Creating Culture Change Requires Courage and Hope
A guest post from Jessica DeGroot, ThirdPath’s founder and president.
What keeps the ThirdPath community moving forward? Learning from and being inspired by the amazing moms, dads and leaders who have gone ahead and asked for change – even when they’ve had to be the first to do so. Since founding ThirdPath I’ve learned that connecting to this courageous community has made us smarter, it’s also fostered my sense of hope. What derails the progress we are all working towards? Losing hope, and losing courage.
- Previous positive experiences around work-life integration – so even if you are failing at the moment – you stay motivated to keep making changes to achieve integration once again
- Strong support at home, including someone who keeps encouraging you to reach for an integrated solution, even if it means leaving an unsupportive workplace
- Seeking out role models who inspire you that integration can be achieved
- Taking time to recharge and replenish your energy so you can overcome the next obstacle
As Peter Senge taught us long ago (see info graphic on right), when people maintain hope around what’s possible, it helps them avoid lowering their goals, it also helps them discover new and more creative solutions.
Why do I know this better today? Because of how personally challenging this past year has been.
I have always believed there is a “win-win” answer around work-life integration. However, this year, as I balanced my leadership role at ThirdPath with the unexpected and all-consuming demands of elder care, it taught me that some years we will fall short of this goal. Sometimes life will demand more of us, and work will need to take a back seat.
If you think it’s gotten easier for leaders to integrate work and life since ThirdPath was founded, think again.
Here’s why my experience this past year reinforced these lessons:
- Creating a high performing team that supports everyone’s work-life integration goals is the best way a leader can achieve work-life integration themselves
- Creating a team like this is harder than you think, especially in a chronically overworked workplace
- Unpredictability – like what I experienced around elder care – makes planning much more challenging
- Unpredictability and lack of time for thinking and planning is an increasing problem in chronically overworked workplaces
- When leaders don’t have time to think and plan, they give up hope of improving their own work-life integration, as well as their drive to think more creatively with their teams around these issues
Given these truths, should we be surprised that so many leaders give up hope, lower their goals, and let work take over their nights, weekends and even vacations?
I know there is a better way. I know supporting leaders to model integrated lives is key to change. However, this year also taught me to more fully appreciate how the road to work-life integration may feel pretty hopeless for too many leaders, and how this hopelessness might be an unexpected obstacle to change.
How do you renew hope? Find support. Take time to recharge. Recommit to your goals … AND listen to the amazing conversation I had with Brigid Schulte about this exact issue. I promise it will renew your hope that change is possible.
Another option? Join one of our Overwhelm Mitigation Groups. Let us help you learn how to set win-win boundaries at work, so you can have more time and energy for life.
Making the Impossible Possible
When Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” went viral in 2012, we immediately recognized adding “men and women” to each of her 5 mandates summarized ThirdPath’s mission. These mandates are also at the root of making “the impossible possible” – supporting a new appraoch to careers and family that doesn’t force people to choose between the two.
During our 2018-2019 Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar season we explored each mandate. We also added a sixth mandate – Men and Women Creating Win-Win Boundaries. Check out the May and June webinars, they also demonstrate how this is a key ingredient for supporting men and women to share things at home.
She also argues, “It’s time for CEO’s, supervisors, and team leaders to assume that the experience of caregiving… helps people become more efficient, and develop knowledge, patience, adaptability to different rhythms, honesty, courage, trust, humility, and hope.”
To learn more about her revolutionary vision, listen to our YouTube recording of the Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar with her.
We’ve also included a recap of the mandates below. Reading them, you’ll quickly see why putting these mandates into action helps make the impossible possible.
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Mandates for Change:
Redefining Work, Careers and Family
Men and Women Changing the Culture of Face Time – This is at the root of ThirdPath’s work; encouraging men and women – at any point in their careers – to look for the unique flexibility in their jobs. Not every job can be flexed in the same way, but there is a flexible solution for every job.
NEW – Men and Women Creating Win-Win Boundaries – Following an integrated approach to work and life means learning how to set win-win boundaries, otherwise flex becomes working days, nights, weekends and vacations. However, doing this requires making choices – both at work and at home – so we have the time and energy we need for what’s most important.
Men and Women Redefining the Arc of a Successful Career – This is at the core of our work with ThirdPath’s Pioneering Leaders – the male and female senior leaders we work with who all “walk the talk.” Whether on our bi-monthly leadership calls, or at our Pioneering Leaders Summit, together we are exploring the opportunities and barriers of creating workplaces that support an integrated approach from entry level to executive level.
Men and Women Revaluing Family Values – That’s what we’ve been doing since launching ThirdPath, including our ground breaking work supporting Shared Care families. We help both mothers and fathers redesign work (and careers!) so they can stay actively involved in the joys and responsibilities of caring for children. We’ve also learned this approach is key to balancing work and elder care.
Men and Women Rediscovering the Pursuit of Happiness – Whether it is the joy of an amazing vacation, making the most of summers, becoming an active volunteer, or a hobby enthusiast, this mandate gets right at the heart of our work. Most importantly – following a “third path” can continue all the way through phasing into retirement.
