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It Figures: The CRI Podcast

S3:E10 – Balancing Acts: Managing Personal & Professional Commitments

As we approach an increasingly remote workforce with our laptops, and therefore our jobs, being only steps away, the goal of “work-life balance” seems arduous. In this episode of It Figures, CRI Human Capital Partner Sandi Guy and Senior Manager Kendra LaFleur explore how the individual’s definition of balance has changed in the last decade and potential ways to adjust.

Intro:

From Carr, Riggs & Ingram, this is It Figures, the CRI podcast, an accounting, advisory, and industry-focused podcast, for business and organization leaders, entrepreneurs, and anyone who is looking to go beyond the status quo.

Sandi Guy:

Well, good afternoon, and thank you for joining me for another episode of It Figures, a CRI podcast. My name is Sandi Guy, and I’m excited to host another very interesting dialogue on a trending topic.

Sandi Guy:

I don’t know about y’all, but for me, I’m getting really tired of the term, work life balance. I feel like we’ve been using that term for, gosh … 20, 30 years. It seems like forever, and I don’t know about y’all, but I haven’t achieved balance, and I’m starting to think that balance isn’t even something that you can achieve. I know for me, it always feels like, as I’m trying to lean left and balance more towards my personal life, that then my professional life gets out of balance, and then vice versa, and it’s always a balancing act. And when I start easing out of one to ease into another, I start to feel guilty as well.

Sandi Guy:

And then to add to all of that, given the new dynamics of the workplace, it just really seems more like we’re integrating our personal and professional lives. I’ve worked remote full time since 2015, and to work in your home, integrating your personal and professional life, takes on a whole new meaning.

Sandi Guy:

So what I wanted to do today, was have a discussion and really explore, is balance even really a thing, and is it really more integration that we’re looking at, between these two worlds that seem to have overlapped, or lapsed onto each other, it seems like some days, and as we’re all trying to have it all, what is have it all, especially if you’re a female. That comes up sometimes, but … so I thought, “You know what? Who could I talk to, that it would be a really good discussion with,” and I decided I wanted to choose somebody who I look up to, from the outside looking in, it seems like she’s balancing it all, so it’s my pleasure to introduce my guest, Kendra LaFleur. Kendra, thank you for balancing some time into your day to do this with me today. I appreciate that.

Sandi Guy:

But if you would take a second, introduce yourself, who you are, where you are, and maybe some aspects of your life that you seem to balancing, if you have kids, clients, all that good stuff.

Kendra LaFleur:

Yeah. Thank you for having me, Sandi. I always love connecting with you.

Kendra LaFleur:

So my name is Kendra LaFleur. I am a senior manager out of the Atlanta practice. I am a mother of three children, and a dog mom-

Sandi Guy:

I’m a dog mom. Team Tyson over here.

Kendra LaFleur:

My baby, Tyson, he is a Amstaff terrier. He is growing on me. He’s a hoot.

Sandi Guy:

He’s a good puppy. It’s been two years, Tyson.

Kendra LaFleur:

Two years, that’s right. He’s growing on me.

Kendra LaFleur:

I’m married. I’ve been married for 13 years. Shout out to my husband, Chris, and I am the Board Treasurer for Girls on the Run-

Sandi Guy:

Yes.

Kendra LaFleur:

… love, love, love that organization. So I’m the Board Treasurer for that.

Kendra LaFleur:

I’m on the Young Membership Committee for the AICPA. Love that. And then I’m also the Board Treasurer for the Women’s Department at my church, out of Georgia.

Kendra LaFleur:

So a few different things.

Sandi Guy:

I’m going to call you out, because you left out for me, something I think is a really big deal, and it’s about CRI. What do you chair at CRI that you didn’t even just mention?

Kendra LaFleur:

Oh yes, I am … duh, Kendra. I am the Chairman or Chairwoman of our ERG for Black and African Americans, so balance, so I am the Chairman and one of the founders of that-

Sandi Guy:

Definitely one of the founders, and I think, it kind of relates nicely into the conversation, because when, I think I really started to look up to you and respect you for everything you keep juggling in the air at one time, was May, June of 2020, when you and I … I was on the phone with you every day, and we were talking about how we’ve got to get this ERG started, and what that looked like, and what would it … and I think you probably spent more time with me than billing clients. Don’t worry, Kelly Bollinger, she billed clients.

Sandi Guy:

But it was just, any time I called you and said, “Hey, do you have some time?” And you made time, and it was great, and I know a lot of your personal and professional commitments. So I really appreciated the amount of time you gave to me for that.

Sandi Guy:

But so let’s talk about it. I don’t think there’s such a thing as balance. What do you think about the term work life balance? Do you think balance is something you can achieve, or is it more about integration?

Kendra LaFleur:

You know, it’s funny that you asked that, because that’s probably one of the most common questions that I get is, “Kendra, how do you balance everything? How many hours do you actually have in your day, Kendra-”

Sandi Guy:

How many-

Kendra LaFleur:

“… because you do a lot.” But I don’t think that it’s a question of how do I do it? I think it’s just a testament that it can be done, and so the way that I balance my schedule, it’s completely different than maybe how my husband does his, or how my coworker does hers. I think everybody’s balance just looks a little bit different. The only commonality that we all have is the 24 hour, and so in order to get everything done, you got to split that time. It’s just 24 hours.

