“Women throughout the workforce, from all walks of life, are having similar experiences,” says Lisa Graham, Ph.D., “and we feel very compelled to address them.”

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Lisa Graham, Ph.D., and Julie McDonald, Ph.D., of McDonald Graham LLC, are engaging women faculty in the School of Medicine in their Transforming Success seminars, sponsored by the UAB School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion. Transforming Success is a series of leadership development sessions aimed at changing the way in which women faculty view success, and their own climb through the ranks of academic medicine. Graham is an organizational psychologist and McDonald is a clinical psychologist; their unique backgrounds and training have spurred them to offer real, meaningful tools to the clients they serve.

For several weeks throughout the fall of 2017, 19 women faculty members, who were selected to represent their departments at the UAB School of Medicine, will learn how to shift their thinking to better prepare them for success, under the guidance of the psychologists at McDonaldGraham, LLC.

McDonald and Graham were friends for many years before they attended a pivotal retreat together three years ago. Their conversations at the retreat uncovered that they shared a passion for working with women – and that the women each of them were treating in their differing fields of expertise were experiencing the same issues. Most women, they found, suffered from similar stresses, pressures, and worries. Most women struggled with establishing work/life balance.

“It’s important for women to realize that they’re not alone,” Graham says, “and to give them the tools to deal with situations that are not ideal.”

The road to success is different for each person, the psychologists note, and it’s important not to offer a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, the key component is for women pursuing the path to leadership to realize that they are not alone in their struggles, and that they can cultivate the tools to take control of their own individualized path.

As for work-life balance? It’s a myth, say the professionals. Rather than thinking of work and life as two sides of a scale that need to be balanced, McDonald and Graham encourage their clients to see work and life as blended.

“We all have the same human needs at work that we have outside of work,” McDonald says. “If we don’t accept and address that, there is ultimately going to be burnout and attrition.”

The Transforming Success leadership sessions provide participants with tools for approaching issues of integrating work life with home life, addressing invisible barriers to success, changing the situations they are able to change, and adopting a growth mindset, among many other important topics. The sessions take place in small groups biweekly through the remainder of 2017.

20170907 083526“We want to create a paradigm shift in people’s thinking,” McDonald says. “We want to change how they see themselves and how they define success. We talk a lot about choosing your sacrifice. When people choose their own sacrifice, they feel a greater sense of control.”