The Bregman Leadership Podcast
Episode 190

Stewart Friedman

Parents Who Lead

How can you harness leadership techniques in the home? As the boundaries between work and life have diminished, we have to create harmony or integration—not balance—says Stewart Friedman. He’s an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School, founder of Wharton’s Leadership Program, and bestselling author of Total Leadership, but today, he’s here to discuss Parents Who Lead, co-written with Alyssa Westring. Discover his four-way view method and how you can use it to measure your priorities, why he resists the term “work-life balance,” and the importance of accounting for your employee’s lives beyond work.

About

Book: Parents Who Lead
Bio: Stewart D. Friedman, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School since 1984, founded Wharton’s Leadership Program and its Work/Life Integration Project. Recognized by the Thinkers50, named their foremost expert in the field of talent in 2015, among HR Magazine’s most influential thought leaders, chosen by Working Mother as one of America’s 25 most influential men who have made life better for working parents, and a Families and Work Institute’s Work Life Legacy Award recipient.While on leave, Friedman was the senior executive responsible for leadership development at Ford, creating the Total Leadership program to measurably improve performance and well-being in all parts of life. His widely cited research is included in Harvard Business Review’s “ideas that shaped management.” Bestsellers: Total Leadership and Leading the Life You Want. Award winning teacher, Friedman inspires students’ “rock star adoration,” per the New York Times. Speaker, consultant, policy advocate, host–SiriusXM Wharton Business Radio’s, Work and Life.

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Transcript

This transcript is unedited.

Peter:

With us today is Stew Friedman. He’s a professor at the Wharton school of business at the university of Pennsylvania and he’s the founding director of the Wharton leadership program. He has some terrific leadership classes that he’s kind of been described as the rock star of leadership I guess. So just rock, you know, we could just sort of stop at rockstar. He is focused on the Wharton’s work life integration project. He’s written a number of books. Total leadership is one of them. And the book that we’re here to talk about right now is shifting his focus from leadership in organizational settings to leadership in families with parents. Though I sort of misstated that because there’s a lot in this book about parents in organizations and so that’s a, that’s an incredibly important part of it. Parents who lead is the name of the book, the leadership approach. You need to parent with purpose, fuel your career and create a richer life. Stu, I’m so delighted that you’re on the Bregman leadership podcast. Thank you for being here.

Stewart:

Thanks for having me, Peter. It’s great to be here.

Peter:

And we know each other. We had dinner together in London and when you’re coming out with this book, I had to look back because I was sure you had been on the podcast before and much to my surprise, you had not. So it’s, I’m, I’m super excited that that you’re on the podcast and we get to have this conversation together.

Stewart:

My pleasure.

Peter:

Um first of all, why the shift? Why, why are you moving to the focus of, of families and parents who lead?

Stewart:

Well, the work of total leadership is about leading from the perspective of your whole life and how to create value and wins in all the different parts, your work, your home, your community, and your private self, your mind, body, and spirit. That was a program that we launched when I was head of leadership development at Ford motor company, which was 20 years ago when I took a leave from Wharton for a few years, recruited by the CEO to transform leadership development worldwide for Ford. And we tried to do that and one of the things we did was to create this program. It was based on research we’d been doing in the 90s on how people grow as leaders in all the different parts of their lives. And when I left forward, came back toward [inaudible] and started teaching this course that we’d created there called total leadership, which was about improving performance in all the different parts of your life, pursuing what we call four way wins. What I’ve found was my students and clients, this is a, a method that’s being used in organizations worldwide. The books in a bunch of different languages. Many of them would come to me and say, you know, this is fantastic. It’s helping me to have a richer, a little more peaceful life and, and better productivity while shifting some of my attention to the other parts of my life. Paradoxically, my spouse wants to do this too. How do we do this together? And I’d say, well, just do the exercises together and follow my coaching advice. There’s an appendix on, on peer to peer coaching, which is an important part of this process and the, and, and you’ll be fine. And it didn’t stop though. It was a consistent and persistent interest in rights, something for us as, as a, as a collective, as a team. So there was, there was that students and clients pressing me to do this. There was also the the publishers. So I, I’d done two bestsellers for Harvard business press and, and they said the, one of the editors said, we want you to do a book specifically for working parents. And I said, you know, I’m going to be 65 in the summer, you know, do I know? And he said, no, no, no, we, you need to do this. And I thought, well, if you, if you, if you’re okay with me having a partner in this, I have a research colleague who is a millennial mom who’s a professor at DePaul university, a tenured professor there who’s been a research colleague for 15 years. If Alyssa Western can do this with me and if you let us take the essential features of the total leadership model and reimagine it for working parents that could work. They said, all right, great. Do that. So we went into the lab, we created a model that we ran with working parents. And the result is, is parents who lead, which has, you know, they’re kind of gripping stories of how they learned to lead together in all the different parts of their lives.

