One of the biggest challenges many of us face is managing our technology. This can be trickier for women who tend to be taskmasters and caregivers, handling things like doctor’s appointments, elder care, the school play, high school admissions, and travel arrangements. Technology makes this kind of work easier to do (especially during a lunch break), but then we fail to do other things like connect with colleagues and clients, take a walk, or even eat. Then — poof —break time is gone.
These six impressive CEOS are naturals at finding the sweet spot. They take different approaches and run very diverse businesses but they share a common intention to both connect and disconnect. Their power comes from being mindful and strategic.
Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle, Disconnects to Reconnect
Since 2014, Melanie has been hard at work by building this cult brand. She realizes that disconnecting is critical to her success both personally and professionally. Melanie rides at SoulCycle four to five times a week. It gives her 45 minutes to be completely disconnected from technology where she can close her eyes, listen to music and exercise. Also, by visiting one of her studios, feeling the vibe and connecting with employees, her cycling is great for business as well. A win–win.
Melanie often refers to soul cycle as a “tribe” where customers connect with other like-minded people. But this can only happen when tribal members put down their phones.
Ellen Bennett, CEO of Hedley & Bennett, Curates Connection
After feeling the pain of disconnection as a cook in the kitchens of California, Ellen launched her company, first setting out to change the culinary culture by creating happy aprons for grumpy cooks to wear. And then, she wanted to create a company where customers and employees feel connected.
Ellen has many passions. One of them is social media and boy, is she good at it. She hires great photographers and curates the photos to create a consistently inviting vibe, which has led to over 70,000 Instagram followers. Her other passion is authentic engagement. Anyone who enters her factory in Los Angeles gets a hug and ice cream. A very sweet spot, indeed.
Jessica Mah, CEO of InDinero, Says “No” to Email at Work
Jessica founded InDinero, the one-stop finance department for small businesses who want to save time and money by outsourcing their accounting. As CEO, Jessica found that email was taking up too much “mental bandwidth.” As emails popped up on her screen, she hated being interrupted all day long. And so, one day, she got rid of internal work emails. She looked to chat tools such as Slack, so employees could get the information they want, when they want it. Jessica believes that living without email has given her and her staff more control over their time, which improves productivity. Now, Jessica’s trying to wean her customers off email too.
Jennifer Connelly, CEO of J. Connelly, Seeks Work-Life Fusion
Since public relations is not one of those, “9-5, behind-a-desk jobs,” Jennifer says that technology is her lifeline, keeping her connected to work while also giving her the freedom to go where life takes her. Instead of striving for work-life balance, she seeks “work-life fusion.”
Jennifer says that while technology has changed so many aspects of our lives, the one thing that has stayed the same is relationships. When Jennifer interviews potential new employees, she takes them out for a meal or coffee. She wants to get to know them as people, not just professionals, which is not always easy to do in an office environment. Jennifer and her team have created a best-in-class on-boarding process with the goal of making people feel connected and valued from day one. She wants them to know that while technology will always be a critical part of the job, relationships matter at J. Connelly.
Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Cofounders of Food52, Connect Around the Table
New York Magazine recently referred to Food52, the kitchen and home site, as an “empire.” From the beginning, co-founders Amanda and Merrill have lived right in the middle of high-tech and high-touch. Fundamentally a tech company (they began as a website), with a mission to grow a community around a love of preparing and sharing food, Amanda and Merrill are experts at leveraging technology and keeping it in its place.
One way they do this is by banning technology from most meetings (Amanda especially dislikes meetings and is determined to keep them short and sweet, even standing up). But that doesn’t mean they don’t encourage connection. They have crowned some employees “Ambassadors of Fun,” making them responsible for planning group outings. Amanda and Merrill also regularly host dinners, book parties, and cooking tournaments. Bringing people together around a table — virtual and real — is what it is all about at Food52.
Finding the sweet spot is never easy. What these six smart CEOs have in common is their mission to address technology, take it on, think about it and challenge it. They realize the benefits that 24-7 connectivity brings them but they strive to honor relationships with their employees, their customers and themselves.
These women understand the power of technology, and they wield it well.
Erica Keswin is a workplace strategist. Her forthcoming book, Bring Your Human to Work: Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Design a Workplace That is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World, will be published by McGraw Hill in the Fall of 2018.