Two weeks after my return to work from maternity leave and eight days into my stint as Chief People Officer at G2, I found myself crouched in a family restroom at Navy Pier in Chicago, squeezing in one last pumping session before getting on a party boat. We were wrapping up a jam-packed two-day company summer gathering and I was already pretty tired.
As I was pumping, I was also carefully watching the clock so I wouldn’t miss the boat departure. There was no way I could miss it. Imagine the brand new Chief People Officer not being at one of the two company-wide gatherings of the entire year? It would not be a good look.
Just the day before, I was upstairs pumping minutes before I was scheduled to go live on stage to present to the entire company for the very first time. I was in a full on panic that my name would be called before I was ready. Less than two weeks into my new role, my body was still very much in postpartum recovery mode, and I was constantly finding myself pumping during truly inopportune times.
As I was about to carry my bag of freshly pumped breast milk into a party of nearly 300 people on Lake Michigan. I thought to myself:"What am I doing?!?!" I have no doubt every working mom has asked herself this question, at least once, if not regularly. What is this crazy balancing act that we put ourselves through? Is this sustainable? More importantly, why am I doing all of this?
In this TED Talk, he starts with his Golden Circle theory which explains how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust, change, and action. The model is made up of three concentric circles—the outermost is the WHAT and the second circle is HOW. At the very center of this circle is WHY. Simon believes that leaders must always start in the middle — "Start with WHY"-- to understand their purpose and the reason they exist and behave as they do.
So, what is my WHY? Why do I attempt to balance all the exhausting demands of being a parent, wife, daughter, coach, executive, and everything in between each and every day?
Today, my WHY is my son and my soon-to-arrive second baby boy in June. I want my children to see me work hard and strive for higher goals. I want my sons to see that a woman can be successful at the highest levels of corporate America. I want my boys to know that their mom, the daughter of immigrants from India, chased after her dreams and achieved some pretty impressive things in her life. That is my WHY and what fuels me, even during the hardest of days.
But I also recognize that my WHY is only possible because I have the privilege of working at a company that is flexible and kind, teammates that are understanding, a supportive partner, and reliable childcare. I do not take for granted that it takes a village to make my WHY possible.
Learning from other women leaders
Last month, I came across a post by Lisa Conn, CEO of Gatheround. It resonated with me deeply, not just because I have another baby on the way, but because it was a woman leader being open and vulnerable about postpartum life. "I’m sharing this picture because it’s not something you see every day," she said.
And it’s true. You don’t see a lot of women CEOs and you certainly don’t see images of women executives breastfeeding while working. But it was something else Lisa said that struck a chord with me. She wrote, "I feel moved and immensely grateful that I get to make this choice."
This is the root of WHY. You choose your WHY and that’s what drives you, affirms you, grounds you. But choice is also incredibly personal and different for each person. What I choose may not make sense or be right for others. I share my story, not as a recommendation, but as one possible path out of many.
A different WHY, a different path
When I started at G2, I had the incredible privilege of being part of a majority-women senior leadership team. As a new first-time mom, I can’t emphasize enough how impactful that was for me. One of the women I got to work alongside was our former Chief Marketing Officer Amanda Malko, also a mom.
In her two years at G2, Amanda made an indelible mark. She transformed our marketing efforts and helped double our pipeline. She boosted our visibility in the industry to new heights and put together the most capable and skilled marketing team we’ve had. The Marketing team was really taking off.
Then this past January, Amanda announced that she was stepping down as CMO, shifting into an advisor to the company instead, to spend more time with her family. As she shared with her team, “It was a very difficult decision that I wrestled with and reflected on for many months. Ultimately, I made a personal choice to focus on my family and spend more time with my son while he is young.”
Most women would agree with me when I say that as women, we have to work extra hard to reach the same level of success as men. To put it frankly, we face more obstacles and hurdles just to get to the same place. So for someone like Amanda to step down for her family at a time of great success, it was a powerful statement and choice— one that people ask her about and has spent a lot of time reflecting on these past few months:
"Someone recently asked me about stepping down as CMO earlier this year and how I made that decision. I said that I use the "regret minimization framework" made famous by Jeff Bezos. Essentially, you project yourself to the end of your life and look back. You look at your options and ask yourself which path would you regret not taking? Is there anything you are doing/not doing now that you might regret?
When I reflected on the framework and my "why" most recently, I noticed new feelings around decisions I’d previously taken as a given. My son was facing some health challenges and my dad had received a life-altering medical diagnosis, and I wanted to spend more time with them both during this time. My husband also took on a new role with travel, and I noticed that I wanted to travel less, so that one of us was always at home with our child.
Because when we look back, it will be the choice of where we spend our resources - time being the most precious - that will shape our outcomes the most. And when I projected myself into the future, I knew that I would regret not spending more time with my son right now and my parents while they are both still here.
A mentor once told me, "You can have everything you want in life, but often not at the same time." It rings true. As leaders in our workplaces and our own lives, we must say "no" or "not now" to many things, to prioritize the few things that matter most at a given time. This is often the hardest thing we do in business and in life, and also the most critical to get right."
I want to share Amanda’s story, not just because she's a respected and successful leader, but because she made a different choice based on her own WHY. By sharing my and Amanda’s stories side-by-side, I hope to illustrate that even at the executive level, there is no one right path for working moms.
Your next peak is your choice, your journey
Here at G2, Conscious Leadership is one of our seven leadership principles. At its core, Conscious Leadership is about self-awareness—the awareness of your own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies. Without self-awareness and self-leadership, you cannot effectively lead and thrive. You have to work on yourself first, and thus the importance of knowing and choosing your own WHY. Whether you choose to pursue the next stage in your career, take a personal sabbatical, or step away from the working world altogether, what you define as your next peak is personal and unique to you. There is no one correct path for a working mom. The right path is the one that works for you, your family, and honors your WHY.
As Chief People Officer of G2, Priti Patel is responsible for accelerating the company’s global talent acquisition, onboarding, and development. She leads all aspects of G2’s employee success function including diversity, equity, and inclusion and also defines G2’s business and talent strategy as a core member of the global senior leadership team. Prior to officially joining the company in this role, Priti coached G2 executives on conscious leadership – and she continues to bring this mindset to the entire G2 leadership team, helping them to be more thoughtful leaders and embrace our team values.
Choosing Your Why: Women Leaders Balancing Careers & MotherhoodWomen Leaders Balancing Careers & Motherhood
Priti PatelAs Chief People Officer of G2, Priti Patel is responsible for accelerating the company’s global talent acquisition, onboarding, and development. She leads all aspects of G2’s employee success function including diversity, equity, and inclusion and also defines G2’s business and talent strategy as a core member of the global senior leadership team. Prior to officially joining the company in this role, Priti coached G2 executives on conscious leadership – and she continues to bring this mindset to the entire G2 leadership team, helping them to be more thoughtful leaders and embrace our team values.https://company.g2.com/culture/author/priti-patelhttps://learn.g2.com/hubfs/priti-patel.jpeg