Leadership for Women program focuses on work, life balance
By Angela Bender For The Sun August 30, 2012 4:48PM
Mary Erlain - president of Peak Development Strategies
On the web
To learn more about Mary Erlain and the Leadership for Women program, visit www.peak-ds.com and www.lmi-leadershipforwomen.com.
Updated: October 3, 2012 6:05AM
Women, who employ more than 13 million people and generate $1.9 trillion in sales, own 10.1 million businesses, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. Yet women are still facing the glass ceiling, having power struggles with coworkers, and balancing the demands of career, marriage, children and aging parents, all while making significant personal sacrifices to attain leadership positions.
According to Mary Erlain, Naperville resident and owner of Peak Development Strategies, it does not have to be that way.
“You don’t have to sacrifice yourself or your family to seek success,” says Erlain, who has three children. “In the world of leadership, we are not seeking to turn women into men.”
According to Erlain, who works with business owners and within organizations to help businesses grow by developing their workers, women naturally possess all the qualities of good leaders. And while they need to develop those qualities, they should not lose sight of balance. In the Leadership for Women program she conducts, Erlain helps women develop these qualities in their business roles. But she also works on personal goals and teaches strategies that women can use when faced with burnout so they do not lose sight of their core values.
“(The) philosophy is to not only create successful business owners but also really successful people,” Erlain said.
When Megan Wessels, who handles marketing and sales for Aurora-based Accurate Color and Compounding, set the goal of being more organized and productive, she signed up for one of Erlain’s workshops, which in turn, led to another. Wessels learned how to be less of a procrastinator and more productive, skills that are valuable in helping women become better leaders.
“I’ve become a stronger leader by stepping out of my comfort zone,” Wessels said. “I’ve learned that the biggest influence I can have is leading by example and recognizing the people that help me succeed in my position.”
Erlain said helping people reach their full potential is key. “I focus on closing the gap between the current performance and what the potential is.”
In the Leadership for Women program, Erlain teaches women how to integrate their personal goals and leadership, how to gain “buy-in” from others and share power with team members. The women also learn how to delegate and how trust can earn respect.
“Balance work life, family and home, financial and career, social and cultural, spiritual and ethical,” Erlain said. “When those are in balance, that’s how we define success.”
Erlain asks the women who participate in the program to identify their self-imposed barriers, the self-talk that keeps them from moving forward. They discuss burnout and how to seek leadership, but also how to take care of themselves and avoid getting lost in the process.
Aurora resident Rachel Cipriano, owner of E3+Fire, a speaking and coaching business, heard Erlain speak on leadership. She used what she learned to get organized, prioritize and focus. When she found herself faced with a tough business situation, she was glad to have her newfound skills and Erlain’s expertise to draw on.
“I would definitely say I have become a better leader,” Cipriano said. “The support, camaraderie, and insight the (group) provides has been highly beneficial.”
Erlain says that she, too, is always developing herself and is never in a static state.
“Invest in yourselves,” said Erlain, who is also a wife and mother. “The results can be rewarding. The other side is a dark place.”