Kendra LaFleur:

So you might spend eight hours sleeping. Maybe you’re one of those people who has to sleep for eight hours or you can’t function, so then you got 16 left. How are you going to make it?

Kendra LaFleur:

But nothing is created equal. I feel like in order for it to work, you have to pull from one area in order to give to the other. So it sounds terrible, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s just a perfect balance. I think that you just kind of figure out how it all can work together, if that makes sense.

Sandi Guy:

No, it does, and I love how you said, “I think it can be done.”

Sandi Guy:

I think it can be done, but that doesn’t mean … one of the things when we do our Conversations that Count, which is sort of the equivalent of an internal podcast, I guess you could say, I always ask people, “What would you do if you had more time?” Kind of because I’m curious what they would do, but for me, I’m like, “What’s it like to have more time? I feel like by the time my head hits the pillow at night, I’m still three or four hours short of things I needed to do.

Sandi Guy:

But when I think about early in your career, so when you and I first met, when I joined CRA, you were a … I think you were a first year senior, you had just passed the exam, I think, and had a child, and I remember thinking, “How do you have a-” … and I want to say it’s your second child … “How do you have a child, study for the exam, pass it?” So at that point in your life you’re still … well, you’re young now … but you’re young, and it’s like, “Okay, I’m going to go with my friends, and me and my husband were going to go out and do this and this and this.”

Sandi Guy:

How did you accomplish that early in your career? Working, you’re hardcore in Atlanta, study for the exam, so how did you do that?

Kendra LaFleur:

I think … I’m a firm believer, rather, that we make time for the things that are important for us, and so at that time in my life, it was like, I wanted to pass the exam, I just wanted to pass that exam, and it was so hard for me. I know some people, they can just it, and just be done with it, but it was such a journey for me. I was pregnant as I was studying, so I’m throwing up, trying to study, hungry but I can’t eat … it was just so hard for me, but it was important to me, and so I just had to figure it out. And so I’m a firm believer, if you’re passionate about something or you want it, you figure it out. You just figure it out.

Sandi Guy:

So I’m curious. I do feel guilty when … so if I’m working and there’s a project on to have done, and I’m like, “All right, I am not logging off. I am not going to bedtime. I’m going to get this project done, closed, it’s important to me.” And if I have a girlfriend text me, or my husband texts me, “Hey, let’s go grab some dinner,” or, “Want to go do this or that?” And I feel guilty, so both are equally important to me, so I’m like, “I feel guilty, I told them no last time they wanted to go do something, but then, if I don’t do the work thing, I feel guilty, and like, God, I promised Kendra I’d have the charter reviewed and back to her by this point.”

Sandi Guy:

Do you ever experience guilt and, if so, how do you manage that?

Kendra LaFleur:

A hundred percent. A hundred percent. My sweet husband, he’s been on this journey with me, and so I’m just laser-focused with work, I want to do a good job, I want to … this path to partner, and I’m just putting in the work to get to that point. I’m studying for the exam, I’ve got kids, now I want to volunteer. My husband’s like, “Kendra, okay, what about me?” My sweet husband, he’s the best.

Kendra LaFleur:

But then, for example, when I was studying for the exam, I was adamant about no vacation. I can’t vacation, because I won’t have peace of mind, I just want to study. If I’m laying on the beach somewhere, I’m just going to be thinking about the exam, so let me just do that.

Kendra LaFleur:

And then my husband, it had been maybe a year or so, and I think I had to do one more part, something like that, and my husband was like, “Kendra, we need to go away. I know that it’s important to you, but it’s important to me that we have this time,” so just going through that whole thing, and then I felt so bad. He was just like, “I need that time, and it would be good for you,” and it was. It was good, but it was one of those things where I was so caught up in trying to get this part done, I had completely just dropped the ball with stuff in my marriage, and so he just really helped me figure out, “Okay, well instead of doing a week vacation, let’s just do four days, three nights. I would be good with that. Let’s compromise.”

Kendra LaFleur:

So my journey is a lot about compromising, and knowing that I can’t give a hundred percent of everything to everyone. I just can’t … I can’t do it, and I’m okay with that. It was hard initially, but I’ve gotten comfortable with saying no, and saying, “Well, I can do it, but I need to month to get to that point,” to go to dinner with you, or whatever it is.

Sandi Guy:

I think that’s a really interesting point, because I feel like, especially starting in the summer of 2020, when in the mornings, everybody would get up and you had your routine, I think the podcast that you and I did with Max Gin, Max talked about this a little bit, that you had your routine that, “Okay, my job was to get up and walk the dogs, and your job was to get the kids fed, and then I’d drop them off at school on my way to my office, and you’d go to your office.” Everybody had this routine.

Sandi Guy:

And then summer of 2020 hit, and everybody’s in lockdown, and everybody’s at home, so, okay, the dynamic of going and dropping off isn’t there, but then there’s other things to do, and then everybody gets pulled into different patterns, and if that communication … and I love the word negotiation, I hate to say compromise because compromise means somebody’s giving up something … but then that negotiation of how do we work together to accomplish something.

