The Leader’s Work–Life Balance: Everyone Wants It, No One Has It

Matthew Kelly, author of several books on this critically important leadership topic including The Dream Manager (2007) and Off- Balance (2011) makes the case that the issue is not work–life balance per se; but rather, it is understanding that people want satisfaction. Others, including the noted writer John Gardner, described the search for meaning:

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties…out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something.

Our view is that we are indeed talking about balance. It is the relative correlation of your personal and professional lives, and every leader has to look in the mirror and decide how he or she wants to create that correlation in the team they lead. All too often, young leaders become prematurely old leaders because they can’t see themselves as they really are – unbalanced in work and life. More importantly, they grind off lots of good people along the way.

So what’s the answer to finding and creating the leadership environment we identify as our sixth principle “Balance the Personal and Professional”?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Spend time every day thinking about how your team views your sense of balance. What signals do you send that personal and professional goals are both important?
  2. Start a time management program. Look at your calendar over the course of a day, week, and month. Do you control much of your calendar, or just follow it? Make “open time” a part of every day. Don’t schedule meetings without a time limit, agenda, and accountability.
  3. Take your full vacation allocation and insist that others do the same. Schedule your team’s vacations at the beginning of the year.
  4. Honor weekends and national holidays.
  5. Get in shape. Exercise at least 2-3 days a week for 30 minutes. Read while walking on a treadmill, riding an exercise bike, or some other type of fitness equipment. Build strength by lifting weights or doing circuit training. You’ll be a better leader because you’ll feel better, look better, and set a better example.
  6. Come to work at a decent hour, and leave at a decent hour. Make sure your team knows you aren’t going to reward workaholics.
  7. Respect your teammates’ time. Don’t send emails on the weekends. You can write them during the football game and save the drafts when a great idea strikes you, just wait until the next work day to send them. If you absolutely must talk with of one your team members during off duty hours, send them a text with the subject and ask them to call you when they’re free so they have time to wrap up what they are doing, step outside from the band rehearsal, or walk away from the soccer field. But make sure it’s an important topic, too – if the topic doesn’t trigger the “wake me up at 2:00 AM criteria”, the call can probably wait until the next work day.
  8. Recognize performance by those who get it done without keeping the office lights on all night. Develop a “working smart award” and give it out once a month to promote good work habits.
  9. Celebrate people, families, birthdays, life achievements. It’s fun, and your team will feel you value them as people. They’ll want to be on your team, and act like owners.

We spent years out of balance, and it’s a tough realization to come to understand that you can’t get a baseball season back years later, or a high school prom, or just a walk with your life partner on a quiet afternoon. Make the leadership commitment today to” Balance the Personal and Professional”. We’ll be glad to help, just drop us a note.

For more perspectives on balance, see our other posts on the topic here.

To learn more about our leadership ideals, see my book “We’re All In.” You can get a copy of the first chapter for free here.

If you’d like a full copy of the entire book, you can get it here.

Enjoy the journey!

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