Flying and long-distance running have helped me find balance in my work
The pursuit of perfection is fatal because we cannot be perfect for the family, for the business and for all other things. Instead, try to give your best
Women need to do their best to balance the competing interests in their lives, but surrender the quest to be perfect at everything says Triana Newton, Regional VP-APAC, Dale Carnegie & Associates.
As told to Deepshikha Thakur
Making difficult choices
When I started my career, back in the early 90s, I was among the few women at the management level. Workplaces were very different then. I used to work with McDonalds. I had been with them for years and many opportunities were awaiting me if I chose to stay. It was a fabulous organisation, but it had 24/7 operations and demanded a significant amount of my time. I decided to leave a secure career path, and an organisation I loved, to take care of my daughter and have a better work-life balance. I walked away from all the opportunities, from profit sharing and company cars, towards something that was not necessarily a well-defined career path at that point in time. It was a big leap of faith from security to uncertainty.
Since then, times have changed. People may not always need to make such difficult choices. Workplaces have matured a lot and it is becoming a level playing field, where performance matters more than nationality, gender, age, culture, etc. Soon, I believe, workplaces will be entirely based on merit, which is an added advantage for everyone, especially women.
Organisations of today also acknowledge the increasing amount of pressure that everyone is dealing with. There are companies that work diligently to make the workplace as conducive and stress free as possible for employees. To add to that, with advancement of technology, we are living in an incredibly connected world. Also, there is Gen Y – a generation which is gender neutral and comes with a completely different set of aspirations.
All these factors are contributing towards creating organizations where people can have fulfilling careers as well as a personal life. This is great news for everyone, especially women because now they can build their careers without compromising on family responsibilities.
Pursuing a passion along with a successful career and family responsibilities
Many people see an airplane go by and get fascinated. I was no different. I have always been attracted to flying and I was fortunate enough to be able to save up enough money to pursue my passion. I started with my private pilot licence and then moved on to a commercial one and it took off from there. Connections and relationships in flying led to my involvement in the air show industry, and I subsequently became the President of the Northwest council of air shows.
As far as balance between work, passions and family is concerned, I would not profess to have that equation figured out. Having said that, flying and long-distance running have helped me find balance in my work. It is an interesting parallel. In training, your right brain works whereas flying depends on the left brain. Work at Dale Carnegie is people centric. It is about human interaction, it is about transformational processes which allow people to tap into their achievement orientation, find those relationships and extend them to influence, whereas flying is more about processes and systems. The two crossing paths have helped me blend strategy and systems from flying and the people-perspective from Dale Carnegie.
Running disconnects me from all kind of distractions and gives me space and clarity to think. Many things that otherwise seem complex become a lot clearer. I do my best strategic thinking when I am running. Many of the initiatives we have now came as a by-product of running, and flying too. It is like getting the best of both worlds, or at least I hope that’s the way it is.
About women in leadership
Research says that women are wired differently. Women have different leadership DNA that emphasises the emotional quotient as compared to their male counterparts. The high emotional quotient manifests in women building individualistic relationships, being focused on how people feel in their workplace and being more in tune with the level of engagement of employees. Women also tend to focus more on building consensus, whereas men are more achievement and advancement driven and tend to ignore their teams in their pursuit of higher goals. Both men and women leaders have their advantages and disadvantages and we need to learn and borrow more from each other to build a great organisation.
To women professionals in India and the world
We need to drop the word ‘perfect’. The pursuit of perfection is fatal because we cannot be perfect for the family and for the business and other things. So we need to surrender that. Instead, try to give your best. Then, decide once and for all who gets what percentage. Decide what your boundaries are with family, if you need more support and if you have the right resources to help you make quality time and not quantity time with family and children. In the workplace, decide what you need to do in order to organise your work life.
In order to become better, seek out mentors and coaches in the workplace who can help you be the best that you can be. Seek it out. Don’t resist it just because you think that it will make you not as good or perfect. A mentor could be a peer or a junior, not necessarily someone senior, someone who can ask you the right questions, facilitate and have conversations that help you reach conclusions. Others could be experiential, someone who is doing what you want to do someday and can guide you.
Being a woman, you are blessed to be incredibly efficient at work and across organisations, women are valued for this quality. Embrace it, use it effectively, portion how work needs to be done, surrender perfection at work and say ‘I will do the best I possibly can’. You need to draw a line somewhere. It is about finding a balanced approach. It will never be 100 per cent balanced, but as long as we are consciously trying, we can do it. As I said, I am on a journey too. If you are in the constant phase of development, sky is the limit.