Sandi Guy:

I think that when you are trying to integrate your personal and professional pursuits, I do think it’s a negotiation. I think that even with me, if I’m thinking that I don’t have … I have a fenced-in yard, so the dogs can … I do like to walk them, but if can’t, we have a fenced-in yard, and I don’t have kids, but sometimes there’s something that I absolutely want to commit to and do, whether it’s going to see my niece, who’s in the middle of sorority rush at Alabama, so yes, #bamarushtok if y’all are watching.

Kendra LaFleur:

That’s exciting.

Sandi Guy:

It’s like, “That’s okay. Well first can I call the Birmingham office, and see if there’s any on-campus recruiting events that they need an extra hand to, because I’m happy to go down and help out.” But it’s about about, if somebody’s, “Hey, can you facilitate or do a training on this day?” I can say, “No.”

Sandi Guy:

I tried this year. I haven’t taken a whole week’s vacation, in I can’t tell you how long, and so I thought, “Okay, this summer, I’m going to try to take a week, even if it’s just sitting at the beach and not doing anything,” and one of the offices called, and we were talking about some of their summer training plans, and they said, “Okay, can you do this summer training during this week,” and it was the week of 4th of July, and that people pleaser in Sandi Guy just about uttered, “Yeah, sure, my calendar’s wide open at the moment, what day do you want?”

Sandi Guy:

And then I stopped and I was like, “No.” So I didn’t have to say, “No, because I’m trying to take PTO.” I just responded and said, “Actually that won’t work, can we chose another time?” And she was like, “Oh, absolutely, of course,” and we picked another time, but that people pleaser in me, who felt guilty to say, “No, not right now.” I’m like, “Why would I feel guilty?” And I told the partner, shoutout Michelle Landrum in Houston, I told her after, I said, “Gosh, I was trying to take PTO. Why did I feel bad?” And we had a whole conversation around that. She was like, “It didn’t matter. I was just throwing it out there because I thought it would be a good day.”

Sandi Guy:

So I do think it’s a negotiation if you don’t let your guilt and your pride and your people pleaserness, if you’re like Sandi Guy, get in the way. It is kind of hard, and even with my husband, when he talks about, “Hey, why don’t we take off early on Friday and go drive to Pinehurst and play a round of golf?” And I’m like, “I’ll tell you what. I can’t do it Friday, but I bet I can move some things around on my schedule. What if we go Saturday, and maybe play a round Monday, because I have a window of time on Monday?”

Sandi Guy:

So I do think it’s important. I do think it helps if you’re somebody who has a nice village to help them, and it sounds like you have a pretty nice village around you, especially in your husband and friends and things of that nature. But so oftentimes, I even think about technology. So when I was starting out my career, unlike you, Kendra … gosh, I’m going to be so old … we didn’t have cellphones. Cellphones were around, but it was like … we were past bag phones when I graduated college, but we were maybe a year past bag phones, so it wasn’t like-

Kendra LaFleur:

No, go ahead. Go ahead.

Sandi Guy:

You don’t know what a bag phone is? Girl, I need to-

Sandi Guy:

Do you really not know what a bag phone is? Oh, I’m so old. I’ll call you after, and show you what a bag phone is, so … I’ll call you after. Oh God, I feel so old.

Sandi Guy:

So cellphones were just coming out when I graduated college, and we had-

Kendra LaFleur:

Did they have computers back then?

Sandi Guy:

… and the internet was just coming out.

Kendra LaFleur:

Yes, I know that.

Sandi Guy:

So when work was done at the end of the day, I could log off. I wasn’t taking a laptop home.

Kendra LaFleur:

I’ll Google it.

Sandi Guy:

I left work five or six o’clock at night. On weekends, I would log off, go home, there was no laptop in my car. There might have been some paperwork or something, but for the most part, on the weekend, you weren’t really getting calls from the office. You weren’t getting emails. You weren’t getting texts. You weren’t getting anything. And I often now think back, because my life is 24/7. I’ll get texts, emails, and I don’t mind. I check them. Lord knows, you and I have done this. I check them, I respond to them, and I just feel like I had so much more time when I was younger, and I often wonder, is it because the technology wasn’t there.

Sandi Guy:

However, we are a lot more productive because of the technology, so I can do something, I can sit there and have a video call with you on a weekend, if you wanted one, because both of us maybe wanted to take Monday off, and we’re like, “Okay, let’s just knock it out Saturday morning,” and then we’ll move on, and won’t have to do it Friday. So I don’t know, what do you think? Do you think technology is a friend or a foe when you’re trying to integrate personal and professional?

Kendra LaFleur:

I think it’s both. Anybody in their right mind would have to say it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a little bit of both, because you’re right. You do get that benefit, because that’s we were flexible. It allows you to log in at night from the comfort of your own home if you want to attend your kid’s event, or if you want to attend a bridal shower, or whatever it is, maybe a doctor’s appointment, what have you. It does give you that flexibility to log in, but at the same time, you always feel like you have to be connected, and so that’s to your demise, and I’m the same way, Sandi. I always say, “I’m going to just unplug,” but I never for real unplug. I just don’t.

