Tracey Massey, president of Mars Chocolate in North America, made a seemingly rare admission on Tuesday. She told a women’s leadership conference that she sometimes leaves her office at 3 p.m. to catch her daughter’s soccer games, even though she knows her subordinates are watching.

“Don’t underestimate how many people see you do that,” she said. Massey says she hopes her early departures send a message to her employees that it’s okay to have rich professional and personal lives.

In exuding the kind of culture she wants her workplace to have, Massey is an executive who practices what her company preaches. The disconnect between what a company promises and the kind of behavior its employees actually adopt—especially in terms of vacation and maternity-leave policies—is what makes some feel-good corporate benefits altogether toothless. Executives who act like Massey, meanwhile, help ensure that workers feel comfortable taking advantage of the flexible hours and time off they’re offered.


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