Research on Women Executives and Values Alignment

I participated in a series of interviews my colleague, Sheila Maher conducted with women executives to understand the challenges they face in aligning their personal and professional lives with their values. Her findings were very interesting and have been submitted for publication to a coaching journal. Here are a few highlights:
She found first that the women executives fell into four distinct groups related to their alignment with their values. Executives faced many common issues across groups as well as challenges specific to their alignment group.


ALIGNED GROUP. An impressive one third of the women executives reported that they had aligned their lives with the people and activities that they value. These women were in their 40s and 50s and had purposefully created balance in their lives, often changing jobs or renegotiating their responsibilities. Though they were able to spend time with people and activities they valued, many still experienced time management challenges and 40% of them felt they had “an OK but not sufficient amount of time” to focus on what was most important to them. Their professional values centered around respect and reputation. However, most of them had not integrated their values into their leadership, management and decision-making styles. These executives could improve their level of alignment by defining the values they want to guide them professionally and improving their values-based leadership skills enabling them to integrate their values into their day-to-day performance.
Executives in the TRANSITIONAL GROUP spanned the age spectrums from 30 to over 50 years old. They were actively seeking a better work/life balance and alignment. While they had made some progress in this direction they had not achieved an acceptable balance. Time and energy management were a primary challenge for this group who reported feeling “always behind” with “never any downtime”. They also reported the need to be able to focus more on strategic issues. This group needs help in assessing and negotiating their workloads and staff levels, focusing on strategic high-return actions, and improving delegation skills to help them improve work life balance and effectiveness. Once they gain some space in their calendars, they (like that aligned group) can become more aligned by defining their values more fully and developing a values-based leadership style and skills.
The ASPIRATIONAL GROUP fell mostly in the oldest (50+) and youngest (30-39) age brackets. Though they wanted more balance they had not actively taken steps to achieve it. Some were not sure alignment was feasible or acceptable given the culture of their organization. The Aspirational Group needs support in reducing time demands including learning to say “no” effectively as well as assessing and addressing inefficiencies of their organizational culture that may be hampering them from using their time more efficiently.
The TRADITIONAL GROUP are the happy workaholics. Their work is their greatest value and other demands take a back seat. They don’t experience a conflict between work and life demands. Executives in this group had very demanding schedules and recognized that they could use help in focusing on strategic issues and managing their time better. Several executives in the Traditional Group also indicated that they are anxious about life after retirement and could use support in this area.
For more information, Sheila Maher can be reached at or visit her site at

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