Why Whole Life Balance is the Key to Leadership Success

8/11/2014

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The internet and technology have transformed our lives – both professionally and personally. We are in information overload with many digital channels competing for our attention. TIME magazine reported that, on average, we check our phones 110 times a day (and up to every 6 seconds in the evening).

Nowadays there’s no distinction between friends and colleagues on our news feeds. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself having work colleagues that you interact with nearly every day and friends you’ve never actually met in person.

Former President and CEO of Coca Cola, Brian Dyson’s inspirational 30 second speech from the mid-nineties about work/life balance still rings true in this digital age but the old lines between our personal and working lives are beginning to blur.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE - A 21ST CENTURY BALANCING ACT

“Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family and friends and have proper rest. Value has a value only if its value is valued.” - Former President and CEO of Coca Cola, Brian Dyson 

Leaving on time. Is that a realistic prospect for today’s business leaders? Even if you physically leave the office, you’re still digitally ‘connected’ and sometimes ‘mentally’ connected too. Switching off isn’t that easy, especially when you love what you do and your enthusiasm and passion for the work follows you home.

Sometimes, discussions around the dining table inspire you and end up being discussed around the meeting table; vice versa is also true.

No wonder work/life balance continues to be a real challenge for us all. The danger of constantly being stressed and pulled in different directions is that we have no time to clear our minds which stifles our creativity.

SELFLESS LEADERS EAT LAST

Business leadership speaker and author, Simon Sinek has an intriguing idea that the stress we associate with being ‘out of balance’ is less a result of working extended hours and more about where we feel safe and protected.

He goes as far as to say we have two families, one at home and one at work and that we have a similar duty of care to employees and family members.

What if we applied the principles of family life to our work environment?

I believe that it is our responsibility as leaders to provide a safe, nurturing environment for individuals to learn and grow.

True leaders serve their people and make sacrifices for them. In Simon’s words, ‘They eat last.’ This means acting selflessly, wanting our people to achieve more than we achieve ourselves. The kind of unconditional love that we show to our family.

BLENDING THE PROFESSIONAL AND THE PERSONAL

I believe that the secret to getting the most out of work, and life, is to move beyond the notion of a separate ‘working life’ and ‘personal life’ and focus on the higher motives that guide both. Rather than ‘work-life balance’, this thinking leads to ‘one life’: a life that is fulfilling, authentic, on purpose and whole.

At Insights we say ‘bring your whole self to work’. One of my colleagues (who I also consider a friend) recently coined the phrase, ‘taking your whole self home from work’, as a way of describing the need for time to relax and recharge, so that your work hours are more effective.

Maybe the secret is doing a little more of both. Perhaps our aspiration should not necessarily be a greater degree of separation. Instead we should look for opportunities for the two to enrich and support each other, and encourage our people to do the same – creating a kind of ‘whole life balance.’

What do you think? How do you balance your professional and personal lives?

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