Intentionality is of paramount importance, with Tracy Lorenz and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Intentionality is important with kids. They are sponges and learn from us. They model our behavior and we must understand that spending time with them is important to who they become as adults.

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Intentionality is important with kids. They are sponges and learn from us. They model our behavior and we must understand that spending time with them is important to who they become as adults.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Lorenz, president and chief executive officer of Triumph Higher Education Group / Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Lorenz is an energetic and solutions-driven executive with more than 18 years of leadership experience in higher education. This includes both online and campus-based operations with oversight from a variety of state and federal regulatory bodies. For the past six years, Tracy has served as the President of Western International University, a regionally-accredited institution located in Phoenix. She served as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer for Western International University prior to her promotion to president. She has also held a variety of key executive roles at Career Education Corporation where she led operations, strategy and development as well as investor relations and corporate communications. Prior to her tenure in higher education, Lorenz held positions at McDonald’s International and KPMG Peat Marwick in finance and accounting. Lorenz is a CPA and holds her Bachelor of Science Degree from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where she is currently completing her Master’s in Business Administration. Lorenz is also a seven-time Ironman Triathlon finisher and has successfully completed the Boston Marathon.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I am the youngest of four kids. There were nine years between me and the next oldest brother, so all my older siblings were out of the house and in college by the time I was ten. From an early age we were taught to pick a sport, excel in it and then earn a college scholarship. Plain and simple. I challenged that notion when I got to my junior year in high school and decided not to show up to volleyball tryouts and instead to go all in with my real love…dance. I realized quickly my decision had consequences and I was going to have to pay for college on my own. It all worked out and I was able to attend and pay for college at a Big 10 school and also join the competitive dance team. The experience did shape the way I approached sports with my own children by knowing there was a delicate balance of directing and supporting them in activities while also ensuring their passion would drive long-term involvement versus burn-out.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I am a CPA by trade, so I should have ended up a CFO of a publicly-traded company, but I took a different path to get to CEO. It started off by me volunteering for assignments nobody wanted which were deemed a challenge or which I didn’t have the experience for on paper. After a few successes and some failures, I proved I was talented at solving problems, strategy setting and building businesses. It helped that numbers came easy to me as P&L management was essential to successfully running a business.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I always use the morning to work-out. That is a non-negotiable. I also make my 17-year-old son chocolate chip pancakes, not because he cannot make breakfast for himself, but because I realize my mornings with him are limited as he leaves for college in the fall. He also has athletic practice in the evening, so I find him more talkative in the morning. I usually start on email and take some initial calls at home before I head to work. This way I can ensure to get some of my administrative tasks cleared before my day gets started. By the time I get to the office things are in full swing, so my day is mostly spent meeting face-to-face with my staff and leaders. As I get in a little later to match my staff’s routine, I usually leave the office around 7 p.m. My husband gets a head start on dinner and by the time our son gets home from practice we can eat together. I also am getting a master’s degree, so for some nights I need to leave time to do team conference calls and attend lectures.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Intentionality is important with kids. They are sponges and learn from us. They model our behavior and we must understand that spending time with them is important to who they become as adults.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?

Meaningful time spent with your kids is important. For the past nine years, I was commuting between Chicago and Phoenix for my previous job. I had a lot of flexibility so I could alter my schedule for important weeknight school events or athletic events. Weekends were off limits for working onsite and with technology I was able to address both work and personal very well.

As a result of the time we spent together, our children are independent and well-adjusted. We genuinely enjoy spending time with them, especially as they have grown into young adults. High school came with challenges, but that was to be expected as our kids tested their boundaries.

Another solid reason for being present is helping keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. Humility is a tricky thing today and children need to understand they don’t have to climb over someone’s back in order to reach the summit rather they can reach it quicker by supporting and collaborating with each other on the way to the top.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I personally believe quality time with kids is better than the quantity of time. We train and compete in triathlons as a family. My husband runs the tri team our kids are on so weekends, vacations and summers are all spent with the family doing something in common. I guess you can liken it to other families golfing or playing tennis together.

