Guest Post | Switch and Shift

Several years ago I wrote a guest blog post for a now defunct website called “Switch and Shift”. I had made a comment about career success factors on a post by Ted Coine, one of the site’s co-founders. He reached out and asked if I would expand on my comment in a blog post. Since the site is no longer, I’m including the content here (with some minor edits.) Sadly, almost a full decade later, many of these issues still remain.

Your Career Success Formula is Wrong

success text
Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pexels.com

This is an incredibly difficult blog post to write. When Ted asked me to write a follow-up blog to a comment on his blog post Career Advice to My Daughters, my first thought was, “This is great! I’ve started to write this a hundred times”. My second thought was, “Oh great. I haven’t finished this blog a hundred times”.

I believe our society’s formula for success in our careers is all wrong. Only when we, as a society, recognize this other formula, can we truly move towards creating a better chance of success for the current and next generation of workers.

A Shifting Workforce With the Same Problems

There’s a radical shift in the work we perform, and how we perform it. A century ago, traditional jobs resembled little of the jobs we have today: outsourcing of production-oriented work, an increase in service-oriented work, technological advances, and online socialization have all been contributors to this shift.

Yet, despite these changes, we are still facing a gender gap in some pretty significant work areas, and many more are struggling with this holy grail of “work life balance.” Many of us are still struggling to achieve “success.”

The traditional formula for success looks like a married male with children, an advanced degree, growing within the organization, or put simply:

Gender + Family + Degree + Company Loyalty = Success

We are still facing a gender gap in some pretty significant work areas

I recently viewed a Forbes article with an Infographic on what top performing CEO’s look like put together by CEO.com and Domo.

As a woman, what jumps out at me, of course, is the 98% of the top performing CEO’s that are male. As a woman, I am not surprised. As a woman, I am not discouraged.

As a woman, I see opportunity.

Because maybe this formula is all wrong. What if gender is secondary to the larger problem?

Here’s reality:

There’s an increase of fathers coming to the table and discussing work-life balance; there’s an increase of same-sex households, and there’s an increase of women’s role as bread-winners that is “forcing the hand” of the gender gap. This is helping us get to the root of the problem.

If we look beyond the roadblocks of gender, family, degrees, and company loyalty, a different formula appears. I would argue that the real formula for success for today’s reality is:

Steady + Flexible = Success

With so many two-income families, “steady” success is becoming more and more out of reach. If we continue to focus on just the roadblocks of gender, education, family, and company loyalty, we will never fix the pervasive problem. 

Here’s another reality check: Every household requires one person to steer the steady career course, and the other to be the sail that bends in the wind. Because there are so many dual income households, how this blend of steady and flexible is mixed within the household varies greatly.

The real formula for career success for today’s reality is: Steady + Flexible = Success.

Our continued struggle with understanding gender gap issues and our quest for work life balance stems from one simple truth: We don’t know how to place value on workforce flexibility in the above success formula for today’s reality. 

We are at the beginning of a breakthrough of a better work culture for the next generation of workers. A work culture where the notion of a gender gap and work-life balance issue is a non-issue. But there is still a ways to go in this transition.

What can we, as employees, as flexible workers, as employers do to make this transition happen? Just for starters:

1. Accept a Flexible Workforce

Acceptance of the role of flexible workers in overall success is an important first-step. Whether it’s within, or outside of your workforce, contributions of flexible workforces need to be recognized.

2. Create a valued path for a flexible workforce.

Job descriptions, internal career paths, and even workforce policies must allow flexible work options so that employees can understand there is a successful career path within an organization, for both flexible and steady workers.

3. Create and/or revise policies that recognize the role (& needs) of a flexible worker.

Corporate and government policies that impact flexible workers need to be reviewed to address them from the business, flexible employee, and the flexible worker point-of-view. While we’re at it, let’s see more research done on the partners of the steady half. Let’s dig in to how the division of household and parental responsibilities is separated.

But this is just the beginning, and the challenge will be in the details. I think our workforce is ready for this transition. Do you?

