We can’t be two places at once.
This is one of the hardest things to accept about being a working parent. In many ways, we are torn between our two selves: the one who wants to excel at work, and the one who wants to be present for the kids. With a company that supports work-life integration and encourages healthy boundaries, you don’t have to sacrifice success in one area at the expense of another. You can be your authentic self both at work and at home.
This is the experience for Jen Dass at Initiative, a global media agency. As the Chief Transformation Officer in the U.S., Jen focuses on solving problems and finding better solutions. At a recent Mentor Power Hour, we sat down with Jen to discuss embracing transformation and creating healthy boundaries. As we close out our month of gratitude, it’s only fitting that we end with this session that highlights how thankful Jen is to work for a company that gets it.
Want to catch the replay? Watch it here. We’ll recap the highlights below.About Jen and Initiative
Jen is a first generation American, an avid baker, a dedicated team builder, a mom of two, and the first Chief Transformation Officer at Initiative, working in media brands. She’s a night owl who loves watching everything from The Crown to Cobra Kai with her kids. Her superpower is connecting the dots, which helps her succeed at her job. Being a busy mom means embracing productivity hacks — and Jen’s go-to method for staying organized is planning her day the night before.
Initiative is a media agency that helps top brands grow. They’re also committed to their employees’ growth; according to Jen, they are all about their people, and you see it across the leadership team. In fact, clients know this as their differentiating factor. They have plenty of family-friendly benefits, including flexible work schedules, hybrid work, a family assistance program for emergency child care when they need it, and recently expanded parental leave policies.
Working at Initiative has been an amazing experience for Jen. It has helped her achieve balance between her mom life and her career. Initiative also stepped up and showed their amazing family-friendliness by supporting her during one of the most challenging times of her life.
Combating Burnout and Fostering Growth Through Healthy Boundaries
Jen understands the importance of assessing your priorities when life gets to be too much. She reached a point in her life when her family needed her. She took a step back and re-centered to focus on what was important.
It ended up being the move that would eventually land her at Initiative.
Jen’s new role as Chief Transformation Officer meant she was focused on streamlining operations and finding better ways of working, not only within the agency but also with partner clients. Her day-to-day involves different problems to solve every day. Then Jen was facing her own issue, when she experienced a serious health challenge within her family.
Initiative stepped up, and the leadership team was very supportive. She was able to connect with Initiative’s burnout coach, who helped her deal with the emotional processing of the situation. What she really appreciated was the space she was given to deal with the issue in her way. Being able to check in with work on her terms was her sanity check since the health concern was not something she could control.
“Burnout is definitely a real thing. For me, it’s an area of continuous transformation and evolution. No one gets it perfect all the time.” - Jen Dasss
Going through this emotionally taxing event helped Jen develop tactics to stave off burnout, ones she shares with her team. They include:
- Put boundaries in place with timeblocks
- Designates certain times for when you know you focus better to make sure you get it all done
- Put focus time on the calendar for non-meetings. This helps you be self-aware of your productive times of the day.
Not everyone will have the same needs, and part of being a good leader is recognizing that and giving teams the autonomy to work the way that’s best for them.
Fostering Growth and Connection
Once you take steps to combat burnout, the process of growth can begin. While Jen has undertaken a lot of personal growth, she prides herself on helping her team flourish. Here are her best tips for ensuring teams can grow:
- Remaining curious is something that’s important.
- Embrace trial and error to figure things out and find the best solutions. Do tactical things balanced with thinking outside of the box to transform your growth and keep things moving.
- Let go of perfectionism. Jen was once a perfectionist, and part of her journey was learning to get something to where it’s in a good foundational space and knowing you can evolve it from there. This helps you grow from an experimentation perspective. Trying new approaches is fruitful and rewarding.
- Staying connected is essential for team growth. In a remote culture, you can still do things together — designate a time for everyone to take their break at the same time. Get coffee, do yoga…just be together in spirit.
During this month of thanks, our focus is on gratitude: acknowledging it, expressing it and making it a regular part of life. Jen takes time to show her team how much they mean in various ways. Her baking skills are able to shine. The most important thing she does is to recognize their whole selves. She talks to them not only about work, but also about how they’re feeling. For Jen, this is the key to a happier workforce — you have to give people the right tools and the right forum to feel productive.
Above all else, Jen is grateful for her family: her husband, who supports her with the kids and work; her mother-in-law, who is always there to help. She is grateful for Initiative, a place where she can be her authentic self. Her family is South American and Hindu, and Jen Is grateful to be at a place where she feels comfortable celebrating her culture — as well as being able to share this culture with her agency.
To wrap up this session, and our month of gratitude, we want to leave you with some tips from Jen to stay grounded and grateful.
- Have a gratitude journal — take a moment to write down three things you’re grateful for each day. This helps Jen be her best self at work and at home.
- Appreciate the little things: Peloton, dog walks, meditation. Staying balanced is a continuous process.
- Give yourself grace. There are going to be moments or days that you’ll want to do a lot, but you can’t clone yourself. If you take away one thing from this session, have it be this.