Nell Minow, co-founder of The Corporate Library, says sticking to an unconventional schedule made her successful.
NEW YORK (Fortune) — The single best piece of advice I ever got about my job was to work part-time.
It was 1983 and I was pregnant with my first child and getting ready to go on maternity leave from my job at the Office of Management and Budget, where I was a lawyer. I was talking with one of my law school classmates, Deborah Baughman, about going back to work and I was thinking maybe I could work mornings. She said, “No, don’t do that because the baby will be sleeping in the afternoons and people will be saying, ‘Can’t you just stay one more hour?’”
She said, ‘You’ll never get out of there. You’ll be much better off working Monday, Wednesday, Friday. That’s very doable, and you’ll never be away from either one for more than a day at a time.” And she was absolutely right.
It turned out to be a perfect arrangement for me and for the way that I work. Not only was it great for my family and for me because I could spend so much time with my children, but I could alternate right brain/left brain days. I had to be very productive because I could never say “I’ll do it tomorrow.” I had to get it done before I left on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And then I really had a day to think out of another part of my brain and come back with a different perspective.
I’m fortunate that I have a husband who works full time at a big DC law firm, where he specializes in intellectual property law. That made it possible not just for me to work part time, it made it possible for me to be an entrepreneur. You have to have some kind of safety net if you¹re going to do that.
I assumed that I would be in career escrow for a while at what Gloria Steinem referred to as a “jobette,” something to keep my career on simmer until I was ready to go back to work full time. But the point I want to make is that I became much more successful in every possible way you can think about career success – in terms of visibility, getting a chance to write books, having an impact on the world, and even financially – because I was working three days a week. I am just not good at working five days a week. Whether it’s because I have ADD or something, I’m hugely more productive three days a week than I am five days a week.
My colleague, Bob Monks, and I have been in three businesses together. First there was ISS, where I was the fourth person hired and is now a multinational global behemoth. Then we spun off Lens Investment Management, a money management firm. We sold that in 2000, at the height of the market, which was great. And we spun off what had been our in-house research office in 2000, which became The Corporate Library.
The tough part is the internal adjustment. It’s up to you to be disciplined. It’s like the sirens in “The Odyssey.” The sirens are always going to be out there on the shores, saying, “Please come crash your boat against our rocks.” And it’s always going to be very, very seductive. I lost a client once because of the three days a week thing. I could tell at the time it was bad. I was competing against someone who was going to stay as long as it took. And I was very mindful that that was the tradeoff I was making.
Also, I ultimately became the president of Institutional Shareholder Services. And you can be the president of an unsuccessful company three days a week. But you can’t be the president of a successful company three days a week. And as ISS became more successful I knew I was either going to have to work five days a week or I was going to have to leave. And I did.
Fortunately I would always rather be on the early stages of an entrepreneurial venture. I get bored with it when it gets successful because then you’re an administrator, not a visionary anymore. So it was fine for me to leave. I like start-ups because they give you more flexibility.
I should mention that now that my children are grown up, I’m still working only three days a week at The Corporate Library. But I like working part-time so much that I have taken a second part-time job as a movie critic. I like writing a lot and I really like going to movies, so it was either be a movie critic or be an usher. You can read my reviews on Beliefnet.com under “Movie Mom.”
The number one qualification for being a movie critic is you have to have an endless tolerance for bad movies because most of them are terrible. Fortunately it doesn’t bother me. I go to a lot of bad movies. I’ve been to five Pokemon movies and more buddy cop movies than anyone should have to see.
More seriously, I will say that there’s a through line in my jobs. I’m really, really interested in why things don’t work. And that just endlessly fascinates me. If I’m seeing a bad movie I want to figure out why it’s bad. Or if I see a corporation that falls apart, I want to know why it fell apart. You could sort of say it’s systems analysis. — Interviewed by David Stires
You know the character of the leading lady’s wisecracking best friend? No one ever filled that role better than Eve Arden (real name: Eunice Quedens), whose birthday we celebrate today. Seen-it-all but not cynical, she was the ideal sidekick for stars like Jimmy Stewart (“Anatomy of a Murder”), Katharine Hepburn (“Stage Door”), or Joan Crawford (she was Oscar-nominated for “Mildred Pierce”). On radio and then on television, she played “Our Miss Brooks,” the teacher who often battled with crusty principal Mr. Conklin and a crush on meek science teacher Mr. Boynton. It was this role that inspired her appearance as the principal in “Grease.” Continue Reading This Post »
Fifteen-year-olds make some poor choices. But while they may feel like the whole world is watching, usually it is just family and friends. Miley Cyrus is not just a fifteen-year-old. She is not even just a superstar, though she did have the top grossing concert tour in the country last year. She is also a brand. Over one billion dollars worth of merchandise featuring Miley and the character she plays on The Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana.” The success of those products depends on her squeaky clean image and parents have been reassured repeatedly that Miley is a sensible, responsible girl with grounded parents and that she will not create the embarrassment of former Disney stars like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and “High School Musical’s” Vanessa Hudgens. But Miley has hit the headlines with some photos taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair. By the tabloid Lohan/Spears standards and even the far lesser escapade of Hudgens, whose private nude photo for a boyfriend made it onto the Internet, the Cyrus flap is quite mild. The photo that has attracted the most publicity shows her bare back, holding a sheet up to her front.
Miley has apologized with a statement released by her publicist. “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.”
This is an opportunity for parents to talk to young children who are Miley fans — and to listen to what they have to say — about some important issues. First, make sure they know that everyone makes mistakes and it is how we respond to them that matters. We take responsibility for our actions (including apologies as appropriate), do our best to fix whatever we can, and learn to do better. Ask them why they think Miley made this mistake and what they think of the way she responded.
Let them know that it is all right for them to continue to like her. Loyalty to friends and family is an important value, and all of us need to learn to forgive and be forgiven for our mistakes. But it is also all right for them to like her less if they believe that she made some bad choices.
Remind them that they should never feel that they need to do what an adult tells them if it makes them uncomfortable — even if the adult is a famous photographer working for an important magazine. We want them to feel safe but we also want them to know that not everyone is as protective of them as those who love them. And let them know that bodies are nothing to be ashamed of, but a photograph that may seem perfectly innocent to the one whose picture is being taken may be seen differently, especially if the person in the photo is 15, not 10. In the era of Facebook and YouTube, a reminder that we have to think about what is in the minds of the viewers, especially strangers, and not just the people making the picture is a good idea as well.