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Guest Post | Huffpost

Many years ago I briefly met Arianna Huffington at a book signing in San Francisco. I was with my business partner at the time, Anna Marie Etcheverria. If you haven’t read the story, you can read it about it in “Arianna Huffington asked for by Business Card” and “How I became a HuffPost Blogger“.

Photo of Arianna Huffington at a book signing
Arianna Huffington at book signing in San Francisco (photo credit: AM Etcheverria)

Long story short, at the end of our conversation she asked for my business card so that someone could reach out to me about writing a blog post.

Celebrating Passion and Purpose” was the first post I wrote, prompted by the conversation I had with Arianna during her “Thrive” book signing. We spoke briefly about worklife balance, and in particular the impact on women’s careers. This highly personal post shares the unexpected way motherhood shaped my own career. It also digs in to why I was so passionate about starting Duncan+Coleverria and creating Flipside Workspace.

The follow-up to that post was “Learning to Let Go“. This post shares the messiness and uncomfortableness Type A personalities feel when trying to “let it go”, metaphorically and literally. In the end, however, is the realization that letting go is what builds that inner trust in ourselves.

Warning: the age of these posts (almost 10 years!) means the formatting is pretty messed up. I still like the sentiments though.

I didn’t have much time for being a HuffPost blogger after these two posts, but it was a thrill while it lasted!

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The Latest on Alternative Workstyle

Hi there! It’s been a hot minute since I posted here, and so much has changed. However, I’ve decided to continue this blog in a slightly new direction. Read on to learn the latest on Alternative Workstyle.

Headshot of Lisa L Duncan sitting on a chair.

First, what has changed? When I started this blog, I had recently formed a company with another marketing colleague. Our lofty goal was to change the way we work, and we were committed to our purpose and our business! Many of my earlier blog posts, such as What’s it Really Like to Work in a Digital Workplace?, were about our journey. I used this blog to share what I learned from working in this type of remote work platform.

We had a great time “building a better way to work from home”. Working in this type of platform checked all the boxes for us. We had:

  • collaboration tools
  • the ability to schedule formal communication
  • opportunities for informal conversations
  • a sense of community

Unfortunately, the one check box we could not check was our ability to monetize the platform. In other words, we couldn’t afford to keep it going. Sadly, we shut it down in 2017. Yup, pre-pandemic. But we continued our remote-working together as marketing consultants to small businesses, startups, and nonprofits.

What shifted?

By 2020, when everyone went remote, we had already switched our operations to the Zoom platform. And for me, while it was productive, it wasn’t the same. The loss of all those informal interactions that happened during the business day and that sense of community you feel when you walk into a familiar place was gone. Work became very transactional. Ultimately, we decided to close our business in 2021 and pursue other ventures. It was not an easy decision, and I know I struggled with it for a long time, both before and after. Changed is hard, and we had worked together for a long time.

And now, it’s nearly the end of 2022, and so much has changed. After going back to school and obtaining my Masters in Business Administration, taking some much-needed time away from marketing consulting work, and doing a lot of professional soul-searching, I’ve realized how much I enjoy life as an entrepreneur. I love to find new ways to solve old problems. And when I look back on my career, this drive has always been the common thread in my work.

What’s Next for Alternative Workstyle?

Over the last few months, I’ve become more involved in my local entrepreneurial community. I’m flushing out a new business idea and loving this new journey. I still love talking and writing about remote work and the entrepreneur lifestyle. So, I will keep writing about those things here while working on my other business. Being a female entrepreneur has unique challenges, and I believe there is value in sharing these challenges.

I’m also using this space to consolidate my previous writings by sharing some of my guest blog posts relevant to remote and entrepreneurship. Sadly, many of the challenges I wrote about so long ago are just as relevant today. 

Keep Up with the Latest on Alternative Workstyle

Please follow along here as I share my latest on working in an Alternative Workstyle. Be sure to leave your email in the box on the right and click the follow button. 

Posted in Digital Workplace Concepts, Entrepreneur Life, Remote Work | Comments Off on The Latest on Alternative Workstyle