Sandi Guy:

I’m going to call you out on the podcast, so you just got back from a wonderful vacation to Mexico with your husband, and I know about a week or so before you were going, we were talking about something you were working on, and you were like, “I’m going to Mexico and I’m trying to get everything done,” and I’m like, “Oh my God, don’t check in,” and I’m thinking, “Hopefully, wherever she’s staying doesn’t have cell or internet service so she doesn’t check in.”

Sandi Guy:

And then when I got that text form you while you were on vacation, I almost wanted to go, “Oh, my gosh.” For granted, that was more personal than work, but so I’m curious, and your husband specifically said, “This is our vacation. No kids. We’re going to go be grownups, and go have grownup vacation.” So what was that like, while you were on vacation?

Kendra LaFleur:

It was so hard. It was so hard for me, it really was. It’s so bad, I feel like I’m telling on myself, and my husband’s going to hear it, and he’s going to be mad, but I got to text people on my team like, “Hey, is everything good? Did anything blow up?” I’m not checking my emails, I didn’t lie to my husband.

Sandi Guy:

I love your team. You have an amazing, competent team.

Kendra LaFleur:

I know, but I just … if they need me, I’m here. I’m so ashamed. I don’t know.

Kendra LaFleur:

But it was good, because I really didn’t check my emails, and I didn’t check my Teams, and so it was nice, but it was just my brain was still working, like, “Something’s due on Friday. This report is supposed to go out on Friday. Do I have the management Did y’all do-“.

Kendra LaFleur:

And I know that they did, because my team is amazing. It’s just my mind keeps thinking, and I have my phone, and it has access to all the answers are there, I just have to go get them, and I’m like … but let me tell you. That was Monday, but by Friday-

Sandi Guy:

I feel like that was all week. That was just Monday?

Kendra LaFleur:

No, that was just Monday, but by the time Friday go there, the phone was in the hotel room, it was just … I had to transit. It was just hard for me to do a hard cut-off. I couldn’t do a cold turkey, but and it was more and more like, “Okay, this is okay. This is okay.”

Sandi Guy:

But not the same thing as a vacation, but still the same thing. The last couple of years, when Apple came out with, you can see your screen time, it has that little report on there? And I’m like, “Okay, I want to spend less time on TikTok.” TikTok is my adult crack meth, whatever you want to call it. There are funny farmers and animals and, again, its bamarushtok time. But okay, I want to be off my phone, and that includes checking for work.

Sandi Guy:

And so I started paying attention when I was on it outside and one of the things I noticed is that, so I walk the dogs every morning at five in the morning, and in the summer when it gets hot, it’s after hours, but in the winter when it’s cooler, we usually go right at five and then I come back home and work, and I noticed that when I’m walking the dogs a lot of times I’m on the phone, and I’m responding to texts, responding to whatever, and TikToking sometimes.

Sandi Guy:

So I’m like, “You know what? I don’t need the phone when I go walk the dogs. I do need a flashlight, so instead I’ll take my tiny little flashlight, because it’s dark in the mornings, and I’m going to leave my phone at home.” We walk pretty far, so that’s about an hour twice a day that I would leave my phone at home, and it is weird the first couple of times that you do it, and it’s jut my neighborhood. It’s not like I’m going to have a flat tire or something.

Sandi Guy:

So I have started, “Okay, when I go to work upstairs to my home office during the day, what if I leave my phone downstairs, or what if I leave it somewhere else?” Because I’m working, if somebody wants me, they’ll Teams me, so I’ve tried to, even in my personal life, how can I turn my phone off, or just not even have it with me, to where I’m not tempted. It’s hard, but it has helped me focus on other things, because again, people pleaser Sandi wants to, if there’s an alert that pops up, “Hey you have a Teams message from Kendra,” well, I’m going to want to check it and see what Kendra needs, and it could wait.

Sandi Guy:

So I don’t know. It’s interesting, but I think technology does have things that can help us knock it out to enjoy that free time, but it is a habit, it really is. So I’m curious, did your husband struggle on … were you both on Monday struggling, or was he, “Oh no, we’re in Mexico, I’m ready to vacation.”

Kendra LaFleur:

My husband was there the week before we left. He was like, “Let’s go, I’m done. I don’t reply-“. I’m like, “We haven’t even left yet.” He’s very easy to unplug.

Sandi Guy:

I wish I could be like that.

Kendra LaFleur:

Me too.

Sandi Guy:

So we were talking about how a village can help, especially people who have kids. I see in my neighborhood, the neighborhood Facebook group, now that we’re all going back to school … not we, but the neighborhood kids are going back to school … I’ll see moms post, “Hey, can anybody do the carpool run here. I’ve got this going on,” so it’s really cool to see the village help out.

Sandi Guy:

But I have to say, I don’t know if it’s just me. My village doesn’t help out. My village makes it problematic. So I work from home, again, and there’s times my mom might be in town visiting, and it’d be two o’clock in the afternoon, I can be on a Zoom, and my mom will just come walk in my home office, sit down, and want to have a conversation. Oh my gosh, Mom, if you’re listening to this podcast, I’m so sorry.

