Forget Work Life Balance

As a senior business executive, do you feel that your entire life is consumed by your work? Do you believe that you have to make tradeoffs between professional commitment and fully embracing life? Do you see the competition between work and personal life as a zero-sum game? If so, your mindset is limiting both. With a change of mindset, you can become a more effective leader and live a more fulfilled life.

Let’s reexamine the idea that there is a dichotomy between work and “life.” In today’s world such bifurcation is neither possible nor desirable.

Leaders can no longer exist within the bubble of their organizations. Like it or not, social media, 24-hour news cycles and the like have obliterated clear-cut boundaries between one’s personal and public lives. As a leader you now live in a something of a fishbowl.

This heightened visibility means that leadership must extend beyond the organization to behavior in our personal realms. It is no longer possible to have one persona at work and another in what was traditionally our ‘private’ lives.  Millennials in particular are demanding greater authenticity in leaders and those with whom they do business. This transparency means that who you truly are is visible for all to see.

A recent New York Times profile on Chris O’Neill Chief Executive of Evernote, detailed how he creates balance between work and his personal life.  In addition to his exercise routine, Saturdays spent with family, and his love of gardening, O’Neill even shared his preferred grooming products down to his favorite shave cream. Revealing personal details such as these would have at one time been viewed as incredibly unprofessional. But today this is quite the opposite.

These developments may sound discomfiting, but there’s a tremendous upside, for both you as an individual and for your company. It turns out that the most admired leaders—those whom others most want to follow—are often those with the most-well-rounded personal lives. A better leader? Yes. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s often true. Effective leadership has always involved inspiring others to achieve, and in today’s world, that is an increasingly and challenging task. To achieve sustained success, leaders must lead in ways that go beyond financial goals that serve as a beacon for others.

As an example, look no further than Robert Kraft. Best known as the owner of the New England Patriots football team, Kraft is a noted family man and philanthropist with business holdings valued at more than $4 billion. Says his son, Jonathan Kraft, in an article in the Harvard Crimson, “I don’t ever remember my father, [when I was] a young boy, missing a birthday, missing a game, or not being home for dinner at 6 o’clock at night.”

As you seek greater professional success, look beyond the workplace for behaviors and practices to help you achieve this.  A more-fulfilled personal life helps you stay balanced internally. It also helps you keep in touch with the larger world and the broader marketplace beyond your own industry. Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines, has noted that some of his best ideas have come from engaging his children in conversations about work.

And remember, the c-suite can become insular, and a robust life outside the office will expose you to people less likely to tell you only what you want to hear.

The idea that work and the rest of your life are on opposite sides of a scale that needs to be precariously balanced is an outmoded perspective. A well-integrated life, in which business, family, recreational, and spiritual pursuits support and reinforce one another will make you a happier, more fulfilled person and a better leader as well. A well-rounded personal life that complements your work. It helps you both internally and externally. You enjoy yourself, are more creative and balanced. It keeps you in touch world outside your company and industry. You are more relatable to customers and stakeholders of all kinds and you will inspire co-workers and subordinates to emulate your example. When social media turns it eyes on you, you can feel great about the image you convey because it is not just an image; it’s a reflection of a life well lived.

Your company will thank you.

I hope you found this article thought provoking. What ways do you suspect that unconscious bias may be inhibiting top performance in your organization? If you would like to discuss this or any other challenge you may be facing with your team, schedule a 20 minute call with me to see how we might work together. Drop me a note or just pick up the phone. (301) 983-5788

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