One of the most important aspects for any change agent is the ability to lead – which means managing the demands of your own career as well as home responsibilities – all while managing a team, as well.
“With the entry of new technologies, and the ability to be accessible 24/7, the challenges of work-life balance exist for everybody, not just women,” explained Linda Albornoz, Vice President of B2B Payment Solutions within the American Express Technologies group.
She continued, “The key is for individuals to set priorities and have clear goals. Your own boundaries have to be clear. There will be high stress times that arise when you’re needed more at work, and during those times, you have to monitor stress and create checkpoints.”
“This is also one reason why building great teams is so important. It ensures you don’t have to work 24/7,” she explained. “I love building cohesive, high impact working teams,” she said. “We’re identifying and using the talents and collective skills across the organization. We’re just at the beginning of our journey together. It’s wonderful to start new journeys to new destinations.”
Stronger Teams Means Stronger Performance
Albernoz said two proudest achievements were focused on strengthening teams to deliver a better product.
She recalled, “Early in my career here I was working on a project that involved heavy travel and had a very aggressive time line. There was a risk around retaining employees. I learned a lot about myself. I had doubts – just like everyone else.”
She continued, “But what I’m most proud of is that not only did we keep every customer, we recruited a number of employees to stay with American Express – even though it meant moving to new locations in different cities. And I still see those employees here at Amex ten years later. I think that’s a sign of success.”
For a second instance, Albornoz remembered, “About three years ago we were working on another acquisition – and that company had issues with customer satisfaction and work life balance issues for the employees. But now, three years later, I see that the team is proud of their accomplishments and proud of the quality of services they’re delivering. We’re in a different place.”
“I love seeing that operation now,” she continued. “With the satisfaction of both the client, the efficiency of the operation and the engagement of employees, I see a great opportunity for continued growth ahead.”
Attracting and Retaining Top Talent with an Agile Workplace
Albornoz is also concerned with attracting new talent to the company. “I’ve been thinking a lot about alternative work environments,” Albornoz said. “And how to attract and retain new and younger talent.”
She continued, “The average age is getting higher in large corporations, and the younger talent is going to the startups and social networks. I’ve been thinking a lot about the culture you build in the workplace, and the strategies to keep younger employees engaged and motivated.”
Albornoz explained that meant agile work methods like bringing business and technology partners together earlier on in the process, and finding was to collaborate not only “in person” but online so they can design the product together. In fact, Albernoz has significant experience with flexible work arrangements herself. She said, ““I’ve worked in leadership roles from a virtual office for 50% of my 20 year career,” she explained.
“Early in my career, I faced the potential of leaving the company because my husband’s job was moving. Amex was a great early leader in the virtual office environments twelve years ago, and the company helped me set up a virtual office. I wouldn’t be at Amex today without it.”
She advised, “You really have to build your brand to be successful while away from the office. Build your network through calling and setup “check-ins” when you are at a campus – it can be difficult to make time to reach out and have those conversations. There has got to be a conscious effort.”
She continued, “Make sure you spend the time reconnecting and nurturing your network. And it’s essential to have clear goals and clear metrics for monitoring your progress – this is always important, but it’s doubly or triply vital in a virtual environment, not only for yourself, but also or the organization.”
“Monitoring and checkpoints are vital to ensuring you have the focus, and that you can show it at the end of the day,” she explained.