Understand that timing is key and there are seasons to everything. Earlier I mentioned how some employees in our organization reduced professional responsibility during the pandemic while others increased theirs. There are different seasons in life, and there will be times when professional responsibilities take precedence as well as times when personal responsibilities take precedence. It’s important to expend your energies when and where they are needed, especially to avoid burnout from stretching yourself too thin.
Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Amanda Piwonka.
As Senior Vice President of People and Culture, Amanda Piwonka leads Tebra’s human resources, talent acquisition and total rewards departments, and spearheads our culture and wellness initiatives. Tebra is a SaaS leader in the growing healthcare space, with a robust platform for independent practices and billing companies to better communicate with their patients, provide excellent care and grow their practice to meet the demands of the modern age.
We recently had the chance to catch up with her to get insights into her experience managing staff through transitions, like the most recent one when Kareo and PatientPop merged to form Tebra. She will also share tips on how other companies could be successful in optimizing their organizations and working with their employees as many of us shift with the new work paradigms that have emerged during this pandemic.
Amanda sees her role as being a point of connection, to link employees to each other and to the company. Her goal is to help each employee to succeed in their individual roles as a way of building organizational success. On a day-to-day basis, that consists of conversations, mentoring and coaching so that she can equip employees for success.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Getting married, becoming a mother and taking on some of the common life responsibilities were really instrumental in expanding my perspective and how I look at the world today. Even though these experiences and responsibilities are frequently held by many people, in my life, they served to broaden my definition of success and how I recognize myself and others in the world. As a goal-oriented overachiever, I was accustomed to the affirmations that come with being an ambitious, career-focused professional. Being a spouse and a mother helped me recognize accomplishments aren’t always rewarded with title or salary, but also intangible accomplishments can be just as rewarding, at times, even more so. When my oldest daughter started school I relied heavily on other parents in the classroom to make sure as a working parent I stayed on top of what needed to be done at school and volunteering when I could. As many working parents know, that can be limited. Fast forward five years later I would have never guessed that I would be the room parent for my youngest daughter’s first grade class, much less continue to be the room parent until she was in the 5th grade. When I was asked to be the room parent because there wasn’t a volunteer, my first reaction was there is no way I could do that on top of my role at work. When I was asked again, I caved and accepted the role. The way my daughter talked about me being the room mom you would have thought I was the President of the United States! Most of the time the things we think we don’t have time for because our roles at work really just need to be re-prioritized. When they are, the rewards from that are so life-affirming.
We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?
A misconception I held when I was younger, and I believe is a myth in our culture, is that money or title is commensurate with a person’s success. If someone has a really big title with a lot of responsibility, or if they have a job that compensates them very well, it’s natural for us to consider them to be successful — and they are, for sure. However, that doesn’t take away from the success of the person who may not have the impressive title or the paycheck that often goes along with that, but who does really well with their role and makes contributions that are absolutely necessary for the success of the organization.
How has your definition of success changed?
I had a personal evolution from thinking of success in terms of title and salary to taking a perspective about what I wanted to accomplish and how I wanted to use the time that I’m given. When I was starting my career, I saw success in terms of being at the “best” company, having the “best” title, and getting the “best compensation.” I now realize that success comes in so many different shapes and sizes. In many cases, success is in the eye of the beholder and relates much more to what a person wants to get out of life and their work rather than these external metrics.
My shift in thinking stemmed from what was happening in my personal life as my responsibilities began to extend beyond the workplace into marriage, children, philanthropic activities, and more. As my life became more multi-faceted, I experienced satisfaction and accomplishment in situations that were completely personal and unrelated to anything that was going on at the workplace. Despite being achievements of the sort that never would be recognized with a title or pay raise, I felt really proud of these personal accomplishments! At the same time, because I have a high-level view of the organization based on my role in Human Resources, I was able to clearly see how different individuals impact our organization at all different levels. It’s inspiring to see that enriching your life and prioritizing those other facets that are just as important does not restrict you from success. All of them combined make you a more well-rounded person in life, which allows a better version of yourself to show up everyday.
For example, providing excellent customer support is critical to our success as a company. If an employee is serving in a customer support role, doing their best work and finding satisfaction, that is a vital contribution to the success of our organization and enables the employee’s personal success as well. Beyond the walls of our company, there are any number of organizations with people who aren’t at the top of the company, but are making invaluable contributions to society and feeling their own success in the process.
The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?
I think one of the biggest realizations of the pandemic is that the extremes to which we push ourselves don’t necessarily correlate directly to success in the professional world. I’m not a big fan of the term “work-life balance,” but being able to engage in what’s important to you outside of work while still being a rock star in the work environment is something we can and should be doing. Without both, we’re missing something.
Last year, several European countries introduced the four-day work week. Ultimately, I think wellbeing and focus on productivity will be the wave of the future, so four-day work weeks will probably expand to other parts of the world, maybe even ours. We can’t lose sight that the customers have to be serviced which is our top priority, and that could mean a rotating workweek where different employees have different days off, but if we can solve how to focus on the customer but be able to give time back to our employees it’s a win win.