Peter:

It’s great. And I’m actually noticing something like, I’m noticing there’s a number of books that are starting to come out now of people who have been in the leadership and professional space who are starting to talk more about families and parenting. And, and I wonder whether there’s also something about how the boundaries between work and life have, have diminished in many ways. You know, with, you know, everything from the fact that, you know, we can’t escape work because we, we, you know, have our phones with us and we have email 24, seven, but, but also because I think workplaces have become in many ways more human and more open to the fact that it’s not just a bunch of workers. It’s actually people who have families who are part of families who have lives that are working. Do you, are you finding that?

Stewart:

Oh yeah. When I first got into this arena, I had done work in the 80s on talent management systems, leadership development. That’s what my dissertation was back about in long time ago in that really eighties at the university of Michigan. But when my first son was born in 1987 I was transformed and I had, I had done some study of adult socialization and role theory as a graduate student. And when he was born, I realized that I needed to shift my direction and focus on how people can be effective in integrating the different parts of their lives in a way that works for all of them. And so I started the work life integration project in 1991 at Wharton and went into the field, did large scale survey research to look for what it was that people were learning about how to integrate the different parts of their lives. Now this was in the pre-digital era, an era when men’s and women’s roles were defined differently than they are today. And so, you know, one of the benefits of all this gray hair is that I’ve seen over three decades now of change in the world. And, you know, there are some things that are more difficult now, but others that make it easier for men and women to choose roles that are well suited to their core values, their interests in life. There’s more of an interest in egalitarianism, relationships between men and women. But the digital age, as you pointed out, is of course made the question of how you manage the boundaries between work and the different parts of your life. All lot trickier. And, and, and it’s caused a lot of strain and, and inefficiencies of all kinds of physical health, mental health performance, you know, distractions.

Stewart:

And so there’s a huge demand now for models of leadership that helped people to be able to focus on the things and the people that matter when they need to focus. And that in addition to the growing realization is as you will point out that employees are whole people and the more you account for their lives beyond work, without becoming, you know, a social worker or a psychotherapist, as an employer, as a manager, but accounting for the various demands that people’s lives place on them. Makes you a smarter accompany, a smarter manager, not only because you’re going to attract and retain the best people that way, but you’re going to have a, a better, better performance from your people if you indeed honor them by identifying that, you know, that they have logs beyond work in their ways that you can do that. To really good effect. We have found–

Peter:

I mean, there’s a lot of research that says paying people is not what garners their loyalty and deeper commitment it gets, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s part of the transaction of working, but it’s feeling when people feel cared for and respected, which you’re speaking to, that that really gets people wanting to put in the extra energy and the effort and they can’t feel like you’re caring about them in order to get them to put in the, you know, the commitment and the energy. And it has to actually come from a place of actual care and respect it seems like.

