"Off-Ramp -- or Dead End?" from the February Issue of Harvard Business Review presents a case study of the choices professional women often face and offers excellent advice on managing the balancing act between career and family.
In the fictional scenario presented, Cheryl, a high-performing professional, is faced with the competing needs of her job and her daughter and finds herself at an apparent impasse. Advice from four different experts on how to approach the situation follows.
Overall, the advice comes down to one simple thing -- common sense. Essentially, present the solution rather than the problem. Demonstrate why your solution is better than the current situation for both the company and you.
My favorite piece of advice, the most realistic and straightforward, came from Evelyn Sevin, a partner in the Paris office of Egon Zehnder International, a global executive search firm:
My experience has taught me that while women should never feel guilty about asking for what they want, it's naive to think that employers can or should bend the rules for them. More and more companies are building flextime into their working arrangements, and this is to be commended; at the same time, global firms require that their senior women be able to travel, to work in different time zones, and to do what it takes to make the firm successful. Women can bring their own style to work, but the commitment of time and energy remains the same for every senior person, regardless of gender.
Additionally, "Off-Ramp -- or Dead End?" is excellent read in conjunction with "Discovering Your Authentic Leadership" in the same issue. The authors conclude that ". . . you do not have to be born with specific characteristics of a leader. Leadership emerges from your life story." The article goes on to explain that authentic leaders develop through learning from their life stories, knowing their authentic selves, practicing their values and principles, balancing their extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, building their support teams, integrating their lives by staying grounded, and empowering other people to lead.
Two articles worth reading especially because the advice offered is applicable to most aspects of life. Whether dealing with your boss, partner, toddler or grandmother, there are nuggets of insight and wisdom in these articles that will work for you.