Motherhood is a full-time job that requires patience, planning, and top-notch communication skills. On days when I’m hopping from online meeting to online meeting while my 9-year-old twins are home with me, it can feel like I’m the CEO of one huge organization: my family! Blandine Lacroix is the Corporate Vice President of Strategy and Rare Disease at Novo Nordisk, and as a single mom, she is a terrific example of someone who uses her skills honed in motherhood to become an even more effective leader at the office. In an ever-changing post-pandemic world, Blandine emphasizes the importance of prioritizing, bringing your authentic self to work, and creating a sense of safety for your team. Motherhood, then, is not an obstacle to career success, but an asset. Blandine shared some trade secrets with me and it’s too good to keep it to myself:
The idea around “having it all,” particularly as it applies to moms with demanding careers (as if parenting wasn’t demanding), is experiencing something of a recalibration these days, especially as the pandemic forced us to rethink the way we work given how intertwined those two worlds truly are.
As a leader, I’ve always advocated for bringing your whole self to life and work. The skills, passion, and resilience we need for both are more interchangeable than not. Making that connection can empower us to become better leaders and parents while supporting a healthier work/life harmony that is frankly not a women’s issue, but a human one because essentially, being a parent and an executive is so much like the same job. Here’s why.
Priorities and Trade-Offs
As a parent or a leader, the power is in your hands. What you do with that power determines outcomes. I am a single mom at home and an executive leader at a leading global healthcare company at work. Does this mean I work 100 hours a week? No. Does this mean I miss my daughter’s birthday? No. Doing so would negatively impact the way I bring out the best in people in both places. Does this mean that I need to deliberately invest in relationships and respect the people involved? Yes. Does this mean that I use coaching, empathy, and modeling to bring out the best in them? Definitely.
The role that is required to motivate a family member or a team to achieve their goals is what we could call the Chief Meaning Officer (CMO). A CMO has a clear vision and activates individuals (at home or at work) around it. To do this well, the CMO needs to manage (and balance) the tyranny of time and priorities and be deliberate while doing so.
This is true for the leader running a P&L where you have to navigate the needs of the long term against the short term. This is also true in navigating the needs of the family versus the needs of the kids. Understanding who you are, what you stand for, and what matters to you (and your company, business, and family) allows you to make better decisions around priorities and trade-offs because you have clarity.
Many people, especially successful executives, purposely carve out time for retreats where they can reflect, ideate, and be inspired so that they can return to their work empowered and clear. Parents need this as well. This is part of self-care. This is what it means to, as they say, “put the oxygen mask on first before helping others.” The ability to create purposeful boundaries at home and at work supports this and is also the result of this. Then, bringing your two lives (and calendars) together and prioritizing your time is second nature.
Pick Your Battles
Parents learn quickly that it’s important to pick your battles. If my daughter wants to wear a pink shirt (even after I picked out the blue one), is it worth being late to school over this? No. Being clear about what matters most (the result of the aforementioned work) allows us to pick our battles not only at home but at work, where sometimes, it can be more challenging.
Obviously, we want to give our work and families our all (and more), but it is impossible (not to mention unsustainable) to give 150% to both home and work. By picking our battles, we are actually more effective because we are more focused; we are responding instead of reacting, and we can empower others to do the same. This is the role of a leader, regardless of the setting.
Create a Safe Environment
Creating a safe environment allows individuals to grow and brings out the best of them, focusing on empowerment versus being overly directive. For example, if I want to give my daughter a job—like helping with cooking—we’ll first do it together, which creates a fun and meaningful experience. Then, I will slowly let her take over certain tasks so she can grow in accountability and responsibility. She experiences a sense of pride and reward, which fuels greater confidence.
The same is true with our teams: investing time and creating space for team building and talent development where the focus is on experiential shared learning, building confidence, trust and respect, and strengthening accountabilities is critical. (Doing team building exercises at home with loved ones can also be fun!)
Finally, in order to build a safe environment, you have to be a good communicator, having clarity of intent (what is your goal), asking questions, inviting input, and then, when input is given, embracing it.
On that note, one personal developmental opportunity I have is with the emotionally loaded micro-moments of communication failures at home. For some reason, it seems so easy to get triggered at home and fly off the handle. Yet at work, we have guardrails—legally and otherwise—for that not to happen. Instead, we take a pause so we can communicate more effectively. Still, working to apply those work skills back home, removing stressful triggers, and (again) prioritizing self-care probably help.
In the end, shouldn’t it be about what matters most and how we want the people we work and live with to thrive? By connecting the skills that we use at home and at work, we may be able to create better environments for everyone, including ourselves.


An Phan