Work Life Balance Tips | Keynote Speaker Dana Brownlee

Work Life Balance Tips from Keynote Speaker Dana Brownlee

Virtually every professional woman I know is struggling with the same challenge – work/life balance.  It seems they’re wondering if it really exists or is just a cool phrase that everyone throws around.  As a corporate trainer and keynote speaker who focuses (among other things) on helping clients improve their productivity and efficiency in the workplace and beyond, I was particularly interested in analyzing the issue and coming up with THE BEST, most practical tips to share.  Even more pressing were my reality of trying to juggle mothering a 3 year old and 8 week old while simultaneously running a small business, responding to clients, doing laundry and ummmm showering?  The cup certainly runneth over and all of a sudden I understood what all the hype was about!

I developed the Working Moms’ Work Life Balance Report based on my survey of 500+ working moms.  The report shares amazing findings and some really cool work life balance tips from real working moms.  Here’s a sample of the findings:

  • 2/3 of respondents indicated that work seems to win in the work life balance struggle
  • Probably the most intense/visceral comments received in the survey came when we asked working moms to respond to the question, “What do you think your spouse/partner least
    understands about your day to day struggles?” The responses clearly underscored the importance of the role of dads/partners and just how much moms need help to help keep “the ship” running smoothly. Similarly reflecting this need for connection and support, our respondents also listed their spouse as the person they’d most crave more time with if given a choice.
  • Working Moms Have Lots of Stressors…and Finances are #1
    Top 5 Stressors for Working Moms
    1. Finances – 21%
    2. Childcare/kids’ education – 13%
    3. Career trajectory/upward mobility –12.5%
    4. Marital/relationship issues –11%
    5. Body image concerns – 10.5%
    Just looking at this list of the top 5, it’s clear that the sources of stress are plentiful and varied.
  • Working Moms are Stressed…AND Happy! 83% of respondents characterized themselves as “fairly happy” or “ecstatic”!
  • Many commented that “work life balance is a myth” and even suggested alternate wording like “Work/life integration” or “Work/life harmony”.
  • Most respondents acknowledged the craziness and constant stress of their day to day life but
    also insisted that they appreciate every element of their lives (and really enjoy all the moving parts). Many respondents seemed to suggest that they wouldn’t trade their life
    for anything – they just wish they had more time to devote to each area.

I’ve definitely learned that finding simple short cuts/solutions can make a HUGE difference so I’m sharing some of my favorite work life balance tips in these videos.

For more articles on work life balance and related topics, see Dana’s page on Working Mother.

Leadership Skills for Women | Keynote Speaker Dana Brownlee

Leadership Skills for Women – Tips and Best Practices

The truth is that women leaders often face unique challenges that require more specialized leadership training.  As a corporate trainer and keynote speaker, I’ve worked with many women leaders who struggle to strike a balance between being assertive and focused on results while also being sensitive and focused on building and sustaining relationships.  Too assertive – they’re often labeled a tyrant (or worse).  Too sensitive – they’re not viewed as strong.  In many ways, walking that tightrope is a bit of a lose/lose proposition.

In my experience, one of the best ways to walk that fine line is to work towards a balanced leadership style that focuses fairly equally on task and relationship.  I call this the Thoroughbred Leader.  These are the leaders (male or female) that I’ve seen be most successful in the workplace.  This type of balanced approach enables women to address difficult situations with poise and results orientation simultaneously.  These videos provide specific examples for how to use this balanced approach when managing difficult meeting situations.

One of the most powerful techniques that women can use particularly during times of conflict is turning your comment/statement into a question.  When you’re in a group situation and things get tense and you’d like to move the conversation along, that can happen two different ways.  You might say something like….

  1. “Jack, I understand your point about the vendor delays, but we’re getting off topic with that and need to refocus on the inventory discussion.” or
  2. “Jack, that’s an interesting point that we hadn’t surfaced previously.  Vendor delays have certainly been a big problem.  I’m glancing at the clock and realizing though that we only have 10 minutes allotted for the inventory discussion and we’ve been discussing this issue for a few minutes.  Is this something that needs to be discussed/resolved now, or could this possibly be placed on our Parking Lot for future discussion?”

Option 2 is inherently less threatening and allows the speaker to decide on net steps (but gently guides them to move on).  I would never advocate questioning all the time.  That could be perceived as being too passive.  But when you’re in tense, conflict situations and need to intervene to move things forward, it’s a great technique.

Are Moms the Original Project Managers? | Project Management Training

Are Moms the Original Project Managers?

As both a mom and a project management trainer, I can’t help but notice the amazing parallels between the two universes.  Since I was a project manager long before becoming a mom, I assumed that my project management skills were just amazingly convenient as I juggled the complex labyrinth of motherhood.  But as I mingled with other moms years later, I started to notice that the best moms seem to have almost innate project management skills that help them not just survive but thrive when faced with the day to day challenges and complexities of managing life’s most important project – raising our kids!

What Smart Moms Could Teach the Even Best Project Managers

Always Have a Backup Plan

The best moms know that if it can go wrong, it probably will.  Of course, it’s better to hope for the best but plan for the worst and that includes having a solid backup plan – whether it’s an extra sippy cup, a change of clothes, an alternate lunch option, or a favorite toy just in case little Johnny misses his nap and loses his “pleasant personality”.  Likewise, project managers can’t just rely on their project plan/schedule as written no matter how much time was spent generating it – they must plan for technology failure, losing a key team member, product delivery delays, etc. from Day 1.

Avoid Theoretical Time Estimate/Pad the Schedule

Every experienced mom know that a trip anywhere (to church, school, play dates, etc.) almost always takes longer than you’d think on paper.  Yes, GPS may say that grandma’s house is only a 20 minute drive, but that estimate doesn’t account for the almost predictable traffic jam, the last minute potty trip/diaper change that definitely can’t be rushed, and of course the extra 5 minutes it takes to load everything into the car (race back for whatever you forgot), buckle car seats, settle any arguments, etc. So often project managers fall into the tempting trap of calculating “theoretical task estimates” that also don’t take into account some of the not so unpredictable delays and snags that we should proactively consider when building the timeline.

Temperature Check Regularly

As a busy mom, it’s so tempting to get caught up in the practical day to day minutia and really miss the important connections with our kids.  I’ve noticed that moms seem to naturally “check in” with their kids periodically to find out what’s bothering them, what’s their favorite game/song, who’s their new best friend at school, etc.  Similarly project managers can get overwhelmed by day to day administrivia and should remember the importance of checking in with the team to assess morale and see what’s working and what’s not.  Whether it’s periodic informal lunches or round robin meeting debriefs, you can’t put the team on autopilot – checking in proactively is key!

Build Broad Networks and Firm Up Relationships Before You Need Them

Moms know that “it takes a village” – no one can do it all on their own.  So, they actively reach out to establish their village early whether that includes extended family/friends, play groups, before/after care programs, etc.  Moms also know the importance of nurturing those relationships constantly so that when she has the last minute babysitting emergency, her favorite nanny is more likely to come over asap – no questions asked J.  Similarly, project managers are ultimately responsible for delivering project results on time on budget but are often completely reliant on others (including distant stakeholders at times) to get the job done!  They absolutely need to build a strong extended team to help support the project – particularly during times of crisis.  But the key is don’t wait until there’s a crisis to try to build the relationship.