woman?  What is she doing?  What is your non-negotiable and how has it served your needs?

 

Define Your Non-negotiables, Align Your Priorities Part 2

woman working w familyA couple of months ago, I blogged about the importance of defining your priorities and aligning them with your non-negotiables to achieve work life success.  At that time, I was building my own business and set my priorities as: God, Self, Business, Husband, Children in this order.

These priorities helped me focus on my business launch and I’m very pleased with my results.  Since I placed myself as Second, I was able to schedule daily hot yoga on my calendar and attended this religiously about 5 times a week on average.  Not bad, am very happy with the results.  I learned more about eating heathy, tried to get in more sleep, scheduled girlfriend time and vacation time . I was able to maintain my weight loss and generally feel very good and healthy.

I told my husband that he was in fourth place and he didn’t seem to mind. He likes to do his own thing, so we went about living our lives doing our own thing.  Our children are all young adults with full lives living in the East Coast.  We talked weekly over skype or text almost daily, so I feel I am very involved in their lives despite the distance.

While I am very pleased with the results of my priorities, life evolves and happens.  Our eldest daughter got a job here in Silicon Valley and together with her husband, moved in with us.  We are proud expectant grandparents for our very first grandchild in December.  I also sensed that my husband and I no longer spend good quality time together.

I realize it is time to realign my priorities with my non-negotiables!.  So I am flipping Business and Husband.  I think I”ll learn how to play golf.  I’m still keeping God and Self in the same position and I have a strong suspicion that come December, Grandchild will take over the top slot.

Aligning your priorities and your non-negotiables with what you want to have in your life is such a liberating thing to do.  It’s amazing to see how the results become exactly what you ask for.  The good news is we can shift them, observe and see if these priorities enable us to live our ideal lives.

What are your priorities? Are you satisfied with how these results are showing up in your life? Feel free to reorder and change them as your situation changes.

You Deserve a Real Vacation

happy woman on the beachSummer is over, labor day weekend just passed and several of my friends and colleagues, including myself, are just coming back from vacation.  Annually, we spend hard-earned money and limited time to go on “on-demand vacations” but do we reap all the benefits of our vacation?  Do we have positive vacation ROI?  We strategically secure the dates, research and book the trips, ensure wi-fi is available, pack as much as we can into limited luggages, leave our work in good hands and off we go, …do we really go?

While on vacation we check our smart phone and email, take a couple of calls, try to relax and unwind for the first two days then start to feel sad towards the end as we gear ourselves to go back to work.

Like you, I’ve taken many vacations throughout my life, however, am not sure I’ve done all of them well.  If there was a vacation grade, I probably flunked it, or got a C. I was not fully present for all my vacations. I was thinking of work or actually working and deprived myself of much-needed time off.  Am not going to discuss the benefits of taking time off, you already know that.  But how can we prevent  ourselves from falling into the trap of taking a working vacation and really reap the benefits of a vacation?  How often have we heard the phrase – “I need a vacation from my vacation”?

  1. Whether you choose to stay at home or travel to a foreign location, try your very best to unplug from work, or at the very least, unplug from email.  Email has a way of eating up your time and before you know it, you’re back on work mode.  It takes time to unwind, so don’t cheat yourself by going back to work mode and starting the unwinding process all over again.
  2. Do nothing and slow down.  We cram our vacation with activities that sometimes leave us exhausted or drained.  Try resting and relaxing your brain, this will enable new bursts of inspiration, creativity and energy.
  3. Keep your physical energy up through your daily exercise routine.  This may sound contradictory from Doing Nothing.  But physical energy creates positive feelings that nourish the brain and make you feel good. Whether it is walking, running, golf, yoga or zumba, continue your regular exercise routine while on vacation.
  4. Do activities that feed your soul.  Give something – whether it is your time, donate old books or clothes, share a meal, listen to a friend, send positive vibes or give someone the benefit of the doubt.  Kind acts fill our souls and give us a lightness in spirit enabling us to face our reality with a fresh perspective.

