Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Celebrity Apprentice

If you happened to catch Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” last week, you may have noticed my husband, Larry, making a guest appearance. As the CEO of Dr Pepper Snapple, he introduced the final challenge to the remaining two competitors (Poison’s Brett Michaels and actress Holly Robinson Peete). I watched with pride as Larry laid out the challenge: create and market a new Snapple flavor weaving in their charities’ messages.

I also had the honor of dining with Mr. Trump before Larry’s spotlight performance. Among those at the table we discussed some of the challenges and opportunities that come with being an executive spouse. It boils down to a few critical elements of a successful executive/spouse partnership, including:

Team and trust. Both spouses must establish absolute trust in each other and know that they are in it as a team for the long-term. They need to accept that they’re in it together, know that they have a plan, and be willing to make it happen.

Relationship and responsibility. It’s about the power of two, and each member of the couple needs to be accountable to the other, and to themselves. It’s vital that both spouses realize that they need to approach the challenge as a team. The spouse climbing the corporate ladder can experience extreme pressure and loneliness along the way. Or, when one spouse gets a shiny new promotion and picks up the family to a new city or country, for instance, it may be difficult for the other spouse to immediately find a job in the new community. Instead of placing blame on the executive and bottling up resentment, the spouse needs to take responsibility and communicate his or her feelings and find a way pursue their own interests.

Understanding. For both the executive and the spouse, huge doses of understanding and acceptance are essential to staying connected – for the long term. Demonstrating understanding and support is a critical piece of the puzzle. Both spouses need to make concessions to make sure the other one is happy and fulfilled, and appreciates the other’s contributions. It’s incredibly rewarding when your spouse recognizes you as a valuable resource and partner, and it’s doubly rewarding when they share it with peers who recognize it, too. Watch any awards show on TV, and you’ll see countless examples of high-powered people profusely thanking their spouses for years of support.

Mettle. It isn’t easy, but being an ExecuMate is a natural mettle-building exercise. It’s easy to get lost and overshadowed, but remember to stand up for yourself and your spouse - be true to you.

Passion and perseverance. These two attributes are keys to success, no matter what you do. Find something you love – whether it’s a career, classes, hobby, philanthropy or volunteering – outside of your responsibilities as an executive spouse to ensure you are fulfilled.

It may take years to achieve your goals together, and both executive and spouse need to commit to not only the end result, but the journey, as well. Both need to recognize that there will be sacrifices along the way and it will take perseverance, but the end results can be rewarding on many fronts.

If you’re an executive spouse and seeking support from those who are on the same path, I’d love to hear from you. Sharing each others’ experiences is the best way to learn and grow. And no one will tell you “you’re fired.” I promise.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Daily Question: What's for Dinner?

Recently, I was particularly surprised when an ExecuMate empty nester mentioned that her executive expressed disappointment that dinners weren’t regularly prepared. Now, having gone through the family journey myself, I understand that it’s important to gather family at the same table, at the same time, and regularly during the week, when possible. That’s another blog post. However, as an empty nester myself, I took pause with this one.

Truthfully, I have seen this discussion fall into two categories: A) Couples who say life has moved past cooking every night – and they enjoy the freedom of winging it, and B) Those who have not. So, what’s this all about? Control? Expectations?

I say it’s about communication. Let’s talk about a solution for Group B. Although this may sound a bit stilted at first, after a few runs, it will become part of your regular routine. Let’s say, on Sunday night (assuming it is the night before your work week), both spouses sit down and review their schedules together. You know, “I have a dinner this night, I have a meeting that night,” and each partner shares their known schedule. This way, there are no surprises, and quality dinners - and time spent together - will be meaningful, even special.

Another quick tip: Plan the type of food you’ll share on a specific night. For example, Italian on Wednesday night so both spouses can plan NOT to have Italian for lunch. It’s simple, it’s easy – and everybody wins. Bon app├ętit!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Daily Issues: What Lives in Your House?

Meeting with ExecuMates is the best education possible. Every time I have the privilege of discussing “what issues live in your executive house,” a short list quickly reappears. Loneliness. Single parenting (well, almost). Relocating. Unfair work issues for your spouse.

If just one of these issues lives in your house, you are not alone. Many executive spouses are living with them in their houses and within themselves, quietly, hidden, and unspoken.

At ExecuMate, we’re here to help – through personal experience shared in
seminars and one-on-one coaching where spouses can feel at ease discussing these issues in confidence – and find ways to move forward. I’d love to hear from you - please feel free to contact me at colette.young@execumate.net.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ExecuMate Perks

Whether dining with Gene Simmons of KISS, or co-hosting a party of 230 top performers in Bora Bora, one thing you certainly do know: Unless you are an executive spouse or a celebrity, this is not an average day. Appreciative? Yes!

As an ExecuMate, I humbly reflect on these fabulous experiences, both mine personally and those I’ve heard from other executive spouses – and these are the moments and memories that make those not so pleasant times all worth it. These amazing, once-in-a-lifetime moments serve as the equalizer making up for the missed dinners, missed holidays, loneliness associated with
corporate moves, and of course those horrible personal experiences that only an ExecuMate can fill in the blank.

If you’re in a particularly unsatisfying place in your journey that feels seemingly unbearable at the moment, hang in there – and focus on the rewards of tomorrow. Good things do come to those who persevere and wait. But in the meantime, during the uncomfortable wait, fill your life with supportive people who have walked in your shoes, positive thoughts, and enriching experiences that you do have control over.