Interview: Dr. Verna Price

Motivational speaker and executive coach Dr. Verna Price shares her secrets for maintaining work/life balance

What's your connection to Minnesota?

I came to Minnesota as an undergraduate student almost 30 years ago. I came for college and somehow stayed. I can hardly believe it myself. I found amazing mentors both at my college, Crown College, and then later as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Minnesota has been a great place for professional growth and mentoring. There are so many amazing people in this state who have been my personal adders and multipliers. My oldest son now attends the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and my Bahamian family often asks me what keeps me here in Minnesota. I have found it to be a place where I can have an impact and make a difference at all levels in our communities. I have also found it to be an excellent place for my family. Being the mother of four children, having a place where my children can thrive is critical to me, and for that I am thankful.

How did you get into your field of work?

I was a born teacher  I love to teach and help people figure things out. I really wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, so I started working with groups like Junior Achievement, training adults and working in my community. I became a professor at a university and people started asking me to come to speak to groups. Now I do public speaking engagements, executive coaching work and consulting on things like team effectiveness and personal power. The fact is I've been in this work for more than 20 years and I love it more and more every day.

What inspires you on a day-to-day basis in your professional life?

My heart's call is to help people change their lives so they can be happier. I don't think that people were put on this earth to be miserable  they should all be healthy, happy, whole and productive people.

As a Motivational speaker, executive coach, mom, wife and friend, how do you maintain work/life balance in your own life?

First, I tell people that I don't really teach about anything that I personally haven't dealt with, struggled with, succeeded or failed miserably at. My life is complex and complicated; I'm a wife and I have four children, one of whom is a second-year college student and one who is in preschool, so I don't get a lot of sleep. My mornings are my most precious time  I get to read, study and think about the impact of what I've been called to do and prepare for it. When you work with so many people and speak in front of people, they really do think you have the answer. I can coach them and help them get there with the strategies and tools that I know work. I try to get a massage once a month; I walk two to three times a week and do strength training. I pay attention to my physical body because speaking is hard on your body. I'm careful about who's around me and I find reasons to laugh a lot.

Why do you think it's so important for people to maintain balance in their lives across all areas?

I think people are stressing themselves out. Your job can only do so much for you and then you have to go live your life. If you don't, you will have a one-sided life that will leave you sick. In fact, if you look at the numbers on mental health issues in the workplace, it has spiked. You have to work, but you also have to take care of yourself in an impeccable manner. Your body needs you to be whole. I tell people to sip their tea slow  meditate, pray, do yoga and just slow down a bit. It's important because your life is on the line. I want to stay younger, stronger, healthier and get more beautiful every day  and I want to be happy while I do it.

What is the lack of work/life balance doing to companies?

It's costing companies money. A Gallup poll taken two years ago said disengaged employees are costing industries $416 billion a year. When I first started doing this, I had a person say to me, "In a corporate setting, you can't talk about your personal lives." But the truth is, people come to work as people and you have to talk about your whole self. Engaged people are healthier, happier and are better, more productive team members. People who don't want to work are out of balance too. You are at your happiest state when you are productive, in good relationships, and taking care of yourself.

How do you think work/life balance is different in today's working world compared to 10 or 20 years ago?

I think technology and the media have a lot to do with it. So many people are out of balance and waste time in and on technology that they don't realize how much time is seeping out of them. People get to a place where they don't have time to exercise. Yes, you do! You need to give yourself a structure to deal with this huge, massive input of media. There's a weird socialization in the United States that says you have to be busy and doing something all of the time. And there seems to be an increase of expectation for people to work harder  they think they're not important unless they're working 60 to 70 hours a week. People bring their work home and they work on the weekends like they think the work is going to disappear. As a society, we are forgetting our whole self, and you need all of who you are to be a happy person.

What's your advice for people who are struggling to maintain work/life balance?

The first thing I teach every person is to get to the place where you understand that you have the power to change [your life]. People think they are caught and can't get out. Secondly, when you get to the place that you are courageous enough to look at the reality of your life, be honest and look at what is really happening. Are you spending too much time at work? Are you paying attention to your emotional self? Are you avoiding relationships? Ask yourself these hard, reality-based questions. Third, focus on whether or not you have the right people in your life to help you create that change. So many of us are in relationships with people who are keeping us in that place we've been at for a long time. If you are out of work/life balance, you are probably around people who are out of balance too. Having a great work/life balance is getting to the place where you are in the driver's seat of your own life  you have the plan and the map and know where you want to go. Once you start doing that, things start changing.