Stewart:

Yeah. And there’s a way to do that without forsaking your focus on performance objectives that you’ve got to meet and the limited resources you’ve got to be able to pursue them. So it’s not like a, you say, tell me what you need to take care of your kids and I’ll be, I’ll be there to help you. As a, as a manager, it’s, it’s more a matter of both parties recognizing that it’s in their mutual interests to be creative about how to adjust and continually adjust where, when, and how things get done so that both parties win. And, and indeed that’s the problem with the term work life balance, which I’ve been railing against for 30 plus years. And, and that’s another shift I’m seeing in the, in the zeitgeist that is that, you know, that term work life balance is becoming less the term of art. And we’re seeing work life integration or harmony, both terms that I prefer ascendant as people recognize that. When you think in terms of balance, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a trade. Always. The default is I have to sacrifice one part of my life for success and the other, and what we have found is that when you shift your mindset, you think of yourself as a leader in the different parts of your life, how can you make positive change that’s going to work for you and the people around you, including your boss, clients, colleagues, friends, family and yourself. And when you put that set of lenses on and look for those opportunities to pursue what we call four way wins, how can you have a positive impact either directly or indirectly through like a spillover or ripple effect? You start to see where there are such opportunities for creating harmony among the different parts. Not all at once. Nobody has a perfect balance all at once. Nobody has that. I’ve been looking at this forever. There’s no one, right? So balance is just a misguided metaphor and it’s better to think in terms of harmony or integration over time.

Peter:

Is that how you think of leadership, by the way, as someone who has a positive impact on in effect the world around them? Is that your definition of leadership?

Stewart:

That’s, that’s close to it. Yes. As a little bit more, I’d like to think of leadership as mobilizing people toward valued goals, seeing reality, and then helping come with you to a better tomorrow, a better place and, and doing that in a way that’s good for you and for them, which of course requires that you have to know what you care about, your values, your vision. You have to know who matters to you and what they really think about, what they need from you, not what you think they need from you. It’s requires dialogue and trust, which was be cultivated one relationship at a time. And then a creative openness to experimenting with different ways of getting things done that are again, good for you and good for them. So it’s not this, this approach to leadership is not so much about executive authority in a, in a hierarchy. It’s more about how you get people to come along with you to a better future. And you can do that with no one reporting to you or with a lots of people reporting to you. It’s not so much about hierarchy, right?

Peter:

Um talk about your [inaudible] four way view because that’s a central piece of the book and your methodology and total leadership. And, and related to this.

Stewart:

The four way view is pretty simple and often quite eye opening and anyone can do it. And we do this work with, with the kids in high schools now as well as retirees and everyone in between. What we ask you to do is to think about the different parts of your life. And these four buckets seem to work pretty well for most people in most cultures. And that’s work or career or school. There is home or family, whatever that means to you. Of course it means many different things to different people. So it’s all subjectively defined. There’s your community. So that’s friends, neighbors, social groups, religious groups, political groups, what have you. And then there’s the private self, your mind, body, spirit. So the taking the four way view just takes a couple of minutes. Imagine these four domains to find them how you will and then take a hundred points and allocate them according to how important each domain is to you right now. All right, so if they’re all equal but you don’t want to think about it, you just 25, 25, 25, 25, it’s usually, it’s usually not that. And then think about a typical week or typical month in your life. Where is your attention during your waking hours? Again, another hundred points allocated according to those four domains of work, home, community and self. So your attention, your, your perhaps your most precious asset as a leader and then rate in a gross scale of one to 10, how satisfied you are or your sense of wellbeing in each of the different domains. Finally, last thing. Think about how well you are doing in meeting the performance expectations of the people who matter most to you in each of those different at work, at home, in the community and for yourself. How well are you doing in meeting your own expectations for yourself in terms of your growth and development? So that’s it. That’s the four way view and it’s I deal if you then talk about it with someone else as she has done the same and what you’re likely to discover is that no one’s got it right and there are opportunities to make changes that might help you to better align what you care about with what you do in ways that would bring value or make things better for you and the people around you in all the different parts. And that’s one of the starting points for the work that we do with individuals as well as with partners in parenting.

Peter:

So I’m curious about a couple of things. This is great. I love the four the, the four way view. I’m curious about the intersection between these four elements. So, for example, self and career might overlap, might not overlap, but that, you know, I might nurture myself in my work and should then, I mean, I know there’s no should here, but if it like does it make sense for 50% of my attention and time to go there because I’m putting together myself and my career and saying, I’m going to take my S, I’m going to take myself chits and I’m going to put them on the career pod. Right. Or is that a mistake that people make because they don’t realize elements of themselves that gets nurtured and is important to have nurtured outside of the context of their work roles?