Men and Women Becoming an Innovation Nation – Lotte Bailyn discovered this in her pioneering work around the “dual agenda” where she designed solutions that were good for business and employees’ personal lives. Over and again, our amazing ThirdPath community has taught us, when you encourage employees to prioritize work alongside life – men and women, parents, single persons and grandparents – they will also find a way to improve how they work.
Listen to this year’s Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars – each episode will show you how to put these ideas into action.
Our join one of our Overwhelm Mitigation Groups. Let us help you learn how to set win-win boundaries at work, so you can have more time and energy for life.
The Challenge & Possibility of Integration
Don’t get us wrong – we know it’s challenging – but over the last 19+ years we’ve noticed a new paradigm, both at work and at home, that makes “integrated careers” more possible.
We’ve learned a lot from pioneering people like Amy and Marc Vachon — authors of the wonderful book Equally Shared Parenting — as they moved ahead in their careers while also creating time for their children and relationship to each other.
On the Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar where we featured Amy and Marc, you can find out how they first began their journey and what they’ve discovered as they’ve continue to navigate a path that supports love, family and two careers. Just click the link to the right to hear more!
Amy and Marc are what we call Whole Life Leaders – professionals who have moved ahead in their careers while also creating time and energy for their lives outside of work.
To become Whole Life Leaders, they developed a variety of “integration skills” that let them push back at a world that now lets us work anywhere and all the time. Instead, they looked for ways to become more effective at work so they had time and energy for their lives outside of work. You too can follow the path Amy and Marc Vachon have traveled down, and it all begins by putting into practice the following simple processes:
Key Integration Practices
1 – Create Time to Reflect
Create “pauses” at work. Make the most of slower periods at work to assess what you are doing and develop fresh and creative ways to focus on your most important work. If no slower periods are in sight – gain a fresh perspective from a short vacation, a “no work” weekend, or even just a quick walk outside during your lunch break. As Marc said on our webinar, “The only way to think in new and creative ways, is if we aren’t constantly running around putting out the next fire.”
2 – Make Changes Outside of Work
Develop a clear sense of highly valued non-work activities. Create time for family, friends, volunteer work or projects that feel of equal importance than the work you do. Get help from the people who are close to you to make time for non-work activities. Your spouse, a friend, a family member, or coach can all be resources to help you reach for your goals. This has been a cornerstone to both Amy and Marc’s approach. They wanted to craft a life where they were successful at work, partners in the care of their children, and to continue life interests beyond work and family. It turns out by doing this, they’ve also created a healthier, less harried lifestyle – something they are modeling to their children as well.
3 – Make Changes at Work
Below are some of the tools Whole Life Leaders like Marc and Amy use to help improve their effectiveness at work. The beauty of these skills is that they are also very teachable, and we’ve got ways to help you start learning them right now.
- Reduce email overwhelm. Adopt better habits around reviewing, managing and responding to emails.
- Create quiet time. Block off routine time in your calendar for quiet, focused, thinking work.
- Plan around the “seasons” of your work. Discover ways – at work and home – to better manage peak periods of work.
- Improve delegation. Delegate to junior employees as an opportunity for them, and as a way to create more time for you.
4 – Experiment, Learn, Repeat
Maintain an experimental approach! Remember, changes may need to happen both at work and at home. As Amy and Marc progressed in their careers and moved into positions where they began to manage others, you can imagine they had to learn a few things along the way. Whether it was Amy creating a job-sharing leadership position, or Marc’s conversation with his boss to collectively combat overwork and overwhelm, both would agree, the journey has been very worthwhile.
Want to learn how to develop these integration practices so you have time for work, love and play? Join one of ThirdPath’s OMG! – Overwhelm Mitigation Groups.
Our OMG experience provides an opportunity to learn and master key integration skills. The 1-hour calls meet monthly with a skilled facilitator, like-minded peers, and proven methodology. Join our OMG! 12-call series starting this summer.
Change Can Begin at Home
We need to continue to push for changes in public policy and more flexible organizations but there are changes that we can make in our own homes to move away from rigid gender based roles and assumptions.
Dads working full time …
Dan (New York Dad) – “My wife and I have developed a rhythm of working together to balance work and home life. Most days I handle getting our daughter’s things together for the sitter and drop off / pickup. Jen handles getting our daughter ready for the day and getting us out the door on time. In the evenings we share in the tasks of bath duty, laundry, story time and bed time routine. I enjoy this arrangement because Jen and I split up the responsibilities giving us each one on one time with our daughter but still have time together as a family.”
Dads flexing work hours …
Miguel (Chicago Dad) – “I’m a stay at home dad who works part time and enjoys every minute of both. After 20+ years in the button down corporate world, I took a step back and decided that I wanted to stay home with our daughter since we knew she would be our only child. She brings me joy and excitement every day. I love being able to be around for all the big milestones as well as the silly little things. Of course it helps that my wife works full-time which covers our day to day necessities. Keeping my hand in the working world allows me to have some balance and engage in grown up conversations. I wouldn’t trade this for anything!”
