No matter how economically successful you are or want to be, no matter how busy you are at work, no matter what mission-critical strategic initiative you are charged with, no matter where you are on the org chart…remember to enjoy your family and friends.
Positional leaders and managers demonstrate through their actions what they expect from their employees and teams. If you wonder why only 70 percent of the American workforce is not engaged at work, per Gallup's comprehensive survey, one reason may be because employees don't feel their managers care about anything except work.
Why would any employee follow that type of leader? I know that I wouldn’t.
If managers are tired and haggard and seem to care about only work, employees become tired, haggard, and uncaring about work. Granted, there are times when everyone must give 150 percent to meet a deadline. But those should be the exception, not the rule.
Here is the rule: life is 100 percent. Work should be a percentage of that 100 percent; non-work should be a percentage of that 100 percent, and time spent with family (however you define it) should be a large percentage of that 100 percent.
If you are a manager with younger children, let your employees see you leave early on occasion to watch your child’s soccer game. Encourage them to leave early for their kid’s game too. If you are a Baby Boomer leader with kids in grad school or graduating from trade school, make sure your employees know how proud you are of your kids. Celebrate their achievements.
Celebrate the achievements of your employees’ families too. Be happy with them as they plan the trip to their kid’s graduation from boot camp or rejoice that their favorite uncle just turned 90.
Follow the leader means: “What I do as a leader, you will follow.” Employees want to follow human beings, not project managers. If I’m a proud parent and encourage you to be a proud parent, you’ll see me as a human being.
So, lead a balanced life. Encourage your team members to lead balanced lives also. Spending time with family is a life-enhancing, life-renewing activity—directly for those involved, and indirectly by those who share in each other's happiness.
What Does Balanced Look Like?
My daughter is a professional, an athlete, a composer, singer, and plays guitar. She is one of those women who leads a balanced life, making time for everything she is passionate about.
Last night, after flying nearly 3,000 miles from one of our offices to another, and then driving 600 miles to meet clients and colleagues all over northern California, I drove to San Francisco to hear my daughter debut a musical partnership.
In the audience, besides me and a zillion of her friends were her dad, whose professional schedule is even busier than mine, her brother and cousin, and her boss, who was out for a night of music and to show support to one of the company's key contributors. It struck me that after her set, she hugged each member of her family and then went straight over and hugged her boss.
The ROI of Balance
At our regular weekly Skype meeting, my team was delighted that I was proud and happy. They gave me kudos for the extra energy I had to spend after my grueling travel schedule to get to San Francisco in time. And, they gave me a bit of good-natured ribbing about being a little too old to close clubs. I could sense in them a certain pride that their boss made the extra effort to spend an important evening celebrating her daughter.
Of equal importance, I’ll bet anything that at my daughter's office today, there is an equally tired boss and a super-happy employee.
Happiness and gloominess are both contagious emotions—but happy employees are more engaged than those with little joy in their lives. If we make living balanced lives part of our organizational culture, the delight we share quite organically translates into higher engagement. If we're serious about changing the ratio of engaged to non-engaged employees, demonstrating and encouraging balanced lives is a great way to start.