Stewart:

That’s a great question. And these, the kinds of really useful inquiries that people start to take seriously, particularly in a coaching exchange and peer-to-peer or with professional coaches to ask these questions because no one has the same situation, the same set of values, the same set of interconnections or interdependencies among the different parts. Right. You know, the meaning of work to you is probably different than it is to me, of course. So this is all subjectively defined and it’s those very kinds of questions that you start to ask yourself, what is the value of my work for my mental health, for my physical health, for my spiritual growth and development? How does my work help me to be a better father or son or brother or a friend or a citizen and vice versa. So you start to ask these questions and this is one of the great benefits of taking the four way view. You start to see the linkages which give rise to ideas for innovation in terms of where you allocate your attention and how you can really accentuate or build on the mutual value across the different parts of your life. You start to see where there are such opportunities and instead of thinking about, well, I’ve got to sacrifice my personal life in order to be successful in my business. You start to think about how by investing in your personal life and your family life, you actually become better in your professional life. And that’s what we see,

Peter:

Right? I’m thinking of two situations and maybe we should just take each of them independently, but one is where you might be in a role and let’s think about parents. Let’s think about a parent who’s in a role where, you know, 50% of their attention is going to a child, right? Or to their children or to their family and it, and their parents, right? But in terms of their satisfaction, they are, I’m not describing myself just to be clear, but I’ve definitely heard this. I have a friend, I’ve definitely heard this where it’s, it’s boring and frustrating and dis, you know, unsatisfying. And yet there’s this role that society says you need to be in and there’s this role that actually needs attention, but it’s not something that, you know, that in any way that, that it’s not something that for the most part leads to satisfaction. And, well, my question is, because there’s another, there’s another piece, but the Lux actually had, I mean, th th the second piece is what happens when the role and attention and satisfaction you want to give someone in one of these domains conflicts with the role and attention that other people want you giving to the domain. So for example, there’s, you know, well that makes sense. And I think both of those questions, there’s, there’s some overlap in both of those questions.

Stewart:

Yeah. And they’re wonderful. Because and this is the work is, is trying to address these questions and what we find is that most people don’t ever think about this stuff and they just act on autopilot, reacting to the, you know, persistent demands that come at them in the digital deluge. That is our daily lives.

Peter:

Well, and I imagine also that it’s not that it, that it might, what I’m curious is, is it that they just don’t ask those questions because they’re on automatic pilot or, and, or is there a component here where it’s really scary to ask that question? Like to say like, I don’t, I’m not satisfied spending time with kids or I know my boss wants me to do this, but I’m not interested. Like, like I imagine there’s some tension too, just being able to be honest with yourself about, about what you’re feeling.

Stewart:

So we start with what are your values and what’s, what’s your vision of the world you’re trying to create? And it would make it very concrete and practical. You know, describe a few episodes in your life. History have shaped who you are, your values and your beliefs about what’s most important. Describe a day in your life. 15 years from now, what would you be doing in the morning and the afternoon in the evening with whom and why? With what impact? Describe your values to here. Here’s a whole bunch of different words that describe values. Which ones would you say are yours? So it begins with the inquiry into what it means to be real. Sorry. Act with authenticity by clarifying what matters most. And for many people, as you wisely point out, Peter, this is the hardest part. Well and I raised this enough to answer the question. Here’s what I really care about, not what society has told me to show me about my parents, my friends, my boss, my wife, et cetera. But what’s in me?

Peter:

Because I imagine when you ask people, and I’m curious if this is your experience, when you ask people what do you value, they will tend towards either communal values or aspirational values or moralistic values that feel like those are the values they should have. And I’m curious how you help people get in touch with like what their actual values are. That might be, again, kind of scary to admit to themselves, but, but you know, as critical to resolving the disconnect or the tension from like what they’re doing and what gives them satisfaction.

