Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coaching an Executive's Spouse

Everybody considers the role of the executive's spouse (especially, wife) to be antiquated, outdated, offensive, and unworthy of serious concern. Especially when said wife does not have a career of her own.

At a time when women are most often judged according to whether they have their own careers, the stay-at-home wife barely appears on the culture's radar screen. Women who choose that path are not considered to be role models for young women.

The role of executive spouse goes well beyond full-time mother and homemaker. And it goes well beyond paying lip service to being supportive.

Being an executive spouse is a job in itself. Such an individual works to help her husband advance his career. She socializes, entertains, and networks. She can often be his most important adviser. And she can be an important corporate asset or liability.

The two most prominent recent executive spouses are Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.

When senior executives are being interviewed for important positions, hiring committees often invite their wives along for dinner or even a meeting.

They want to see what kind of executive decision the man has made in choosing a wife. And they want to see whether his wife is cooperative, understanding and tolerant of the demands of his job.

Chief executives do not have as much time as they would like for home and family. Those whose wives who can function well under those circumstances will be more focused on their jobs.

If a wife's concerns are a constant distraction, the executive will be less likely to perform well on his job.

I began thinking more seriously about these issues when I read Jamie Stengle's illuminating article for the Associated Press. Link here.

Stengle interviewed Colette Young, wife of a corporate CEO, who had founded a business coaching the wives of executives.

The issues range from etiquette to office politics to how to deal with an overworked executive husband. In her view the executive wife is a also a CEO. She manages her home and family, while also contributing to her husband's work.

Happily the Associated Press has also provided us with an excellent interactive quiz that all wives can use to evaluate their own reactions to everyday stressful situations. Link here.

The quiz is important beyond the fact that it allows wives to judge where they fit-- and where they want to fit-- on the good, better, best continuum. Its greater value is in offering an important cognitive exercise. For each stressful situation the quiz offers five different possible reactions.

If you are facing a stressful situation, I would highly recommend that you take a deep breath and sit down and try to imagine five different ways you might respond to the situation. Give each one some thought.

Master this exercise and you will respond more effectively to stress. It will allow you to make an intelligent choice, and reasoned decisions are always better than popping off with the first thing that passes through your mind.


ClosewithKathi said...

Stuart, Welcome to the next generation where women are not only better fulfilling the executive wife role, but embracing it. Some of us are taking it a step further and truly partnering with our spouses to become a united force in the industry. We (women) find the career invigorating, exciting, challenging, and a great way to grow closer to our spouses. Colette is a great example of corporate expectations, but explore further and see how the real benefit is realized within the family unit. I urge any women married to executives to check out my blog for advice on how to become their spouses' secret weapon

Leila Youssef said...

I have been a psychotherapist for 17 years. Now I am a Completion coach. My extensive experience in handling personal issues in all sorts of relationships brings me to the conclusion that the relationship of executives with their wives plays an extremely crucial role in the unfolding of their potential. Executives who have a balanced life at home have an asset to be valued far beyond others who are struggling with their family issues. My experience has proved that when a person is emotionally stable his creativity and talent has a SPACE to manifest, otherwise one consumes all his energy trying to survive the daily stressful challeges leaving them with no time for CREATIVE EXPANSION. Executives live under stress because of the nature of the corporate world urgency to meet deadlines and reach targets. If their households is not a SOURCE of support, stability, trust and communication they end up burning out very quickly. I offer myself as a relationship coach who is specializing in this particular issue. Visit my website:

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ClosewithKathi said...

I have to give a shout out to Robert Franken who not only coached my husband but recognized the part I played in his success.

Now I have my own business and my husband supports me in much the same way. It's not a one-way street, y'all.

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