Sandi Guy:

But I’m like, “I’m working. Just because I’m at home, doesn’t mean you can come in.” I have neighbors who will come, knock on the door, “Hey, I brought you some pesto, blah, blah, blah,” I’m like, “It’s two o’clock in the afternoon,” and I finally told my mom one day, I said, “Let me put it to you this way, so if I was still in an office in uptown Charlotte, would you drive up there, come sit in the office, and have this conversation with me?” “Oh no.” “Then don’t come in my home office, because I’m trying to get things done.”

Sandi Guy:

It’s really interesting how people just assume if you’re working from home, the interruption are okay. Do you ever run into that? I know you’re very hybrid, but do you ever run into that?

Kendra LaFleur:

Oh yeah, and I love your mom story, because that’s so my mom. My mom-

Sandi Guy:

I love her.

Kendra LaFleur:

Yeah, she is just like that. So I’ll say, “I’m going to be working remote next week, because the client doesn’t want us out there and I just need to head down, just focus, keep work-focused,” and so my mom, whenever she calls, she FaceTimes. It’s never even like an audio, it’s FaceTime, so, “I know you wanted to for real, but you’re FaceTiming.”

Kendra LaFleur:

She’ll call four times in a row, so I’m like, “Okay, hey Mom,” and she’s like, “Hey, what are y’all cooking for dinner tonight? I just have no idea what to make?” And I’m just like, “Mom, you’ve FaceTimed me four times to ask me something like that?”

Kendra LaFleur:

So she just doesn’t get it, so that’s my sweet, loving mom, so that’s why I love your story, because she reminds me of my mom, and how you deal with it.

Sandi Guy:

She totally understands it now, because whenever I’ve said to somebody, “Hey, if I was working in an office in uptown Charlotte, would you come sit in my office, and have this drive all the way uptown, and have this conversation?” “Well, no.” “Okay, well I’m-“.

Kendra LaFleur:

Absolutely not.

Sandi Guy:

My family learned to shut my door, put a Do Not Disturb sign on my door, all that kind of stuff, but yeah, it can be challenging.

Sandi Guy:

So I’m curious, because you, as I said at the beginning, I sit back and from the outside looking in, it looks like you’ve got it all together, because in addition to … your kids are fed and dressed and in school, and Tyson hopefully is not bringing in any more dead squirrels, and Tyson’s trained, and things are great, and you took a vacation.

Sandi Guy:

So what’s some advice that you’re giving to your younger staff? I know you have, for example, Melissa on your team. I don’t know how she has time to breathe during the day. She’s studying for the exams, she’s planning her wedding … what advice do you have for some of the younger folks that are trying to do it all, personally and professionally?

Kendra LaFleur:

I think the biggest advice that I give to the team, not even just my team, but to the Atlanta team and CRI team, any team that you might be on, is really just communication. I think that it’s so easy to figure out your life, to figure out your schedule, is if you can communicate and so, for example, you brought up Melissa. If she’s studying for an exam, and let’s say her exam is Saturday. She’s on my job, come Tuesday, I’m like, “Hey, don’t you test on Saturday?” “Yeah, I’m testing Saturday.” “Well, why don’t you take off the rest of the week. The team will divvy up your sections. Whatever we don’t finish, when you’re done with your exam, you can get back into it.” We’ve just got to figure out a way, because when you’re a CPA we all win.

Kendra LaFleur:

So I think it’s … but you have to communicate with people. “Hey, my mom is coming in town. I need to clean up my house. Can I have Friday afternoon?” It’s just communicating, because then we can help, but when you’re just flying solo, under the radar, don’t talk, it’s just harder to. I think when your team knows what you have … I’m not saying divulge all the information, but the exam is a big deal. It’s great for you to have those four days to study. Or maybe you’re the one throwing a bridal shower, I know Alex on your team is getting married. If I’m throwing her a shower, “Hey, can I have these days? This is how I can make up the time.” It’s just collaborating, communicating, I think that’s the two best pieces of advice.

Sandi Guy:

But you know, and I think part of that communicating that’s key, is also understanding the different styles and ways people work. So you mentioned Alex, and the first week or two that Alex and I started working together, we were talking about styles, and I said, “Listen,” I said, “I’m somebody that, I’m usually on the phone the entire day, so before I start working in the mornings, and then after five, that’s when I do all my admin type stuff. That’s when I’m following up on emails. That’s when, if I need to type any documents or anything like that, all the administrative things I need to do, are usually … it could be late at night,” but I don’t feel like that’s imposing on my time. It could just be, I have a full day, and it’s a beautiful day out and I wanted to go walk, so I’ll work on that document later or tonight. Or, to your point, and I know you love working out, I’ll go work out, and then do that.

Sandi Guy:

And Alex, when we were having that conversation … she does have a lot going on, planning for her wedding too … but I know that she’s somebody that her after hours are really important to her. She’s getting this done, and so she is definitely a eight to five, heads down person, so I want to be respectful of her after hours, and I don’t want to … I said, “Look, if you see an email from me at night, I have zero expectation you’re reading that and responding to that. I’m just doing it because tomorrow, by the time you log on, I’m probably on my second webinar, and I’m not going to have time to do anything.”

