Janet Lehman, MSW, worked with her husband, James, as co-creator of The Total Transformation Program. Janet has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years. She is a social worker who has held a variety of positions during her career, including juvenile probation officer, case manager, therapist and program director for 22 years in traditional residential care and in group homes for difficult children.
Janet graduated with a BA in Sociology from Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, and received her Master's in Social Work from the University of West Virginia. James and Janet's son, Jeremy, had learning disabilities as a child that gave them a very personal understanding of learning and behavior challenges.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My late husband struggled with alcohol and drug addictions as a youth and alcohol again as an adult. Who would guess that an "expert" with a Master's degree would have to put this skill set to use to keep the family together and that the other "expert" would relapse? As a couple, we eventually rose above it. As wife and practicing family therapy professional, it was very humbling to struggle with these behaviors in my own home but it made me much better at what I do. My client connections have far more depth; my tips are based on real world experience because I really "get it". I was able to use the tough stance of the 12 steps and really weave them into my practice and make families mindful of not enabling negative behaviors. I understand that clients need to get unstuck fast and need a good deal of empathy and effective advice to get there. The greatest legacy given to me by James and many shared years of practice is to not give up on a loved one but always hold them accountable. I have always been fascinated by what makes people tick; when bullied as a child I had to figure out "why". It drew me to counseling as a profession.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Total Transformation?
Absolutely my many years of working with very difficult and challenging at risk youth, allowed me to really analyze difficult behaviors, causes, and effective methods for changing them. Even entrenched habits can shift and the most disadvantaged kids can make sustainable and positive changes with hard work and practice. My husband and I were able to distill our advice into very easy to understand and actionable tips so every parent could benefit from coaching. It was not a big detour to put this into video and audio format for the "everyday" family.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Total Transformation?
The highlights include the first orders coming in and ardent testimonials about how useful the Total Transformation program was in effectuating change. After a decade, we have helped over 400K families in over 70 countries, provide one on one coaching with our parental support group, and have a free parenting community website EmpoweringParents.com with great content.
The challenge continues to be making behavioral healthcare accessible and affordable for every struggling family. Our society still has quite a stigma for families that need help. It should not be shameful- children are unpredictable and parenting gets harder with every generation. If you factor in 1 in 5 Americans struggle with some type of behavioral health issue, you have the perfect storm for out of control kids and stressed out families.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to have their own business?
Follow your passion, if you see a need that can be filled with your unique skills and it will make the world a better place- go for it. The biggest regret is in never trying an out of the box approach that may really resonate with a big audience.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Work- especially if you love what you do- can be all consuming. Every career will require serious devotion and attention at key intervals. But in the long term view- the value of the everyday interactions with family, friends, pets, can't be understated. Always be mindful of the present and savor where you are now.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think one of the biggest challenges in the workplace is being a parent and a great employee- especially in our hyper connected society. Women tend to feel the guilt and time away from their kids more acutely but Dads take on more with each generation. Since women are working more than ever and kids are exposed to so much that a parent can't always actively monitor them, stress levels continually escalate in raising the kids right and making a decent living. It really does take a village to raise a child and we all need to work together to raise the next generation to deal with a fairly complicated society.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My first job out of college was as a welfare worker in Camden, NJ with an enormous caseload. I was overwhelmed by the numbers and need of the families and was struck by how well the paraprofessionals managed to deeply connect with families despite the stressful conditions. Even after grad school and many years of practice, the best lesson I learned from the paraprofessionals in the trenches is to focus on the authentic client connections. There is nothing more professional than a meaningful relationship and effective communication.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire many great women but a great current example of a household name is Hillary Clinton. Whether you love her politics or hate them, you have to admire her resiliency, strength of character and get it done attitude. She will be remembered as an icon- much like Eleanor Roosevelt. Of course if she becomes the first female President of the US, a new chapter in the history books will be hers.
What do you want Total Transformation to accomplish in the next year?
My goal for Total Transformation is the same every year- reach more families, provide great advice, and create positive and sustainable change for families. We want to be effective, accessible, and affordable for everyone. Equally as important is to remove the stigma for asking for assistance in managing behavioral health whether it is for a child, a spouse, sibling, or anyone that you care about.