As co-founder and CEO of a leadership development enterprise, I consistently seek mentorship and guidance from others who have grown businesses and risen through the professional ranks.
I tapped into my mentor network even more when I reached a personal milestone in my life: motherhood. Both prior to and after giving birth to my first child, I thought about how to invest in being a present parent while concurrently investing in my role as CEO.
One piece of advice that resonates with me came in an email from Topher Wilkins, CEO of Opportunity Collaboration. He said, “In the end, being parents… being mindful, quality, present, caring parents… is the most important ‘work’ we can do. All else pales in comparison, no matter how much we think our professional efforts are changing the world.”
Wanting to make a difference in both my personal and professional life, I also sought advice from one of my esteemed mentors, Shaza Andersen.
In addition to being a mentor of mine and an advisor to our company, Shaza is the CEO of WashingtonFirst Bankshares Inc. and WashingtonFirst Bank, which she founded as a young mother. I reached out to Shaza with the following question: “How do you spend your time so that you reach your full potential both as a mother and as a professional?”
Shaza’s advice is relevant for all types of people, whether you are raising a family, active in the community or engaged in numerous extracurricular activities outside of your career.
Would you take us back to the start of your career and describe your top concerns and priorities?
SA: My children and family have always been my top priority. I started WashingtonFirst Bank with two young children. My top professional concern was front and center: growing the business and getting to break even.
What aspects of home life were you unwilling to compromise on before and after having children?
SA: Spending quality time with my family will always be a top priority for me. I wanted to ensure that I was giving work my all, and not at the expense of my husband and kids. Spending time with family didn’t change as a priority for me as the kids grew older. Rather they needed me in different ways and I had more time to spend with my husband.
You grew your career in finance, a field dominated by men. How did you make yourself accessible the same way your male colleagues were accessible (e.g. late hour meetings), especially after having children?
SA: My husband and I are both planners. When raising our children, we had a calendar we consistently managed together to ensure that we scheduled our work and family commitments accordingly. We truly are partners and share child rearing responsibilities.
How did the way you think through delegation at work translate to outsourcing at home?
SA: This is a tricky question. At the office, I surround myself with competent people who I trust and I delegate meaningful work to. At home, my husband may tell you that I delegate to him a lot! No one can move a mountain by themselves and sometimes all the demands in life feel like a mountain. Success is a team effort.
Describe the importance of finding the right people to outsource to at work and at home. Once you found the right people, how did you retain them?
SA: You always hear the saying “you are as strong as your weakest link.” That holds true to having the right people in your organization. I would like to think that we have a professional environment that is conducive to growth. You have to hire people with the right attitude — people who want to excel and strive to be team players.
Retaining these quality people also involves recognition, a competitive compensation structure and top-of-the-line benefits.
At work, we try to anticipate what is forthcoming next quarter, next year, and even three years down the road. How did you apply similar thinking to your personal life? Or did you take a different approach altogether?
I am a big planner. I always have concrete goals at work and in my personal life, both short term and long term.
What important lessons and values have you learned from your career that you are sharing with your children?
I have two important lessons and values I consistently share with my children:
Work hard and you will be able to accomplish your dreams.
Be grateful and appreciative. People want to work with team players.
This article has been edited.
Carrie Rich is the co-founder and CEO of The Global Good Fund. She’s also an adjunct faculty member at the George Washington University School of Nursing and the author of Sustainability for Healthcare Management.