What follows is my response to a wonderful blog post “Can senior leaders achieve work life balance?” shared by Dr Jon Warner on LinkedIn, in which he highlights the impact of “managerial time squeezing”, “greater demands” and the “reach of technology” on the ability of senior leaders to have work life balance in their lives.
7th June 2014, Evesham.
An enjoyable read, highlighting some of the very real challenges faced both by senior leaders and most across our organisations. The world has undoubtedly changed, along with the expectations placed upon us by both ourselves, others and the significant changes in working styles and hours created by the globalisation of our businesses across multiple time zones.
In short, I believe that senior leaders can achieve work life balance or what I call work life integration (where both they and those around them are content with the hours they spend in and out of work). I agree that there are significant opportunities for us to work through each of the elements you highlight and to identify strategies to reduce their impact, if not, eradicate them.
Over and above this, I find that the key in enhancing work life integration lies in identifying what within ourselves means that we ‘choose’ to work the number of hours we do. Once identified, we have the opportunity to work through these and create the attitudinal shift required to ‘accept’, plan for and deliver the changes needed to achieve the integration we want. This, in my experience, creates the greatest enhancement of work life satisfaction.
Here are some examples of the internal challenges and questions I’ve seen those I’ve worked with face, when seeking to create work life integration:
>Do we enjoy the hours we work and feel we thrive on it – like a drug?
>Do we feel the expectations of others to do so and feel unable to reduce the hours we work where it’s the social norm?
>Do we believe our workforce will think we are ‘leaving early’?
>Are we unable to see through the fog, pause for long enough to prioritise what we ourselves need to do?
>Are we eager to please others and demonstrate a perceived commitment through ‘hard’ work?
>Do we feel that we are the only ones who can carry out the activities we do or that it would take too long to enable others to do it on our behalf?
>Are we carrying the burden of performance outcomes and shareholders, which mean we put in more hours, rather than the focused hours we need?
>Are we spending time outside of work, ‘inside’ work, networking and relationship building, stretching our days even further because we believe we ‘have to’?
>Are we maintaining a social network presence, trying to keep up with other ceo’s who appear to be out there all the time?
>Are we excited by going home? Do our family want us to spend more/less time at home?
>Are we in denial thinking to ourselves “once we’ve got this sorted I’ll be able to slow down – honest”.
To paraphrase Dr David Rock’s neuroscience based model of collaborating with and influencing others; SCARF. Until the hours we work undermines our sense of STATUS, the CERTAINTY we and those around us need, our RELATEDNESS to others and the FAIRNESS of both the time we work and the outcomes it creates, we will often continue to ‘over work’.
The key to addressing and pre-empting this, lies for me, in helping senior leaders and their people to become aware of the thoughts, feelings and expectations that create these ‘over work’ characteristics and then identify ways to assimilate their values with the belief and visualised expectation of how working the hours they want and in the way they want, could increase productivity and enhance both their lives and those around them.
So often in business and in life we focus on the external factors that impact on the hours we work, when the key to managing our time, and indeed our lives, lies in our ability to create the attitudinal shift required to pause and find more effective ways of working and living. When we do this, we enhance the opportunity we have to creating the sense of esteem, clarity, connection and equality for all, that we as human beings seek in our daily lives.
Thank Jon for prompting me to ‘put pen to paper’…
Tel: +44 (0) 77369 42382
Stefan Powell is Your Leadership Counsel and has been developing leaders, teams and organisational capability for change for over a decade. Inspiring, committed and devoted to the success of his clients, he excels in working 1:1 with leaders and business owners to bring inspiration, clarity and focus to everything they do.
“Stefan is a ‘master of his art’ as well as an excellent coach and I would recommend him to anyone…” Ian Bradley – UK Business Continuity & Resilience Manager Santander UK