Kendra LaFleur:

Right.

Sandi Guy:

But I think it’s understanding the ways people like to work, and when they want to work. I don’t assume that if I’m going to work late, that Alex can, wants to … well, sometimes she’ll tell me, “Oh, no, no. Artie’s out of town. Happy to help you out. I’m with you. I’d rather knock it out and do it,” and I think that that communication and understanding what’s important to somebody, what’s important about their schedule. It could be they have a partner who … and I think this applies to Melissa. That her fiance, he’s in the Service, so he’ll be “home” for a stretch, but then away for a stretch. So how she would want to balance work and personal life, it’s going to be different when he’s “home” versus when he’s away, and unless you’re having those communications and embracing those different expectations, it’s definitely hard to have balance if somebody doesn’t want to support you.

Kendra LaFleur:

I a hundred and ten percent agreed with you. A hundred and ten percent agree with you, because everybody’s different. I am worthless at night. I can’t do any critical thinking at night. I can’t analyze anything at night. I’m a morning person.

Sandi Guy:

Me too.

Kendra LaFleur:

When I wake up … I wake up very early. I won’t say how early, but when I wake up early-

Sandi Guy:

I’ve seen your emails. I know how early you get up.

Kendra LaFleur:

… I just send them off, because it’s quiet, I just feel like I’m at peace, no one’s looking for me, and so I get all my critical thinking done at that time, but when I’m leaving review notes, I don’t expect my team to come in and clear it right away, or respond to me. Just like what you said, I think everybody is different.

Kendra LaFleur:

I have Chicago on my team, and she’s a night owl, and I am not a night owl, so we have polar opposite schedules, but we communicate often, frequently, we collaborate, and it just works.

Sandi Guy:

Listen, you send me an email or a text at 10 o’clock, I don’t even care if you’re my girlfriends in the group chat, I’m probably not seeing it at 10 o’clock on a school night, because girl’s in the bed with the phone on vibrate, trying to go to sleep, unless I’m scrolling on TikTok still. No, I’m a hundred percent.

Sandi Guy:

So I’m curious. Are there any … whether it’s with you personally, or you and your husband, or at work … are there any things that are, I’ll say, sacred or deal breakers, like I hold this space or this time or this … I know you like to work out, so, “I hold my 5 AM gym time sacred.”

Sandi Guy:

Like Max Gin, when we were coordinating the podcast that we did, he said, “Look, I pick my daughter up from school. It’s at three o’clock. I’m happy to do anything before or after this window, but that’s my jam. Picking up my daughter from school is my jam.” Do you have any deal breakers like that?

Kendra LaFleur:

I do, I do, and let me just rephrase. You said I like working out. I don’t like working out. I do it because I have to, because I enjoy eating. That’s what I like to do. I like to eat. That’s my hobby.

Sandi Guy:

You like the chocolates, I know.

Kendra LaFleur:

In order to fulfill my hobby and not just completely blow up … I’m only 5’2″, so there’s only so many places the weight can go.

Sandi Guy:

And if y’all could see Kendra, she is so fit. It is not even funny. It’s not even funny.

Kendra LaFleur:

So yeah, I work out because I am obligated to do so. But that actually is one of my things. So I’ll go … but I’m more flexible … it’s sacred to me, yes, in that I have to get a workout in, but I’m flexible in that if I go at 4 AM or I go at 4 PM, as long as can get that hour, hour 15 in, four or five times a week, I’m good. My body deserves that time. My heart deserves that time. My mental health deserves that time, and so I do it, I’m obligated to it, I have to do it, at least at some point during the day.

Kendra LaFleur:

And then things with my children. My oldest is already in 4th Grade and it’s crazy to me, and so I only have a few … nine more years and she’s out of the house, and that just makes me sad, so I try to … me and my husband, we’re polar opposite. He’s high-fiving them like-

Sandi Guy:

He’s the fun dad.

Kendra LaFleur:

He’s excited. So things with my children, I try to prioritize the things that are important to them, like their field day. My son, my middle son, Kendrick, he is adamant about field day. He’s like, “Mom, you just need to be at field day with all the other moms, and I want you to cheer and scream for me.” That’s important to him, so those things, I hold sacred.

Kendra LaFleur:

So it’s not like I have a certain thing every day that I have to do, but there’s just moments that I have to fill for the sake of my kids.

Sandi Guy:

Yeah, I get that. I think for me and my husband … so, pre-pandemic we both traveled a lot for our jobs, and we just somehow got to this place where Sundays were sacred, Sunday dinners, so we had this rule of no travel on Sunday. You could be … Lord knows, I have been on incredibly early flights on Monday mornings, but it’s like, “You know what? Unless you can’t avoid it, no travel on Sunday.”

Sandi Guy:

We eat dinner in, for two people who eat out all the time, but Sunday’s the night we cook, we sit in, we whatever … because once the week starts, we’re both going in different directions, and it never really was problematic if somebody called and said, “Hey, we have a meeting. It’s going to start at noon,” and a lot of people are like, “Oh, I’ll fly in the night before.” I’m like, “I don’t want to travel on Sunday night. That’s sacred, so I’ll get on the 5 AM flight out, and still get there in time for the meeting.”