Stewart:

It is also and essential piece of the leadership puzzle. You can’t lead yourself or others if you don’t have a fairly clear understanding of what it is that you stand for, what you care about most and, and your purpose. It is hard right to do this. This is, this is the hard work as I know. You will know. And we do a couple of things to help people kind of break through the inhibitions that keep them from addressing these questions in a, in a way that’s helpful for them, which is to say honest or as honest as you can be. We have a set of exercises that people do. I just describe them essentially looking at their history and writing about it. Doing the four-way view, writing about that and the questions that I asked you to explore. Writing about their, their future vision, describing their core values, describing someone they admire and why they admire them. Writing these things, sharing them with other people who are doing the same thing, preferably to other people. So you have a coaching trio, magic triangle, and I’m reading your stuff, you’re reading my stuff, we’re reading her stuff and you know, I’m commenting on you as you’re commenting on mine and we’re asking each other questions to try to understand how this picture fits together. And we find that in the context of peer to peer coaching where, you know, the first rule is you don’t have to share anything. You don’t want to reveal people started to open up and it helps them to articulate, well, this is, this is what I really want. And, and that’s the, that’s the ground. That’s, that’s where it begins. But it doesn’t go anywhere unless, and until you get to the second piece of our work, which is to be whole, to identify who the most important people are in the different parts of your life and what you think they expect of you, what they need from you, what they see when they look to you. Uh and the, again, to write that out and to put that in the context of what matters most to you. So why do they matter to you in terms of where you want to go in your sense of, you know, you’re hopefully clarified and better articulated sense of purpose. Why do these people matter to you? And what happens in that conversation and inquiry is that some people realize, well, I thought this person was important to me now and in the future, but perhaps not, or perhaps in a different way. This happens a lot for people in their twenties and thirties in terms of their relationship with their parents. They realize it’s a different relationship now. And so having conversations with those people about what they expect and what you expected them helps you to get more, a better understanding of what the real world is that you’re navigating every day. And it gives you, again, a greater sense of understanding, grasp and confidence in being able to see how what you are trying to pursue fits with the people around you and where there’s conflict, right? Which again gives rise to ideas for change and adjustment. Sometimes it means fundamental changes in relationships, but usually it’s about figuring out ways that you can both make adjustments that make life better for both of you. In a way that’s consistent with what you both actually want. But it’s, it’s not easy to break through those, those barriers. As you’ve pointed out.

Peter:

You know, I love this construct you have about being real, being whole and being innovative. These sort of three elements which feel like they’re not the typical elements that, that people sort of think about in relation to leadership in the same way. And I love that you, that you prioritize them and you write about them. And I feel like this being real thing is one of the hardest things for people. You know, like we’re [inaudible] and we’re good. We’re actually better than we think at accepting other people for who they are and much less effective at accepting ourselves. And when we don’t accept ourselves for who we are, that then makes it harder for us to accept other people because we’re working with our shadow and we’re like, we reject that in ourselves. So we reject it and other people. And it feels like the work of empathy, you know, when you talk about having, you know, talking with your children, talking with your boss, talking with your direct reports, the ability to have those conversations go well requires that initially you’re talking with yourself in the same way you would talk with them and empathizing with yourself and being to, you know, the things you maybe don’t want to see in yourself, but, but really being able to look at them in a way that, that feels like it needs to precede, which you’re saying in terms of, you know, taking stock and taking inventory to proceed, having effective conversations with all of these other, you know, people that fit into these different dimensions.

Stewart:

This is why you’re a master. Peter. You’ve got it very well put. And it, it it’s, it’s exactly what we try to bring into practice. Of course, you know, as, as a developing leader, which is how I think about myself and my clients and students, you know, we’re all, we’re all trying to get better at it and you can never be too good. It’s like a, it’s like a performing art or a sport. You know, you, you can’t be too good a tennis player or a saxophone player. You, you just keep trying to get better. It, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a work in progress for all of us, but for sure we know that it’s, it’s just so much harder to hear the perspective of other people and to feel a sense of you know, curiosity and genuine interest and understanding others. If, if if that first, most most fundamental relationship that which years would you have with yourself is is fraught, uncertain, defended and just closed off. So, yes. You know, if you were to ask me, what’s the one most important aspect of developing as a leader, it’s exactly what you’re talking about. And that is finding support to enable you to have the courage to look inside as to who you are, what you’re about and what your purposes.

