Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that makes up the ThirdPath community . . .
This month we are putting a spotlight on Laura, a mom, a wife and also a highly successful leader in a public accounting firm. Laura is an example of what we believe the next generation of leaders will look like.
Laura is a partner in a large public accounting firm recently promoted to head the audit practice. Work is important to her and drives her. But like many other professionals she also has an unwavering commitment to family. Because of this commitment to succeed at work and have time and energy for her life outside of work, Laura is an excellent example of a Whole Life Leader.
Laura first gained clarity around how to integrate work and life long before children. Early in Laura’s career her mother became very ill and eventually passed away. Over the years her mother was struggling with this illness, Laura prioritized making time to be with her mother, often spending the night at the hospital.
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While all of this was happening Laura was also newly married. It was a difficult time, here was her father, a man who had worked “3 jobs to keep the house running”, now watching his wife die before they could enjoy their retirement together. Witnessing this made Laura determined to create an integrated approach to work and life.
What Laura didn’t know is that the skills she was using to spend time with her mother, while also managing her workload, were the same skills she used many years later when she and her husband Jim crafted their solution for integrating work and the care of their children. Laura had always been a person to think in advance around how she wanted to arrange work and family, and she married someone who was happy to support these plans.
Both Laura and Jim wanted to be a significant presence in their children’s lives. They also wanted to continue in their successful careers. To do this, they both made changes at work and they also hired a nanny for three days each week: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30 – 6:30. Laura manages the morning routine and either she or Jim is home by 6/6:15. Jim is often the one that does the afternoon routine because his commuting schedule means that leaving early both from home and work makes the commute significantly more manageable.
On Tuesdays, Jim works from home and Laura often spends the mornings with the children and then goes into the office in the afternoon. Fridays, both Laura and Jim work from home. On this day they tradeoff taking care of the children and spend the rest of the day working from a home office. On busier work weeks they also use the evenings after the children are in bed to get extra work done.
Given this arrangement Laura notices that when she is at work, she is 100% focused on work. In fact, she tries to squeeze productivity out of every moment. Laura also believes that it’s important for children to see their parents around the dinner table and at bedtime, even if that means leaving several hours of work to pick up at a future time in order to make this happen.
Accounting work is also very seasonal. During busy seasons, Laura still ensures that family time happens. She may work evenings and weekends and Jim will increase the amount he does at home. Sometimes it even requires Laura needing to let go of family activities she likes to take responsibility for. However, over the years Jim has really helped her see they’ve created a true partnership and that both of them are more than capable of managing the home front.
It may seem like Laura and Jim have jobs that are easy to flex. But in fact, this set up required both to negotiate a work/family schedule with their employers. Not only is Laura a partner, Jim is a senior VP of Strategy at a large commercial bank; not roles one would typically assume allow flexibility. Laura’s early experiences helped her learn about the value of setting boundaries. She noted there is often a, “fork in the road, and you have to choose – I’m going to let work run me, or I’m going to set boundaries and control my life.” Laura has also been recognized at her workplace, not just for the excellent contribution she’s made in the work she does, but also for being a role model in her ability to balance work and life.
Laura has always been ambitious. She has also always had clear work and life goals. But early on Laura learned a lesson she will never forget: “you aren’t going to get any more chances at life.”