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women define successAh, work/life boundaries—so tricky, so necessary, and so darn hard to manage for many reasons both personal and professional.

A female business colleague and I were sharing insights for how we set (or don’t) boundaries for work and personal time.

(Before I go on, I must raise my hand and confess, “I, Jane, am a workaholic” because this tendency plays a role in how my story unfolds.)

Over the last  six weeks, I attended twelve teeball games, two a week, all with 5:30 PM start times (My corporate hard wiring kept asking, isn ‘t 5:30 PM the middle of the afternoon?!).

There I saw my six-year-old grandson smile shyly yet proudly at us on the sidelines after his triumphant runs to first base. I could cheer him (and others) on in what one charming little fellow so creatively named “first we hit, then we glove.”

To my second act of life way of thinking, this encouragement and our presence were acts of leadership development for those small girls and boys. We were helping them build self-confidence, learn teamwork, and get better at sharing. 

Because the coach rotated the kids from one fielding position to another, they were learning to appreciate that each one of them brings different skills and outlooks, a great exercise in building tolerance.

Going to those teeball games was a commitment of time for me, I’m sad to say, that wouldn’t have happened in the first act of my life.

In the corporate America first act of my life, there was the ever-present, yet albeit covert, belief that individuals—especially women—who left work early for family reasons (things like 5:30 PM teeball games) “weren’t giving it their all” or were “unwilling to do what it takes.”

Given my desire to succeed, I drank the corporate koolaid by the gallon. Not wanting anyone to say I wasn’t willing to do what it took, 70 or even 80 hour work weeks were my norm.

I used to joke that a 40-hour week was a part-time job.

Ah, what a sick puppy I was.

Time for a new direction

Having emerged from my “corporate detox” period, I’m more objective. Now I see the error of my earlier ways.

Back then, I didn’t set any boundaries. I was an all-work-no-play gal.  I allowed my work schedule and life to be influenced by covert stereotypes. 

But now, from the perspective of time and distance, I can see how badly frayed the fabric of business practices is.  Spoken and unspoken expectations that enabled, no – encouraged, my nose-to-the-grindstone, crank-it-out work ethic.

Organizational cultures where taking time away from the office to participate in activities like cheering on the next generation of leaders wasn’t valued. Where doing so is, in fact, negatively rewarded at review time for those bold and smart enough to set boundaries. I’m now taking ownership to change this.

Along with Anne Perschel, I researched women in business and their relationship with power. You can read our findings in our report.

Now I’m ready to start reweaving the fabric of business so those teeball acts of leadership development and other changes can happen. For women. For men. For anyone interested willing to learn the lessons of paradox and power.

Ready to suit up and play?

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