The pandemic put an unprecedented level of stress on parents who were balancing full-time work and kids at home attending school over Zoom. But even before this high-pressure passage of history, people were experiencing significant burnout. In her book Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, which came out eight years before COVID-19, Katrina Alcorn explored how women were struggling to do it all—and feeling as if they were somehow failing as a result.
The lessons she learned about making work and home life compatible helps guide her today as a senior executive at a giant corporation.
“I feel like I have a responsibility to carry that awareness of what people with families are dealing with and make sure that we create room for their humanity,” says Katrina, the general manager of design at IBM.
In the latest episode of season 7 of the Design Better Podcast Katrina shares how she leads a team of more than 700 people and how her background in journalism has become a “superpower” in the tech world. Katrina also discusses how she develops partnerships across her organization to resolve conflicts and get aligned and how experiential learning shaped her as a leader and problem solver.
So what kind of tactical things does Katrina employ in her leadership approach? Flexibility and giving people autonomy over how and when they get their work done are becoming standards for managing remote and dispersed teams, she says. She’s a fan of the Results-Only Work Environment (or ROWE) management strategy.
“You set a clear bar, you have high standards, and you hold people accountable, but there’s none of this babysitting about ‘What time did you come into the office or are you at your desk enough?’” Katrina says.
by Eli Woolery
Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he is a lecturer in the Product Design program at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Medium or on Twitter.