Dear Dr. Graham:

How can I be so successful at managing a large corporation’s accounting and finance organization, yet fail so dreadfully at managing life with a husband, two kids, a dog, and a house? Take last night. After cooking a healthy dinner (which both children refused to eat), I reviewed their homework, packed their lunches, walked the dog (while my husband supervised bath time), folded laundry, and was up answering emails at midnight.  

My husband says I’m grumpy, and he’s right. I suspect some of my employees might agree. I miss having fun – or even just some time to relax — in my life. I don’t even have friends over to visit anymore because I’m embarrassed by the chaos that is my house! I strive for excellence in everything I do and want to be effective as a leader, partner, mom, and friend, but I can’t figure out how to do All The Things that these roles require.

Surely, I’m not the only professional dealing with this challenge. How do others do it?

Frustrated in Finance

Dear Frustrated,

You are not the only leader dealing with this challenge. A common theme among some of my clients who happen to be moms (or caretakers to elderly parents, passionate pet owners, or avid community volunteers, etc.) is that they think they have to do All The Things themselves. Of course, this really isn’t true. Although these clients are great at delegating when at work, it never occurs to them to ask someone to do something at home.

While my clients can typically afford to outsource, some consider the simplest delegation, such as hiring a cleaning service, a failure. They worry something may not be done a certain way, or they don’t want “strangers” in their homes. Many of these women are trying to model their lives around what they remember their mothers doing, without remembering that their mothers were not simultaneously serving in professional leadership roles.

I tell these clients that it’s okay to outsource some things at home, just as they do at work. In fact, it’s more than okay. Based on recent research, outsourcing some tasks (“buying time”) can significantly increase satisfaction and happiness. One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences surveyed 6,000 people in four countries. It concluded that, across all income levels, buying time by hiring someone to do a task can bring more happiness than buying things. This CNBC link provides details from the study’s co-author, University of British Columbia Psychology Professor Elizabeth Dunn:

Dunn’s research underscores one reason why I’m a huge proponent of outsourcing. Once you have disposable income it makes sense to buy time for yourself. It also makes sense to use your resources to empower local entrepreneurs, from a pick up/delivery dry cleaning service to a neighboring stay-at-home mom or dad who would gladly sell you some homemade entrees.

I also encourage clients to explore delegation options within the family. Grandparents might help kids with homework one night a week while mom catches up on her email. Spouses can take turns cooking dinner, or occasionally pick up a healthy drive-through meal. Children can learn valuable self-sufficiency skills, from laundry to lunch prep. (A mom in one of my coaching groups recently shared her belief that, “by the time your child is seven years old, she can take a shower by herself.” As a mother who was still monitoring the bath time of my eight-year old, I was one of several professionals in the room who started to question where we were spending our time!)

While you are responsible for managing your large organization’s financial activities, that doesn’t mean you do all of that work yourself. Each day you delegate and outsource as needed. It’s the same for your leadership at home. Don’t measure your worth by whether or not you personally do All The Things. Based on others’ research, my own experience, and the experience of my clients, you can – and should – delegate, outsource, and buy time. Then you can enjoy being the leader, partner, mom, and friend you want to be.

If you are ready to Lead at a Higher Level, consider joining my Facebook group to interact with other like-minded leaders. If you know someone in a similar scenario as “Frustrated In Finance” that could find my suggestions helpful, forward this email to your colleague (Thank you!). You may also submit questions for me to address in future newsletters here

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