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The Balance Project Interview: Jillian Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer

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THE BALANCE PROJECT is a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews by author Susie Orman Schnall featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about work/life balance.

Jillian Griffiths’ interview is part of a package in anticipation of a special event on Tuesday night, June 23, 2015: a panel on work life balance featuring Susie Orman Schnall, author and creator of The Balance Project, along with Jennifer Allyn, Diversity Strategy Leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers; Kristen Bellstrom, Senior Editor of Fortune; Peggy Davenport, Partner of Debevoise & Plimpton; Jillian Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice; and Terrianne Patnode, Counsel to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. The panel will be moderated by Chris Riback, Author, Commentator and Executive Editor of Working Capital Review.

Age: 45
Where I live:
 Upper West Side, Manhattan
Job: Chief Operating Officer of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice

Griffiths, Jillian - large picture, March 2015Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
In 2000, I took a four-month sabbatical from work and attended a 10 week, intensive cooking school. After finishing I decided to work in Europe for 2.5 years. The sabbatical gave me a break from work and allowed me to pursue a passion of cooking at the same time as thinking through what I liked about my career, and how I could find more balance. At the end of the sabbatical I decided working in Europe would allow me to be challenged in new ways (working for new partners, and in a new market) and, yet benefit from the European work style which allowed for more (real) vacation. In addition, I was able to explore Europe throughout my time there—travel being another passion of mine. When I returned to the US, I was able to leverage the work hard/play hard approach from working in Europe.  The US was also starting to evolve more toward an appreciation of flexibility and recognition that time off leads to better overall productivity.

In 2015, I left my 22-year career in consulting to be the COO of a long-time client. While the work is challenging in different ways, the schedule is much more predictable, which is what I needed.

In both cases, I feel lucky, because while I made changes in my career, the changes in fact were lateral and advance moves, not backwards, yet both provided me with the balance I needed at the time.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think having “it all” is realistic when you think about this in the context of your entire life, not a moment, day, week or even, sometimes a year in your life. I also believe that “having it all” is how you, individually, define that.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Regular (3 days per week, or to start, just 1x per week!) yoga. I know yoga is good for me, both physically and mentally, but I just can’t seem to find the time to fit yoga into my schedule right now.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Not looking at my iPhone 24×7. Trying to focus on the moment at hand, and those I am with.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance?
I have a personal trainer 2x per week in the mornings. This forces me to exercise as I won’t cancel and lose the money I would owe the trainer.  My executive assistant blocks that time in my calendar. Also, I live in New York City, and while I love the city, I need to leave the city.  I book one 3-4 day long weekend each month—sometimes to visit a friend or family, other times to sit on the beach. I find that it is easier to switch off for 3-4 days than a week because of all that is going on personally and at work. The break gives me something to look forward to and revives me.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From your mother? “Don’t forget to laugh.”

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
Reading. I used to be an avid reader. Since I have to read so much for work, I never make the time at home (and I am generally too tired).

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Time goes by at an increasing rate. Therefore, I need to make time, to take a step back at least once a year, and make sure I’m making conscious choices (vs letting life go by).

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Spring cleaning—going through my closets, organizing, donating, etc.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Any head of state.

Biggest vices…
Activity? Running.
Food? Too many, food in general … if I had to narrow it down, likely cheese or ice cream.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
Not enough, 7 hours. I wish it was 8 hours.

What do you read every morning?
The Wall Street Journal.

IMG_0721About Jillian:43592
Jillian Griffiths is the Chief Operating Officer of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R). In that role, she has leadership responsibilities for finance, information technology, human resources, legal and office services operations.

Prior to joining CD&R, Jillian was a Deals Partner in the New York office of PwC and served as the Global Relationship Partner on two accounts, including CD&R. She worked within Deals – specializing in financial due diligence – since its creation in 1994 and had extensive experience in its two largest offices, London and New York. Jillian’s experience included participation in over 150 transactions, dedicating a majority of her time advising premier private equity firms and Fortune 500 companies across a wide variety of industries. With broad national and international experience leading diverse cross-functional teams, Jillian served her clients through comprehensive analysis of deal alternatives and innovative approaches to minimizing transaction risk, expediting closing and optimizing structures and outcomes. Besides her client responsibilities, Jillian served as the US Advisory Private Equity Sector Leader and served as a member of the Advisory Leadership Group.

In 2014, Jillian was entered into New York City’s YWCA’s Academy of Women Leaders, and in 2013, Jillian won Consulting magazine’s Women Leaders in Consulting—Client Service award. Jillian holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Miami University of Ohio and is a CPA in the State of New York. She currently serves on the Board of Turnaround for Children. She is an avid runner and a London-trained gourmet cook.