Businesswoman Success Tips

Sylvia Balogh, Colleen Lee, Karen May, Clio Mulryne, Jill York


“Managing it All” is a phrase we may aspire to but are often challenged to achieve.

On Friday, October 16th, MB Financial’s Women’s Leadership Resource Group (WLRG) sought to get some answers to this elusive goal for professional women. WLRG hosted a panel of 5 dynamic women who shared their stories, challenges, and best practices. I was lucky enough to moderate the panel and want to share some of what we all learned from:

Karen May, Board Member and Director of MB Financial, Inc., and EVP Global HR Mondelez International, Inc.
Sylvia Balogh, SVP, MB Financial, MW Retail Divisional Manager
Clio Mulryne, Director, MB Financial Retail Lending and Business Transformation
Jill York, MB Financial Chief Financial Officer
Colleen Lee, SVP, Commercial Banking

Here are some highlights:

Work/Life Balance – Is there such a thing? All panelists seemed to agree that while family and friends take precedent in their lives, work is also a part of life, and if you are lucky enough to find work that is meaningful, interesting and challenging there is great reward in the commitment to do your best and produce something of quality.

Get Organized! – Understand what your priorities are and map it out. Our panelists shared the importance of being clear about what matters to you: family life, community service, exercise, work, etc., and designate time in your calendar for them.

Say No When Needed – Each leader had moments in their life when they had to turn down a promotion, relocation, board position, and more, because it would have produced more stress than success. Don’t be afraid to say “no for now.” If you do good work, another opportunity will come along.

Life is a Team Sport – There was agreement around the importance of asking for help when you need it. That might be hiring someone to clean your house (despite the initial guilt), asking a partner or spouse to take on more for a time or collaborating with work colleagues to get it all done.

Technology Helps – The group shared that technology (while it has its downsides) can be a great tool to gain flexibility. Gone are the days when you had to get it all done between 9-5. You can get home on time for dinner, attend an important event or help a friend, and know that you can check emails later at home, if needed, when all other important obligations are complete.

Unplugging Pointers – Discussion ensued around the challenges of going on vacation but still feeling like you need to be connected to work. Most felt it was important to do quick check-ins (checking email, for instance, first thing in the a.m. and late-day, but not throughout the day). These quick touch points with the office allowed them to feel less stress knowing they wouldn’t have to return to the office with piles of unanswered emails waiting for them. Panelists also reminded the audience to be sure that you communicate effectively with your team and colleagues before you leave to set expectations and help them organize in your absence.

Ditch the Guilt – These women volunteered that men have balance problems too, but they rarely feel guilty about it. Recognize that giving your best effort to all that you do is what matters. If you need to leave early from work one week because of a family obligation – be open about it so there is no confusion. Some days you’ll need to focus more on work and other days you will lean toward family – but feeling guilty never helps.

It’s a Journey – There was consensus around how it is possible to have one picture of the kind of career your want in your 20’s but that may change as you evolve personally and the marketplace changes. Be open to it. Allow yourself to be surprised.

The famous philosopher Ellen DeGeneres once said, “My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”

Thanks, leaders, for sharing your best practices.