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Author and Speaker Dr. Candace Steele Flippin: “Why Work-Life Balance is a Choice”

Work-Life Balance is a Choice — Establish support systems including family, friends, and mentors. Choose the balance that works for you and don’t expect what works for you to work for someone else. Try to create an environment that allows your team to choose balance for themselves. As long as the work was getting done […]

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Work-Life Balance is a Choice — Establish support systems including family, friends, and mentors. Choose the balance that works for you and don’t expect what works for you to work for someone else. Try to create an environment that allows your team to choose balance for themselves. As long as the work was getting done well, securely, and my colleagues were accountable, I didn’t worry about the work hours or location. Once, I asked my team to answer the question, “I would like my job more if I didn’t have to do X? I tabulated the results and learned that the commute was a problem for my colleagues. To help, I established two work from home days per month, work from home the days before a holiday, and implemented core work hours with delayed start times.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Communications executive, speaker, author, and researcher, Dr. Candace Steele Flippin. She’s a research fellow at Case Western Reserve University, where she researches the multigenerational workplace and enhancing the leadership development of women. Her unique expertise is a blend of her academic study and her success as an executive within national and international organizations.

She is often invited to discuss her research regarding accelerating the leadership development of women, and Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennials.

Dr. Steele Flippin is also the author of both Generation Z in the Workplace and Millennials in the Workplace, two practical guides to bridge generation gaps in communications, leadership, and team building.

Most recently, she was invited to discuss ideas to advance Memphis and the world at the annual TEDxMemphis conference, which is a locally organized take on the popular TED Talk programs, which are short speeches that can cover a range of topics.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Years ago, while riding an elevator, I overheard two women describing a negative experience with a younger coworker. It was clear to me that they were both very frustrated. At the end of the discussion, they looked at each other and said Millennials! I thought, I wonder what their Millennial coworker is saying about them to her friends?

As a communications leader, I wanted to reframe the negative conversation and build a bridge across the generation gap I saw in organizations. I decided to pursue a doctorate in management to study the multigenerational workplace and then develop practical models and resources to help employees and organizations.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When I first started on my journey, it was challenging to find supporters. Many people told me that I was wasting my time. Many colleagues told me that generational differences are not “real,” or helping women advance can’t work because women lack self-efficacy.

I listened, but I didn’t give up on my research on the multigenerational workplace. In 2017, I published my two books: Generation Z in the workplace and Millennials in the workplace. I served as co-editor, along with my mentor, Dr. Peter Whitehouse, for the American Society of Aging’s journal about Gen X.

Recently, a woman reached out to me on LinkedIn to tell me how much my research helped her and how she was starting a women’s employee resource group at her organization. Another woman who read my book on Millennials in the workplace saw one of my media interviews and approached me at a restaurant. She told me how my book helped her and her sister.

When these events happen, I know my investment of time and research wasn’t a waste of my time at all.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It is important to stay humble. I shared the first draft of my book with an author who I admired to review. I re-edited my book to make it more accessible, hands-on, and visually appealing. She then gave me the thumbs up.

I was very proud of the manuscript. Imagine my surprise when she called me a few days later to tell me that I missed the mark. She told me my book read as if a professor wrote. Ouch! I swallowed my pride

As a scholar, you are trained to write in a particular format. However, my research was for practical use, so I had to get over myself

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I’m told that organizations ask me to speak with them because of my unique background as both a scholar and an executive. I provide “real-world” practical perspectives that are backed-up by my experience as a communications executive and as a researcher.

I was recently told that some researchers conduct ground-breaking well-cited studies, but many of these scholars never worked for a business or corporation, and sometimes their solutions are perceived as too theoretical. Some consultants do fantastic work, but many of these practitioners never served as an executive, and their counsel may be viewed as impractical.

I’ve worked on both sides, appreciate the dilemma and the value that we all bring to the table.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I recently gave a TEDx Talk, launched a podcast, and am working on my next book. My TEDx talk “Are You Talking to Me? What Women Really Want…At Work.” was just released. In it, I discuss my S.H.A.P.E. career advice concept for women. It’s going to be the topic of my next book. S.H.A.P.E. is about the importance of saving, what hard work means, the need to advocate for yourself, preparing to persevere, and committing to different ways to educate yourself.

I recently launched Beyond The Gap, a biweekly podcast that features guests from different generations and backgrounds. My guests and I will explore tips on dealing with office politics, contributions that each generation makes that we never talk about, knowing when to quit your job, and offer listeners helpful career advice they can use right away.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Focus on your strengths and know your blind spots. There are several great resources such as Clifton Strengthsfinder, personal SWOT Analysis, Emotional Intelligence Assessment (EQ-i 2.0), DiSC, Hogan Personality Inventory, and 360 reviews to help you discover your strengths. You can also rely on people you respect and ask them, what do I do well, where can I improve, what do I need to stop doing, and what should I start doing?