Sandi Guy:

There’s been a small handful of times where I’ve had to fly out on a Sunday, but it’s been, “Okay, well I’ll stay and we’ll have dinner, and then fly out after,” so I think what’s important in where I see people struggle a lot, is they don’t identify those things that are important to them. You understand the importance of your time in your workout, and that that’s that, put your mask on yourself before you put it on other people, kind of thing, that self-care, self-love.

Sandi Guy:

I think where people tend to struggle is, they haven’t identified those things that are important to them personally, but to their soul, that make them a better person if they honor that commitment, and then tell people. Whether it’s, “Hey, as long as I can work out during the day, I’m good,” or just, “No travel on a Sunday,” or whatever it is, I think that that makes it easier, and the more you’re willing to speak up about it, it’s rare when somebody says no.

Sandi Guy:

I mean, if there’s a lead time, and honestly-

Kendra LaFleur:

That’s right.

Sandi Guy:

… it’s rare for me. I think a lot about how leaders can make this so much easier, not just on their team and retaining talent. I’ve done a podcast on retaining talent. We talk non-stop about retaining talent, it’s a market where you want to retain talent, make sure they thrive, but it also makes it easier on your as a leader in the work you have done, if you have these open conversations, and you have some flexibility to make sure that they’re integrating both, so when you look around and consider your peers, other senior managers, rising partners, and leaders in the firm, any advice you would have for them if they’re struggling in that regard?

Kendra LaFleur:

Yeah, I think that sometimes we forget that everybody has a personal life. We’re not the exception. I’m not the exception. There are plenty of people in this world that have children, or they’re single, maybe you’re taking care of your mom or grandmother, everybody has a story, everybody has something going on, everybody needs a little bit more time, everybody’s trying to figure it out. I think that if we all just … I hate to say it. It’s so cheesy, but if we all just show a little compassion, a little bit of grace, you know what I mean? It’ll just go a long ways.

Kendra LaFleur:

It’s just such a powerful thing to just be understanding, to be empathetic, just to realize that everybody’s got something else going on, so if somebody is maybe not performing their best in a work paper, or something happened, normally they’re good, and you’re like, “I don’t know what happened?” Well, what else is going on. You just don’t know the whole story, so just to realize that everybody has a story.

Kendra LaFleur:

And I know for me, I want to be a partner at some point, and so when I feel overwhelmed or I’m just like, “I don’t know how I’m going to manage my schedule.” I’m looking at my list, and I’m like, “I don’t know how this list is going to get done?” But I know that to whom much is given, much is required, so I know that it takes hard work, I know that sometimes you just don’t get it all right, and it’s okay. I just do the best that I can, I put forth a hundred percent of my effort, and that’s just the best that I can do.

Kendra LaFleur:

And so that’s kind of the way that I live my life, and so when people ask me that, I’m just like, “I’m just doing my best.”

Sandi Guy:

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Kendra LaFleur:

Yes, I’m swimming. I need a little grace, I give a little grace, and that’s just kind of my motto.

Sandi Guy:

But you know what’s interesting that you say that, and heavens, we could do a whole other podcast on what I’m about to say, because I think you and have had an hour long phone conversation about this very topic, but typically, your highest performers are the least likely to complain, and so when you aren’t just reaching out … like one thing, Kendra, you are so good about. You’ll walk by, and just ask somebody, “Hey, what’s going on? Haven’t seen you for a while? How’s wedding planning? How are things going? Seriously, how are things going?”

Sandi Guy:

Higher performers tend to not come and say, “I’m drowning. I’m trying to study for the exam and plan a wedding,” whatever it is. They tend to not do that. They tend to put their head down, and I think one of the most important things that leaders can do. You can’t be empathetic and you can’t be supportive if you don’t know what you need to be empathetic and supportive of, and so something just as simple as poking your head in and saying, “Hey, how’re you doing,” because I’ll call you out on this podcast, Kendra. You and I have had a conversation where you and I have been talking, and I’m like, “Kendra, you’re not complaining. You need to be vocal about that.” You’re like, “No, we’ll figure it out,” and I’m like-

Kendra LaFleur:

Yes.

Sandi Guy:

“Put yourself in that leader’s shoes. That leader would want to know.” I’m sorry, I’m calling you out on the…

Kendra LaFleur:

Are you for real? Did that really happen?

Sandi Guy:

But your supervisor, your leader, your Kendra, whoever you are, they can’t solve a challenge that you aren’t at least letting them know you have, but prideful Sandi, who does not like to … hey, I’m a middle child, I am a woman, and I am prideful, I’m not about to go, “I can’t,” or, “I need help.” That is not in my vocabulary.

Sandi Guy:

But it’s as simple as just sticking your head in somebody’s office, or calling them on the phone, and saying, “Hey, I was just thinking about you the other day. How’s it going? How’re you doing? How’s the wedding planning coming along? I know you’re playing in the flag football league. How’s that coming?” Or even if you don’t know anything about them, just check in and go, “Man, life’s crazy. How’s it going for you?” And just let them talk about them, and you’ll hear those things, and you’ll learn where they’re struggling, and can say, “Well, hey, you know you don’t have to drive into the office to do this. I don’t care if you do that at home,” or, “You don’t even have to do that. Why are you going that? Go. We have somebody else who can do that.”

