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Work-Life Balance May Be Dead, but Wellbeing at Work Is Alive and Well: Insights from Hallmark Innovation Exec Patti Streeper

pic 119I had just read, and agreed with, a CNN op/ed piece on the demise of the work-life balance when I conducted an interview with Patti Streeper. As Vice President of Corporate Innovation at Hallmark Cards, Patti agrees that there is no optimum work-life balance. For her, the work-life interplay is more of a “constant juggling and shifting” where at times “you may be focusing more heavily in one realm than another.”

Yet when I asked Patti about her commitment to wellbeing at work, I heard a passionate commitment. “As human beings, we all have needs and wants, strengths and desires, hopes and fears. To me, leading wellbeing means understanding what each individual brings to the table and how I can best help them bring their best selves – their whole selves – to our work together.”

She adds, “Leading wellbeing is not just about employee engagement – it’s about engagement at the highest degree, where people can’t wait to get into work because they get to do what they love and they do it well.” Patti sees her job as identifying the intersection between the uniqueness of the individual and the mission and the goals of the organization. “When people get an opportunity to bring their best, then we’re all doing better … and there’s not much that can stop us!”

So how does Patti lead wellbeing for herself and others? She uses these three proven practices.

  1. Know when to disengage. “In my younger years I used to be a bit extreme, toughing things out and working incredibly long hours,” Patti acknowledges. “Now, when I’m spent, I’m spent. I take that as a signal to get away from the situation at hand—get a cup of coffee, go home and relax or take a vacation, whatever it might be. Work can be exhausting and draining at times. I’ve learned that it’s key for me to be mindful and know when I need to withdraw and recoup.”
  1. See what others miss. “I have a fine arts degree in printmaking so I view things a little differently from other businesspeople.” Being an artist helps Patti look beyond the surface of a situation to uncover the deeper message or underlying dynamics. “I try to discover the subtleties,” she says. “For example, when I see a painting I notice how the colors are juxtaposed, the wonderful feathering on the edges, and the tension between the colors and edges. That same tension among people and groups fascinates me as a leader. It can produce clashes, but it can also forge incredible innovations.” By looking beyond the surface of job titles or degrees to discover more about individuals Patti brings her personal skills and her larger sense of humanity to her leadership role.
  1. Know what you need and go for it. “I draw and paint as a way to sort out my thinking. And I meditate and pray.” If Patti fails to pursue these energy-boosting practices on a regular basis she finds herself “seriously rough around the edges and more easily knocked off-center.” Staying true to these tactics keeps her open, curious and balanced.