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Observe, listen and communicate. Establish your communication methods. Make sure your team knows the best way you prefer to share and receive information and that you know theirs. Try to use the most effective manner for the situation. For example, if a face-to-face conversation needs to happen, avoid having it in an email stream — speak live or at least use video. Be accessible to your team; it is hard with so many demands. I block the first and last hour of my day so that I can be available if someone needs to reach me.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Thank you to my first mentor, Jim Farmer! Now retired, he was a communications executive at General Motors. He taught me how to have grace under pressure and the importance of having a plan B. My first national press conference occurred on the same day as a year-long global scandalous breaking news event. As a result, no reporters showed up for my event. There I was with a room full of supporters who flew to Washington, D.C. for a big announcement, and zero media were there (or coming)! I was so mortified. However, Jim looked at me, and calmly said: “I think that every press conference after this one will be a breeze for you.” I felt better. He was right. And, over time, I became more adept having a backup plan.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am unapologetic about using my talents and resources to make the world a better place. I am passionate about equity, the arts, and healthcare. For example, I serve on the LaGrant Foundation board to increase the diversity in the advertising, marketing, and public relations fields. I serve on the Youth Villages board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully. I am also a member of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Baptist Memorial Hospital Corporation. And, I serve on the Memphis River Parks Partnership board nonprofit organization that manages, activates and maintains five miles of riverfront parks on behalf of the residents of the City of Memphis, TN.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Be yourself — I do believe that adapting to the culture within your organization is crucial to operating well in your work environment. I also believe that every culture is enriched by the people working in it, so bring your authentic self to work. I’ve always been transparent about my multigenerational research agenda. My former boss, Rachel Ellingson, a phenomenal leader, wife, and mother, hosted the launch event for my first book in her home. Her excitement about my accomplishment fueled my passion to keep going.

Follow your instincts — I work hard to prepare for everything I do and never regret making a mistake because it’s an opportunity to learn. However, I always regret it when I don’t follow my instincts. Once against my instincts, I did not address a situation because everyone around me didn’t think it was a problem. We were all wrong and suddenly found ourselves with a problem. You can’t know everything and won’t always have the final say, but I now follow my instincts. I also try to have a plan B in reserves — just in case.

Take risks — Early in my career, I worked on a project that included coworkers from many departments across the company that wasn’t progressing well. I was the most junior on the team, and no one was speaking up. We were at a crucial phase, so I met with the executive over my function. I told her my account of what was happening. I then gave her questions to ask to get to an accurate account of the status. She followed up, and we were able to course-correct in time. It was a significant risk, yet I was concerned that if I didn’t say something, a lot of time and money would be wasted, and we would fail.

Work-Life Balance is a Choice — Establish support systems including family, friends, and mentors. Choose the balance that works for you and don’t expect what works for you to work for someone else. Try to create an environment that allows your team to choose balance for themselves. As long as the work was getting done well, securely, and my colleagues were accountable, I didn’t worry about the work hours or location. Once, I asked my team to answer the question, “I would like my job more if I didn’t have to do X? I tabulated the results and learned that the commute was a problem for my colleagues. To help, I established two work from home days per month, work from home the days before a holiday, and implemented core work hours with delayed start times.

It is okay to say no — The saying “give things to busy people because that will get it done,” may have merit. But if you are busy and can’t take something on well, politely decline it. I try to wait 24 hours before I commit and consider if I have the time and resources to accept something new. My favorite go-to phrases are Thanks for thinking about me: I’m not able to take this on right now. I am fully committed now, but can in a week, month, etc. I can make that work with this resource. Apologies, although I can’t help out, I highly recommend that you ask…

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would call for the implementation #myblissday

I believe that women are always on the move fulfilling our mountain of responsibilities to our organizations, families, friends, and communities that we forget to stop and appreciate ourselves. We need to create more moments to enjoy our bliss–a state of perfect happiness or joy.

Unlike your birthday, you pick the day. Let everyone know and just.do.you. Give yourself the gift of mindfulness. It is all about celebrating yourself, reflection and peace of mind. For some people it might mean taking a mental health day off from life, going to the spa, sleeping in. For others, it could mean having someone else assume household chores and maybe volunteering. Perhaps just doing nothing or only what you want to watch, eat, or do. It is all about you.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” by Maya Angelou. Throughout my life, I have asked to be “normal.” The truth is, I could never quite figure out what being normal exactly was. I am sure to those on the outside looking in at my life and career; it looked like I was taking risks, working hard, or being courageous. To me, I was just being curious and having fun even when the circumstances were hard. I just kept doing things that I found most exciting, and then amazing things kept happening. So, I stuck with my approach.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to meet Paula Williams Madison, the CEO of Madison Media Management. She is a wonderful author and executive. I saw one of her speeches recently. My father gave me similar career advice as hers and am fascinated by her story and entrepreneurial spirit.

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