Peter:

Right. That’s great. Thank you. [inaudible] Thank you for bringing this work into the world and shining a light on it. In areas where we often don’t shine a light on it. So really like your, your, you know, this book, your work takes very seriously and self reflectively. The idea of being whole, being real and being innovative. Right. And it’s like that’s, that’s, that is the foundation of everything that you’re doing.

Stewart:

Yeah. And we got traction on this in the business world by framing and using language that is consistent with, you know, the ostensible values of most business enterprises. And so the original work, you know, 20 plus years ago is total leadership, improving performance and results at work and at home and in the community and for yourself. So that opening is an invitation for anyone, men and women. And, and really that was my kind of subversive mission at the time was to use language that would invite men into the work of exploring their values and their vision and leadership and their performance, which are things that were, you know, in those days and still more acceptable, legitimate for men to be, you know, pursuing then work life balance, which is still certainly then, but still seen as more of an issue, you know, that, that women need to be worried about than men, which of course is, is falling. So that, that was kind of my, my secret is to, to ensure that we had language in this, which just evolved naturally because what we found when going into the field, you know, I didn’t make this stuff up, we were doing research to find out how do people who do this well, who perform well as leaders in the different parts of their lives and create harmony among those parts. How do they do it? Well, this is what they do. And how to present it in a way that was inviting or at least, you know, open for both men and women was a part of the reasons for why this is sustainable.

Peter:

Right? And some people do it intuitively without going through the process. But most of us, it really helps to create a graph, look at each of the four pieces, you know, ask ourselves, you know, where we want to spend time, where we’re putting our attention, how much satisfaction it has for us. And then having the conversations because most of it happens in conversation that we need to have in order to focus our attention where we have the most impact and the greatest satisfaction.

Stewart:

Yeah. And what we find is that when you do that, when you explore what matters most to you, who matters most, talk to them. Get better at having them tell you where you’re wrong and what you’re missing. And then are open to small experiments that are time limited that you identify as having an intended impact of success wins, things being better, not just for you and your spouse and your kids, but for your business as well as for your friends and your own self. If you try that, you’re much more likely to find it and also to get support for it and to feel as guilty about trying something like for example, taking care of your body, which is a very common kind of experiment that people do. Let’s explore, let’s, let’s exercise together. That’ll help us. It’ll help our kids. Yeah. It’ll also help you be perhaps a little more energetic and less of a jerk to your friends and colleagues. Let’s try that. What we find when people do experiments like that and there are hundreds, we identify six different kinds of experiments that families do together in, in our book, parents who lead. What we find is that people adjust some of their attention away from work and they perform better at work because they’re less distracted, more focused on the people and things that really matter.

Peter:

I just heard this report where people are experimenting with this four day work week and yeah, and sometimes not even 10 hour days, but just 30, two hour work weeks and they’re finding the quality of attention and the quality of the work and actually the productivity increases so much that it, you know, by far makes up for, for you know, that that day that, you know, they would’ve, people would’ve been working otherwise. Yes. Stu, it has been such a pleasure speaking with you, Stuart Friedman. His book is parents who lead the leadership approach. You need to parent with purpose, fuel your career, and create a richer life. You know, if you’ve listened to this podcast, which you have, if you’ve gotten to this place, you know, the kind of person that Stu is. And all of that comes through really, really beautifully in his writing and in his book. This is a very, you know, you are a very human person who looks at work and business and life in very human ways that directly impact, you know, not just our ideas, but actually how we live them. So Stew, thank you so much for being on the Bregman leadership podcast.

Stewart:

What a pleasure, Peter. Thank you so much.

 

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