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In this episode, Audrey is joined by Alyssa Westring, co-author of Parents Who Lead: The Leadership Approach You Need to Parent with Purpose, Fuel Your Career, and Create a Richer Life. Alyssa is an associate professor of management at the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University. She has studied organizational psychology, particularly work-life integration.

Parenting life isn’t easy and many people feel guilty, stressed, and on autopilot, instead of being present with their families at the end of a busy workday. It is possible for parents to harness the powerful science of leadership in order to thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Video of Audrey & Alyssa’s Chat

Big Ideas

Parents Who Lead was co-authored with Stuart Friedman, who wrote Total Leadership. Westring and Friedman took the leadership principles that were more individual-focused and applied them, along with some new research, to parenting.

They look at what it means to be a total leader and a leader in all parts of life. Parents can be just as intentional about seeking purpose in parenting as they are about seeking fulfillment in their careers. For the past three years, Alyssa has focused on working parents and discovering ways they can parent more effectively and thrive in their careers and in their personal lives.

Alyssa’s research asks:

  • How do we help people make better choices about balancing work and family?
  • How do we help organizations make better policies?
  • How do we influence these things on a national level and on a global level?

She shares the “Four Way View.” We think of these four domains of our lives as if they are four buckets, but they are interconnected and integrated:

  1. Career – work or school
  2. Family – kids, partner, extended family
  3. Community – friends, neighbors, religious or political organizations
  4. Self – mind, body, and spirit

Looking for four-way wins means not settling for changes in one part of your life that make things worse in another.

When you’re overwhelmed, ask yourself:

How important is it?
How much time and energy am I spending on it?
How am I doing? How satisfied am I?

Look at how all of those pieces fit into the puzzle of your life. This reveals opportunities to make things better across domains, not just in one.

What are the values that you hope define this moment in your life, as an individual and as a family?

How do our values impact the choices we make on a daily basis?

When parents realize they can assert more control and achieve better outcomes for themselves and others, they feel less overwhelmed. Mental health improves when parents learn how to pursue four-way wins.

Quotes

Audrey: “A lot of what I teach parents and what I’ve learned is from leadership and working to get your company on the same page culturally, creating a positive culture.”

Audrey: “At work, we’re often so much better about stepping back and doing strategic planning once a year, looking at what’s going well, what’s not going well, having weekly meetings. There’s so much structure usually in our careers but often we forget to apply those same principles at home.”

Alyssa: “Many dual-career couples are so enlightened about what great leadership looks like at work and then they get home and they turn into these annoying micromanagers. We forget all of that good stuff that we learned about how to inspire other people, get them on board, and create a shared vision and culture. We just abandon it when we walk into the house.”

Alyssa: “It’s a skill that we have and we just have to turn it on. And if you don’t have it, and you’re learning how to do it at home, that makes you better in your job, as well. Because then you know how to communicate and set goals and check in with people. It’s a win-win.”

Alyssa: “Many of us are operating on autopilot (especially in pre-pandemic times.) We have a sense that we want things to be better, but we don’t know how to change it. We don’t know what to do to make it better. The Four-Way View is a tool that we use to take stock of the present. It will reveal opportunities to make things better in a way where you’re not just sacrificing one thing to get more of another.”

Alyssa: “Our default assumption is that if we want our work to be better then we’d better take time away from sleep or from parenting or from friends. Taking the Four-Way View starts to help you think about how the different parts of your life are interconnected.”

Audrey: “Many parents have become so overwhelmed just getting through the day, getting their kids where they need to be, getting to work, that people don’t have as close of neighborhoods. Most people don’t have a religious affiliation or any kind of outside group that they connect with. I’m wondering if this pandemic is going to change that at all because it just makes it even more clear how we all need each other and nobody can do this alone.”

Alyssa: “I think the community is at the forefront of our minds right now because we are social distancing for the greater good, for our communities, for our society. We’re aware of the sacrifices that we’re making for other people in a way that’s much more straightforward than normal. Yet I think we assume that we need to feel more isolated because we’re physically isolated.”

Alyssa: “If as a family we care about showing gratitude, then that can be woven into anything that you do.”

Audrey: “Sometimes parents don’t realize that they haven’t communicated their values.”

Alyssa: “A lot of people feel like they don’t have the time, they’re too busy for these sorts of conversations, whether it’s with kids or coworkers or community members of friends. We’ve found that it does seem to save them time and increase their happiness in the long run. It really does pay off, even if it’s sort of hard to get on board with sacrificing some time upfront.”

Audrey: “What an opportunity we have when we don’t have sports and we don’t have anything going on to maybe take this time to clarify a little bit what our values are for this time and this season.”

Resources

Values List: Pick your top values as an individual and as a family.

Does our Family’s Schedule Reflect our Values?

Ep. 130: Uncluttering our Schedules and Homes

Ep. 75: Begin with the (Parenting) End in Mind

How Doing Less Made Me a Better Parent

On The Web: www.ParentsWhoLead.net

Alyssa Westring is the Vincent de Paul Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business. She earned her Ph.D. in organizational psychology from Michigan State University in 2007. She is the Director of Research for Total Leadership. In addition to her research on work-life topics, she is a scholar of women’s careers and leadership. She is an award-winning educator and DePaul’s inaugural Presidential Fellow. Westring lives in Chicago and has two young children. Her TEDx talk, “The Secret Life of a Work-Life Insider,” is about motherhood, and the Time magazine cover story she was interviewed for was about millennial parents.

Alyssa’s TED Talk

One Simple Thing

This week’s One Simple Thing came from listener Gail, who shared the idea of practicing “Thoughtful Thursdays” with kids. One day a week (Thursdays work because of the nice alliteration), have your kids send a drawing or note to one of their classmates. Perhaps your kids can start a trend in their school just like Gail’s grandchildren have!

30 Days of Kindness

Is Kindness the Secret to a Successful Life?

My Favorite

From Six Daily Questions to Ask Yourself in Quarantine, by Brooke Anderson for the Greater Good Science Center:

7 Reasons to #optoutside

Listener Question

How do I stay calm while balancing parenting my three kids (ages 14, 12, & 6)?

Learning to Breathe

10 Ways to Teach Our Kids to Calm Down

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