As part of the tri team we host a winter and summer triathlon camp for 30 kids on our team. While it is hard work feeding and cleaning up after 30 teenagers, it creates great memories because we get to experience our kids in their natural environment with their friends. It just allows us opportunities to hang out with our kids versus having them going off somewhere else to spend their weekends.

Also, now that our daughter is in college, we spend a lot of weekends visiting her and seeing athletic events. She participated in rowing her freshman year, so we traveled to her regattas as a family to see her compete.

She is now studying abroad in Barcelona, so I was able to schedule a visit to see her around a work trip to Europe. You must make it a priority and then follow through with some good planning.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

  • Schedule your early morning for “you” — workout, meditate, drink a cup of coffee solo and DO NOT CHECK WORK EMAIL OR FACEBOOK. Even if this is only 20 minutes, get your blood pumping and the endorphins going and it will improve your overall mood and attention. This supports the notion you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.
  • Do not use technology when you are talking to your children. They model your behavior. This is reciprocated by requiring them to not use technology when they are talking.
  • Be active as a family…find that one thing you all can do together like golf, tennis, running, music triathlon, etc.
  • Be annoying by asking a lot of open-ended questions to your quieter children…my son would prefer me to ask questions which could be answered by “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, etc. but I ask a lot of open-ended questions about his day, his friends, and current events to get him to engage in longer dialogue.
  • End your workday by using the last 10 minutes to plan for tomorrow. This way you will feel like you can close the door to work prior to leaving the office. Of course, you may have to address fires when you leave the office, but at least this strategy will help you feel settled and prepared for the next day.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

Fortunately, kids are durable so as parents we don’t have to get everything right on the first try. We must strive to be the best parents, acknowledge when we are wrong and then pivot when we make mistakes. I believe it is the best compliment when people tell me my children are polite and caring. We like to think we raised good people and my greatest hope is they in return also will raise good people.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

When my son was ten, he had stated he wanted to go to the Olympics for triathlon. We always encouraged him and didn’t discourage him. He started in triathlons when he was seven years old and we supported him by having him join a local team. And, while today he is not going to the Olympics, he still is pursuing his passion by traveling across the country to compete in triathlons as a Junior Elite triathlete.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

We have strived to raise kids who have goals and passions, but who also have good hearts. We also have strived to maintain our own goals and passions and not get wrapped up in living vicariously through them. We believe it is our duty as role models for our kids. My husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage this year and I believe that is a testament to our loving partnership and not forgetting that we are first a married couple and then second parents to our children.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

The advice on topics has shifted since my kids have grown to young adults. When they were younger, I read a lot of parenting articles on “how to raise self-reliant children” and “how to deal with picky eaters”. Now, I am drawn to topics such as mental health, drugs and bullying as these are more relevant to their age group. For example, I have a great friend who is a psychologist and works with young adults. I go to her if I have any pressing questions or need some assistance on the more sensitive topics. For example, when “13 Reasons Why” was first released a few years back there was a push to have our teenagers watch it to understand the effects of bullying and suicide. She helped me share a different perspective with some of the parents that the series could be glorifying the topic of suicide.

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

Eleanor Roosevelt — 1960 “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I have this plaque on my desk and I believe I approach daily life like that. Everyone can say at some point in their life they didn’t know how to do something. You must trust you can dive into a situation and quickly learn. I think it is safe to say everyone gets at least one try at something. It is what you do with that learning (success or failure) that will distinguish you from the rest.

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. 🙂

Working moms need to learn to forgive themselves and trust they are striving to do their best. They should not try to live up to unrealistic expectations shown in the media where the working mom is perfectly “balancing work and personal” life with a smile. Be okay with some chaos and be at peace with giving it your all at work one day and then pivoting and giving it your all at home the next day when your children or partner need you. Join an organization that is empathetic to working parents and supports parents with their stated HR polices.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the Author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.

An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.

Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.

When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.

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