The Business of Balance
“I hate the expression work-life balance.”
Thus began Lean In DC’s panel discussion on the work-life divide, hosted by Blue State Digital on Tuesday evening.
Kate Perrin, founder and CEO of PRofressional Solutions, LLC, went on to explain that “work is often the best part of our lives. Work-life balance implies that there’s life—which is wonderful—and work—which isn’t.” Instead, Kate urged the audience of fifty women and a smattering of men to view the demands on their time in a more integrated way.
Kate was joined by fellow panelists Sarah Newhall (Managing Director of Blue State Digital, triathlete, DIY wedding planner); Shelby McIntosh (VP of Research at K12 Insight, mother of a two-year-old; skier); and Lacey Faeh (founder of A Lacey Perspective Consulting, wife and pug owner), as well as moderator Jennifer Meffert (a leadership development professional with an interest in diversity and managing work/life issues).
Each woman drew on her experience juggling high-powered careers, meaningful relationships, volunteer work and hobbies to advise the audience on how to lead a more balanced life.
“Perfection should never be our goal.” The fuller Shelby’s life gets, the more near misses—and even total misses—will happen. Take this panel, for example. Shelby thought it was taking place on Thursday, not Tuesday. Yet she managed to arrive on time and didn’t seem at all flustered by her scheduling snafu.
Remember your agency. “You are the one who is ultimately making choices about how you spend your time,” says Sarah. Often, she has competing deadlines at work and at home. But work doesn’t automatically trump everything: “I’m the one who chooses where my time goes.”
"Change is a constant," Kate reflects. After founding her business, she didn’t take a vacation for three years. Would she do that now? No way. “You make different decisions at different times of life.” She says her hard work when she was younger has definitely paid off.
“Shut up and listen.” For years, Lacey worked in the political world and maintained a successful personal style blog—A Lacey Perspective—on the side. She wasn’t planning to change careers until countless friends urged her to acknowledge her unique skills and passion. She’s since transformed the blog into an all-inclusive styling and digital/brand consulting business.
Lead by example. “Part of being a manager is coaching people that working longer doesn’t necessarily mean working better,” says Shelby. Sarah agrees, adding that she doesn’t send emails late at night. “If I send an email at 11pm, I’m saying I expect you to be sending emails at 11pm at night.”
Don’t judge. As moderator Jenn reminds us, “there’s enough judgment in the world.” It shouldn’t matter to you if a woman wants to spend most of her time at work or most of her time at home: it’s her choice.
Delegate. Your husband might not be the best cook and your coworker might not get every assignment right. Does that mean you shouldn’t delegate? No way! “It’s impossible for you to manage everything,” says Sarah. So what if dinner doesn’t taste perfectly normal. Give people space to help you and, eventually, their help will get better.
Find support. Shelby’s Lean In Circle is always willing to offer professional advice and the support she needs. Kate chimed in that even she “hasn’t outgrown the benefits of that sort of organization.” She and fellow “Boss Ladies” take an annual spa trip which serves as equal parts vacation and business retreat, perhaps the epitome of balance.
If you’re interested in finding a Lean In Circle of your own, or would like to invite more women to join your existing circle, please let us know here.