Dads staying home full time …
Dan (Chicago Dad) – “You never know what life is going to throw at you. All you can do as a couple is adapt and make sure you are there for each other. Our “style”, dates back to the end of 2005 when I left a high pressure banking job for what I thought would be a 12-18 month break to spend more time with our 3 boys and decompress. Almost 8 years later, I remain “retired” and a full time stay at home dad. My wife’s career flourishes (I’m very proud of her), and I would not trade the time I have had seeing my boys grow and mature. Being the only dad at school events clearly designed for moms and continually asked why you aren’t “working” can be tiring. But taking comfort in knowing you were there for your kids makes it all worthwhile.”
Dads sharing in the care after school …
Listen to our March 2018 Thursday with ThirdPath webinar where two dads discuss how they share work and family responsibilities of their school aged children. When both parents learn how to navigate school closures, sick days, after school activities and summer schedules, it can make full time flexible work possible for both parents. And when men and women both learn how to share in these predictable and unpredictable changes, everyone wins – moms, dads, kids, and our workplaces. Here are a few things you will gain from this approach:
More time as a family:
After school time can be great for both bonding and productive activities. Parents can plan an after school adventure instead of waiting for the weekend. They can also schedule appointments and errands. One shared care dad combined the two, “my kids weren’t always thrilled to get the errands done, so I’d make a plan to go someplace fun afterwards.”
More wiggle room for change:
Learning to work as a team, knowing which parent can flex and when, as well as building a network of support with family and friends, will pay big dividends when families work together to navigate school closures, sick days, and the summer months.
More opportunities to teach life lessons:
As children become more self-sufficient, creating a relaxed afternoon at home can give everyone time to connect. Having a friend come over can free up parents to get other household tasks done, or as children grow older, they can help you with these activities, by learning to take on responsibilities like laundry and cooking meals.
More able to be present for teens:
Older school aged children may start to need you less, but being around still makes a big difference. Parents of teens learn that teachable moments come at different times – at the mall when trying on clothes, or late at night when they are trying to finish a paper. Other parents admit to “shamelessly eavesdropping” during car pools. This helps the parent ask better questions later on such as, “So how is that new coach?” By taking turns being the parent at home, both parents increase the likelihood of being available, whatever comes up.
Want to learn more about mom’s and dad’s who are doing things differently at home? Check out our “integrating work and family” web page.
Whole Life Leaders are Transforming Organizations
The following is excerpted from the article Transformative Flex, by Jessica DeGroot and Jodi Detjen. The photos on the right are from ThirdPath’s biennial Pioneering Leaders Summit including our Pioneering Leader award winners.
Leaders who follow an integrated approach to work and life are changing a few fundamental assumptions…
First, they discard the outdated notion that a work-first approach is essential to business and the only route to success. Then they reframe this binary assumption into one that recognizes work matters AND life matters. They also learn how to create success in both areas by creating a team at home and a team at work.
Most importantly, when couples jointly follow this approach, they both learn how to push back at out dated norms as they support each other to achieve an integrated solution over the course of their careers.
To Be a Whole Life Leader – Work matters, and so does life
When couples both strive to be Whole Life Leaders, work matters and so do their lives outside of work. Both parents become experts in learning how to set thoughtful limits on how much work they can take on. We call this win-win boundary setting. Both parents also find ways to use flex to as a tool to help them do an excellent job at work, be responsive to the needs of colleagues and clients, and keep their eyes focused on their lives, not just their careers. The core of their solution is a “triple win”.(See definitions on the right.)
Whole Life Leaders become experts in flexibility AND capacity management
Flexibility defines where and when someone works. Capacity management relates to how much work is expected to be done individually, as a team and within the organization.
Flexibility requires agility, and the ability to think outside the box when faced with competing goals. Capacity management requires innovation in how the work itself gets done such as prioritization, expectation management, and strategic delegation. In fact, success in these two dimensions requires a set of 21st century skills that are valuable for everyone who works in today’s 24/7 business environment.
These leaders are changing the rules of the game
Professionals who develop these skills, who are then promoted to managers, begin to spread the skills to their teams. Instead of pre-defining where, when, and how much work gets done, these leaders work with their teams to determine the best way to achieve the desired success.
Managers who follow this approach get out of the business of micro-managing unnecessary details about how work gets done, and into the business of managing effectiveness. It’s also clear, ThirdPath’s progressive community of Whole Life Leaders have become role models of a new kind of leadership.
A FEW DEFINITIONS …
This happens in the moment – something that one physically “feels” as in “I feel out of balance”
This happens in the long run – this happens in the long run – it’s how you create multi-faceted lives, with paid work happening alongside other commitments
Work First Work Cultures:
In these organizations, life needs are always subservient to work and career priorities
Triple Win Solutions:
Flexing so it’s good for the work you do, the people you work with, and good for you
Win-Win Boundary Setting:
Working together to set thoughtful
limits around how much work we take
on so we can do our best AND our organizations thrive
Want to learn more about ThirdPath’s progressive community of Whole Life Leaders? Let us mail you DeGroot & Detjen’s article: Transformative Flex. Send your mailing address to: Time4Life(at)ThirdPath.org