Every few months we feature the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community… This month we are featuring two nonprofit leaders who prove you can be committed to the mission of your organization and have time and energy for your life outside of work.
Read on to learn how both leaders proved that by prioritizing what was important to them outside of work, they could become more effective at work AND even build a better organization.
Sometimes it takes an important conversation or an urgent need from a family member to recognize that work can be done differently. In fact, it was just these types of situations that allowed both Eric and Ana Lisa to make the changes required to find a more satisfying and “integrated” approach to work and life.
Eric began his career as a community organizer. Doing this type of job required a lot of evenings and weekend work.
But when he and his wife began thinking about their family goals, he knew this would need to change. After talking with his wife, Eric began looking for work that would allow him a 4-day workweek, where he could also work the majority of time from home. By doing this, Eric knew he would have a work schedule that allowed him to have days where he would be the primary caretaker–something he truly desired.
Ultimately Eric found a leadership position in an organization that was willing to meet his family’s needs. There were trade-offs, working 80 percent time also meant a 20 percent pay cut, but he knew this was the right decision. With his parents and brother close by to support him and his wife as they became new parents, Eric was able to enjoy fatherhood on his own terms.
Ana Lisa was a self-described workaholic when she was a mid-level leader at a domestic violence organization.
Then a family medical health crisis suddenly demanded the family’s time and attention. For the next six months, either Ana Lisa or her husband were required to be at the hospital every day. Ana Lisa experienced this crisis as a wakeup call to modify her working habits. No more working evenings and weekends. Instead, Ana Lisa learned how to delegate more. She also discovered her coworkers liked the change since it meant no more 2am emails. Ana Lisa is now very clear how modeling a balanced life gives her team permission to do the same.
Since then Ana Lisa changed jobs, and in the process, negotiated a 4-day work week. Her new job was with a foundation that supports regional non-profits by funding leadership development and internal infrastructure. She also participates in an intergenerational working group rethinking leadership across generations. The topic of work life balance is a popular one in the group. Many of the younger employees see leaders who have had their lives consumed by work and don’t want to do the same. Together, they now discuss how leadership can be done in new ways.
Eric and Ana Lisa both see a growing number of skilled employees who want the same kind of flexibility as they did.
Eric has also experienced being able to afford to hire excellent talent at 80% of the cost – people they couldn’t afford at 100% cost. They also see how these types of arrangements create a lot of loyalty amongst employees and employers, and even a competitive advantage for nonprofits who make this kind of culture change.
During our conversation with Eric and Ana Lisa, they were very open about the challenges of working in the nonprofit sector — lots of work, limited funding, and the lingering belief that true commitment to an organization’s mission requires a willingness to work yourself to the bone.
Yet, their personal experiences have helped them see there really is a better way. In fact, with role models like Eric and Ana Lisa, we are confident more will follow in their footsteps.
Listen to the full interview with Eric and Ana Lisa to be inspired by their stories. Or check out the many resources we have on our website for leaders who want to design an integrated approach to work and life.