If you take care of your mind, your body and your soul while on vacation, you will find yourself truly enjoying your time off, no matter where you are, no matter what you do.  Enjoy your next vacation, you deserve it.

Define Your Non-negotiables, Align Your Priorities Part 1

woman working w familyWe create priorities all the time, shift and reorder them as needed.  Non-negotiables are those that are the top of your priorities, you fight for and keep them no matter what.

As you schedule your day and make decisions and choices, observe if your priorities are aligned with your non-negotiables.

My friend Lynda developed a very successful executive global career in Finance without the need to relocate out of the Toronto area.  It was important for her to be close to her family, keep her children in the same school while she took red-eye flights and worked all hours to accommodate multiple time zones.  Her non-negotiable is not relocating out of Toronto.

Georgia chose to live in Southern California and declined promotional roles that required relocation.  She instead chose to change careers.  She had a role in field sales with flexible time while her son was younger and moved to human resources with less travel when he got older.

As I look back at our family life & career, we have moved 17 times, across 3 continents over the course of our 30+ years marriage.  We relocated for promotional job opportunities, with a supportive husband, 3 children and my in-laws.  I love my career and chose to stay with it.  My marriage is my non-negotiable.

Aligning priorities with non-negotiables are important for work life success.  They are not easy to hold up and adhere to all the time, but they strengthen over time.

Are your non-negotiables clearly defined? Are your priorities aligned with what you say they are and how you choose to spend your time?

 

8 Items that need to be on your plate. If you add more, you need to remove some.

buffet

 

One of the fantastic women I interviewed for my book on work life success, Kimberly Foss, told me that a professional woman’s life is similar to a buffet plate.  Everything looks good and as you go through the buffet table you keep on piling up food.  The problem is our plate size is limited, so some things need to be removed from our plate before we can add-on more.

How many of us are living our day-to-day life with overflowing plates?  It is not only unhealthy, it is also difficult to digest.  We have work commitments, care for our spouses & children, do countless household chores, travel, manage our finances & try to keep ourselves healthy.  For women, it’s mostly our downtime and eventually our health that suffers, while we desperately try to do all things and have it all.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by trying to have it all?  Instead of living life with an overflowing and unhealthy plate, perhaps it would be good to take some time out and visualize what’s on your plate.  It is never too late to take things off your plate.  This can be done once you are clear on your priorities.  Priorities change, so it is totally fine to coach yourself to reorder them periodically as needed.

I like to visualize my full life as a full plate with the following categories which I prioritize depending on my situation.

  1. Spiritual Life or centeredness
  2. Health & Fitness
  3. Financial Management
  4. Family & Relationships
  5. Child &/or Elder Care
  6. Career or Business
  7. Fun and recreational activities
  8. Housework or maintenance work

I like to regularly assess where I am on each of these areas and adjust accordingly.  During my corporate life, most of my time was committed to work, with very little time left for fun and recreational activities.  The awareness of how unbalanced my plate looked was enough for me to make some simple changes like walking regularly.  Eventually walking was not enough and I took on a more intense cardio and flexibility workout, I discovered and eventually got hooked to hot yoga.  It was not only a healthy workout; I enjoyed what it did to my health and overall wellbeing.

When I needed to add something to my plate, something needed to be given up.  It either goes off the list, gets outsourced or delegated.   Several years ago, as my career took off and travel increased, my husband picked up managing our day-to-day budget.  It was not easy for me to give this up, but I noticed my stress levels decreased as he ramped up managing our finances.  Years later, I am glad we made this shift; he became so good at managing our budget & investments that I was able to retire from my corporate life as soon as our youngest daughter graduated from college.  As my career took an even bigger portion of my plate, finances, gardening and cooking moved over to my husband’s plate.  He’s a much better cook anyway and loves to garden.

What’s on your plate?  What can you move out?

 

The Balance Myth by Teresa Taylor

Just finished reading this book, it is honest, real, vulnerable, love it!  This is how women in the workplace with families can succeed, allowing themselves to be who they really are so they can use their intellect and talents in all aspects of their lives.  Congratulations Teresa!  http://www.thebalancemythbook.com

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