In some ways, the pandemic created this new environment in which it was suddenly okay to take time for ourselves while still performing at our usual high standards in the workplace — and it was done well without compromising goals of the business. We could block out an hour to take that online Pilates class or to pick up the kids from school or whatever else it might have been that we never could really manage when we were in the office every day. Being able to tend to our personal lives while managing demanding jobs made a lot of people think about how the world, and the way we approach work, could be different. I think those realizations will stick with us once this is all over, and that ultimately might expand our definitions of success and how we view our path to success.
What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.
Being able to give added priority to what has deeper meaning in our heart of hearts — family, loved ones, wellbeing, etc. — was one of the unexpected positives in the pandemic. Another positive was in how we were able to humanize each other. In our organization, many employees have spouses who are frontline workers or first responders, who couldn’t provide support at home. We saw our colleagues on video conferences holding babies, we heard dogs barking, and we viewed baskets of laundry in the background.
What was amazing was that all of these things we might previously have considered to be distractions or unprofessional became part of everyday work life — because they are part of life — and we managed to get it all done. We worked where and when we needed to work. In our organization, we didn’t see any productivity declines or issues we might have imagined prior to this experience. It proved that we could work as hard and be as productive while still managing other aspects of our lives.
We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?”
- Define success on both a personal and a professional level. Foremost, it’s critical to understand what success looks like from a personal perspective. Once you understand that, you’ll be able to show up professionally. During the pandemic, some of our employees who were married to frontline workers found themselves taking a step back professionally, maybe reducing workload or prioritizing which conference call they attended so that they could be available to help their children with remote schooling. Our company gave them the flexibility to do that. By the same token, without commutes or in-person meetings, other employees were able to be even more available than they would have been prior to the pandemic.
- Know what drives you, what your work passion is. I recently had a conversation with a colleague who was concerned because a coworker had been promoted, but my colleague hadn’t. My team member was reflecting on her own success and whether being bypassed for a promotion indicated she wasn’t successful. We got into a great discussion about whether a title is reflective of success and what it was about the job that sparked joy and motivated her. Through our discourse, my colleague came to realize what she loved about her job and that if she were to go further up the corporate ladder, she would lose all connection to what inspires her about her work. So for her, her work passion turned out to be different than, perhaps, her colleague that was promoted.
- Understand that timing is key and there are seasons to everything. Earlier I mentioned how some employees in our organization reduced professional responsibility during the pandemic while others increased theirs. There are different seasons in life, and there will be times when professional responsibilities take precedence as well as times when personal responsibilities take precedence. It’s important to expend your energies when and where they are needed, especially to avoid burnout from stretching yourself too thin.
- Understand that your definition of success will continually evolve. Very few of us start out with a single vision of success and carry it firmly throughout our lives. You might start off with a very traditional view of success, thinking you want a house, a dog, two cars in the garage, then suddenly you discover surfing — and suddenly, success is a lifestyle that allows you to support yourself in a way that allows for a lot of time on the beach catching the perfect wave. As we experience life and grow as humans, what we want and need changes and that’s okay.
- Find a way to give back and to be part of something bigger than yourself. Prior to the pandemic, our company used to participate in volunteer days on behalf of Action Against Hunger, Toys for Tots and Second Harvest Food Bank. Those events always were so incredible because we would package meals to be shipped overseas. We put such a tiny meal into the containers, but each meal could feed more than 1200 people. On one level, it underscored how incredibly fortunate each and every one of us are. On another level, it brought the organization together. Our packing teams intentionally brought together groups that might not naturally encounter each other during our day-to-day responsibilities, so we always walked away feeling good about what we were doing and the people we were doing it with.
How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?
If society changed its definition of success, I think we’d all be more well-rounded, more accepting of people who don’t go down the path of money and fame, and perhaps, all a bit happier. Those folks sitting on beaches and at Little League games may seem less ambitious compared to those sitting in the corporate boardrooms, but in the end, they may be contributing to society differently, investing in family, community and people in a way that is just as important and impactful in making a better society.
What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?
The social stereotypes of success and our culture of running for the next thing really are our biggest obstacles. It seems that everyone, even accomplished CEOs, want to achieve just one more milestone. Growth and goals are good and worth pursuing, but it’s important to recognize your current success even as you work toward your next goal.
Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?
I find inspiration everywhere! I’m a podcast junkie — I subscribe to more than 40 different podcasts and read tons of articles, from the Harvard Business Journal, to the Wall Street Journal, and many others. Some pieces are about being a better parent, some are about being more productive at work. There are so many different topics, and I find so many have tidbits that are meaningful. I take pieces from everything because it loops back to how success looks different for different people. There’s no one source that is the end-all, be-all for inspiring success. Everyone will find their inspiration in different places.
We are very blessed that 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, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.
It would be a dream of mine to have a meal with research professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host @BreneBrown. Her work pushes and inspires me and others to influence and lead every day. She helps individuals, teams and organizations be better. Everything she talks about and does can make you grow as a person and a colleague.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Find out more about what we do at www.kareo.com or my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amandapiwonka
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.