Sandi Guy:

I do think that’s important. I will say it’s something that you do very authentically and naturally, and I very much appreciate … I always joke, “If I could get a little drop of Kendra in some people to just stop in and ask people how they’re doing.”

Sandi Guy:

Listen, I’m just as guilty. You’ll call me about something, and three hours later, I’ll hang up the phone and go, “Man, I took two and half hours of her time, and she just had one question, I feel terrible.” So instead, I just light up your Teams with a bunch of .gifs that I think are funny.

Kendra LaFleur:

I’m here for it, though.

Sandi Guy:

Yeah.

Kendra LaFleur:

Here for it.

Sandi Guy:

Anyway, so as we start winding down, I do want to twofold, both give a shoutout to, and solicit any advice for people in your village or spouses … so you’ve talked about how incredibly supportive your husband is, which includes keeping you honest and saying, “Uh, huh, log off.” No, supportive isn’t saying, “Yeah, keep working. I’m going to go lay on the beach and come see me when you’re done.” Supportive is saying, “No, you need to log off.”

Sandi Guy:

So any advice or anything to people who want to be supportive of their partner, spouse, significant other, parent, anything like that?

Kendra LaFleur:

That’s a really-

Sandi Guy:

Maybe we should call your husband, and he would have it..

Kendra LaFleur:

Yeah, that’s for real. I’m trying to think of what he would say.

Kendra LaFleur:

That’s a really good question, Sandi. I think that for one … I don’t know if this will answer your question directly … but for one, I try to surround myself with people that I know have my interest at heart, and have my back, and so I think for people who are trying to support someone, who are trying to be that for someone else, I think it’s just like what you said. Pop your head in, getting to know what they have going on personally. It’s such a easy thing to do, and people will just do it. They just will. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Oh my gosh, I have this plumbing issue. I’m trying to hurry up and get this done. They’re going to be there at three. Bad on traffic.” It’s like, “Okay, well why don’t you just go home at lunch, or why don’t you-“. Just having that open dialog.

Kendra LaFleur:

The hard part is the authenticity, is just being genuine about it, and people are typically pretty good at reading when something is genuine or not, so I think just trying to build those relationships and forge those relationships, so that people trust you with their conversations, so you kind of know what they have going on. Everybody is just so swamped right now, myself included. We all just have so much going on. Nobody’s excluded. I haven’t talked to a single person … and not just in accounting, in any industry line … that’s, “Oh yeah, work is great. We’re just coasting through this thing.” Everybody’s like, “Oh my God, three people quit,” or, “Oh, the CFO’s gone,” or, “Oh, I don’t have a teacher. My teacher just resigned.” There’s just so much going on. I think that we all just have to be there for each other and know that it’s growing pains, it hurts, but it’s just seasonal, right? In due season.

Sandi Guy:

I hope so.

Kendra LaFleur:

Yeah.

Sandi Guy:

I hope so, and I hope the one thing that comes out of all this is that … to use a term you said a few minutes ago … that we all learn to come back to showing each other some grace, and being supportive of one another.

Sandi Guy:

And with that, I’m going to start wrapping it up, because you have been so generous with your time, because you’ve come back from vacation. I gave you no lead time, and I’m like, “Okay, she’s real busy. Let me be a big hypocrite, and go, ‘Hey, I want to do a podcast on … can you be on a podcast in a couple days with me?'”.

Sandi Guy:

So I really appreciate that. You said something a moment ago that was so perfect, and you were talking about surround yourself with people who have your back, and I will say this. I do believe that you’re somebody around me that has my back, and you know, I absolutely have yours, and that the mutual support that we have for one another, to make sure we achieve our personal goals and our … we have two very different career paths that we’re on, but our shared goal of how we want to advance CRI, and then also support each other in our personal pursuits as well.

Sandi Guy:

And then you also said, trust with conversation, and I knew, when I’m like, “I want to have this conversation. I want to call her, because I can trust her in having an open conversation, and Lord knows … I always say a car chat, because some of the longest calls you and I have had have been when I’ve been in my car-

Kendra LaFleur:

That is so true.

Sandi Guy:

Yeah, isn’t that weird. I was driving back from a meeting in Greensboro one day. You were my conversation the whole way back.

Kendra LaFleur:

That’s so true.

Sandi Guy:

I really appreciate that, and I really appreciate you. I know you’re busy, especially coming off of being on vacation, and then also having to be out of town, and with no lead time, so I really appreciate your generosity and authenticity in doing that. You are always a joy to partner with, and I really appreciate that.

Sandi Guy:

And so with that, I hope everybody thinks about your own integration, how you’re integrating your work and professional life, and those around you, and hopefully, Kendra and I have given you some tips and maybe a laugh here or there, to help you do that, so thank you for joining us today.

Outro:

If you want more CRI insights, or are interested in learning about our firm, please visit our website at cricpa.com. Thanks for listening to this episode of It Figures, the CRI podcast. You can subscribe to It Figures on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you prefer to listen to your podcasts. If you liked what you heard today, please leave us a review.

 

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