In our continued series on Women and Shared Services Careers, Emma Beaumont, MD of Global Strategy and Analytics at SSON, interviews Cindy Gallagher, CEO of onshore Managed Business Services firm Liberty Source (and previously SVP Global Business Services Controller at Discovery Communications) about some of the challenges faced.
Emma Beaumont: If you had to identify one singular skillset that motherhood has given you which has gone on to help you perform better in the workplace, what would that be? (mine is patience BTW! )
Cindy Gallagher: Mine is patience as well! Kiddos definitely test your patience to the end and you need to find a deeper reserve than you ever thought possible. Same is true in the workplace. The calmer you can be, the more you can listen (Listening would be number 2…) both at home and at work; and the stronger you will be and the greater respect you will earn from others.
At the end, you’re also more likely to be the one getting your point across and convincing others to follow your path.
EB: Indra Nooyi famously talks about “coping mechanisms” to overcome working-mom guilt, can you share ONE practical tip you’ve engaged to keep you focussed on the job (and sane!) when children push the guilt buttons?
CG: Knowing that I’m doing the best I can for my kids and for me. I love my kids (as we all do), but I also love what I do. My work keeps me grounded and engaged on a different level which makes me a better and stronger mom.
Like motherhood, shared services leadership is a demanding and time-intensive role, with the potential for 24/7 shifts that at times can blur boundaries with domestic downtime.
“The biological clock and the career clock are
in total conflict with each other.”
EB: What is your MOST USEFUL TIP for how to balance the needs of the business and your kids – when both are screaming for your undivided attention?
CG: There are so many different ways to look at this. Some try to balance, some totally divide their time (when they’re at work they’re only at work, when they’re at home they’re only at home). Dividing sounds like a dream many of us don’t believe is possible – but for some, in certain roles, it’s absolutely feasible.
For me, it’s integration. There are times when I need to get work done, even when the kids are screaming and there are times when I need to be there for my kids but work is screaming. I’ve actually been known to take the computer to a baseball game to crank out a quick brief (wouldn’t recommend that all the time but in a pinch it’s easy to do).
I also set the ground rule at work that my kids do come first and with my kids that if I need to get something done I can set a time limit on how long I think it will take – communication there is critical.
I’ve been pretty lucky to have (for the most part) leadership who also understand and respect this. I’ve been known to work strange hours at times and have set the ground rule with my team that just because I’m online at a weird time doesn’t mean they need to be and certainly doesn’t mean I need a quick response.
EB: Finally – do you believe working mothers in Senior Leadership roles can ‘have it all’?
CG: It depends on how you define ‘having it all’. That definition should be unique to everyone. I don’t believe we should try to be super woman all the time – we need to lean on our families and on each other to make everything come together.
We also need to define our limits, as well as the limits for our organizations and our kids. We all like to believe there are no limits, or the sky’s the limit, but what does that look like before something or someone breaks?
Personally, I’m satisfied with what I’ve done/what I have at this point in my life. I’m always striving for the next thing, always wanting to grow and learn, to do more and see more, but the key to all of that is taking a moment at each step to look back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, knowing that at each step, you do actually have it all.
My final thought would be to keep smiling through it all. A smile goes a long way!!