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FAMILY360 - How It Started

Perry and Ben have been trying to develop an idea that had been percolating for years. Perry had risen through the ranks of Human Resources at Merck, one of Fortune magazine’s Most Admired Companies. It was also one of the most highly regarded companies for human resource policy, having been given numerous awards and recognitions over the years for its policies and practices. Most notable was its long string of awards as one of the top 10 companies for working mothers to work for. No other company had been in the top 10 so many times (12 years running at the time). Perry had lived outside of the United States for 6 years, living in Norway and working for Merck across Europe, then living in Quebec and working across Canada. He had traveled a lot—usually 60 percent of his time. He returned to the United States to a corporate role reporting to the top HR executive and being responsible for human resource strategy and planning. Now he was responsible for ensuring Merck’s continued track record in innovative human resources policy.

Ben had also risen through the ranks of numerous well-known companies: Lockheed, Amoco, PepsiCo, and Allied Signal. He was responsible for executive development and worked directly with the CEO and executive team of these corporations, frequently in the capacity of an executive coach. At the time, he was the chief learning officer for Allied Signal, reporting to the top HR executive. He had responsibility for all leadership development and learning processes globally for the corporation. In addition, he coached the executives on effective leadership and management practices.

Both Perry and Ben felt a growing dissatisfaction with the intense corporate life and the toll it was taking on their families. They had 11 children between them and spent much of the time away, returning to see how much their children had grown in their absence. Something was missing. They were trying to do their best in their corporate roles, but their responsibilities were becoming increasingly demanding. Both of them were overachievers and wanted to “have it all.” They wanted success in both their corporate roles and their personal and family life. But how? Perry had spent years developing leading-edge HR policies, including work/life policies to help employees balance work and personal priorities. Ben had spent years teaching leadership and doing one-on-one coaching with the senior executives of major corporations.

Frequently, Perry and Ben found themselves providing one-on-one coaching on work/life balance to employees throughout their respective companies. Perry worked with groups of employees to discuss their feelings about what policies needed to be changed to make the company more effective. Inevitably, the frustrations and difficulties of trying to balance work and personal priorities would surface, often in emotional discussions that showed how much meaning the topic had for their lives. Perry discovered that company policies almost always fell short of their intended goal of providing some degree of work/life balance. And, in the absence of a supportive manager or work environment, the employee was left to his or her own skills and ingenuity to figure out how to achieve the elusive work/life balance.

Ben would frequently find himself coaching a member of senior management. He would assess the executive’s leadership abilities and coach her or him on how to become a more effective leader. In many coaching encounters, the subject of how to be an effective leader migrated into a discussion of how to preserve the executives’ relationship with their families despite the heavy demands of their work. Ben did not encourage that discussion—there were no easy answers that he could provide—but the conversation frequently just seemed to drift in that direction. Ben found that there was only one subject that would occasionally bring a tear to the eye of a tough, driven executive—when the executive shared his or her feelings of pain and regret for accomplishing so much at work, but at such a high price for his or her family and personal life.

So Perry and Ben decided to meet and compare notes. How could they have it all? How could they help others have hope that it could be done? The Family 360 process began to emerge created on the back of a napkin. As the concept developed, Perry left Merck to do human resource consulting in a small firm, and Ben left Allied Signal to do executive development with his own company. The Family 360 process borrows its shape from the popular and effective corporate Management 360 approach to getting feedback from subordinates, colleagues and peers, and the boss—a 360-degree approach to asking for feedback, creating an action plan, and then doing something about the feedback.

Ben and Perry began introducing the Family 360 concept to executives at some of the executive leadership programs that Ben ran for Allied Signal, GM, and other major corporations. It was voluntary for the executive participants and provided a holistic and complementary approach to Management 360 and feedback. Ben and Perry refined their survey instrument and implemented an intranet-based survey and report generation process. A business was born, under the LeaderWorks logo. The Wall Street Journal picked up on the idea and ran an article on the topic in July 2002. The New York Times selected the concept as one of the top 100 “innovative and breakthrough ideas for 2002.”

©Copyright 2004. LeaderWorks. All rights reserved.

Executive Dad Asks Family
For a 360-Degree Review
By Sue Shellenbarger from The Wall Street Journal Online