Power Couples: Life as a Team Sport

How do you manage two demanding careers, kids, dogs, a marriage and life’s unexpected curve balls? HBS was treated to a standing-room only panel, which addressed this and many more questions. The “Power Couples” panel at the 15th Annual WSA conference on January 28 brought to light the importance of viewing marriage as a partnership.

Moderated by Myra Hart, professor of Management Practice at HBS, three couples shared their experiences over 20-plus years as partners, professionals and parents. Although their achievements as business leaders put the “power” in the description of their relationships, the audience quickly discovered their power comes not from their titles and positions of leadership, but from each other as they support and strengthen one another through life’s joys and challenges.

Each couple stressed there is sometimes no real line between work and home. Liz Lynch, managing director at Morgan Stanley, explained she is often multi-tasking between her Blackberry and cheering for her children at a lacrosse or basketball game. However, setting boundaries remains critical. Her husband, Dan Lynch (former CEO of ImClone) said if the stock was not at risk of being de-listed or the office building not on fire, he was going to make it to coach his son’s sports team.

Jeff Hanson, founder of Hanson Consulting, and his wife Janet, founder of 85 Broads and Managing Director at Lehman Brothers, cited the importance of couples defining “North” the same way. Although the direction of “North” may change over time with major life events, lines of communication should stay open to maintain family alignment and ensure each member shares the vision of the end goal-a philosophy they willingly shared as their two teenage children proudly watched from the audience.

The panel was not devoid of humor as the couples addressed the question of how to stay connected amidst kids, aging parents and demanding careers. Geoff Sears, senior executive at Wareham Development, answered this question best. He explained the importance of keeping in mind why you and your spouse first fell in love. He simply looked at his wife, Janice, managing director at Bank of America Securities, and said, “She’s a hot lady.” A slightly embarrassed Janice took the compliment with much grace and simply called for a round of applause for such an answer. HBS men and women should take away that no mater what life throws at you, it is important to find the person who will share the joys of your life’s journey.

The choice of these panelists was no accident. Melissa Hayes (NA) and Isabelle Halphen (OH), hand picked these three couples based on their first-hand experience with each of the three women. Each has played a pivotal role in their careers and both Melissa and Isabelle feel lucky to have found such exceptional mentors, role models and friends so early in their professional lives.