The 8 Rules of the Ever Elusive “Work Life Balance”

The seemingly endless conflict over the demands of the profession and steadily increasing desire of men and women to depart from the “baby boomer all-consuming career” is not going to diminish any time soon.  The good news is: there are practical steps you can take as an individual and/or an organizational leader to impact this issue.

1-The secret to the effective integration of your career with the rest of your life does not start with a program your organization offers, it starts with you.  Your firm cannot “give you work life balance”.  Successful integration of career and life is much broader then adjusting work schedules.  Flexibility is just one tool we can use to support the cause.

2-Balance is a problematic term implying a specific point where work is equally balanced with the rest of one’s life.  In practice, there is no magical path where career and life stay in perfect balance. Career life integration is a much more accurate term than work life balance. Integration is about weaving life priorities effectively to create a tapestry that represents your values appropriately over the long term.  Integration is accomplished by understanding your personal values and using these to create clarity and satisfaction as you pass through various cycles of life.

3-There are a number of skills and strategies that you can use to enhance the integration of your career into the rest of your life.   These are behaviors and skills that can be learned:

  • building support systems
  • maintaining clarity and alignment with goals
  • management of capacity limitations
  • strengthening communication & relationship skills
  • improving soft skills and technical skills.

4-In the firm of the future, flexibility programs will not be limited to structured flextime.  Progressive firms adopt a flexibility philosophy that is embedded in the culture. The past models models no longer address the needs of today’s employees, and therefore no longer serve forward looking organizations fighting to retain top talent. It is possible to serve clients effectively and still “have a life”.  It is possible to lead an organization where personal lives are respected. The time to begin is now.

5-Managers and partners have built quality work life integration through the development of support systems. These are not emotional support systems- but practical ones that may also bring emotional support.   Building a strong team with talented professionals who function independently and act appropriately your absence is an essential management and leadership skill.  A strong team is a support system that can ensure you need not be on the job twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  Consider also the strength of the support team in managing your personal life.  Self-awareness, discipline and organization are key attributes in living consciously. Building a plan that involves family, friends and/or contractors as part of a personal support team is how successful leaders create an integrated career and life in alignment with their values.

6-Current partner role modeling is driving top talent out of firms.  Continued emphasis on the baby boomer values related to work and leisure patterns is a guaranteed recipe for failure.  Current role modeling continues to support the image of the partner that take everything onto their shoulders with super human levels of hours devoted to work. Slow to leverage and slow to develop those coming up behind them.  Current role models are one of the primary reasons firms suffer from turnover of top talent and a lack of interest in the partner track. What kind of role model are you?

7-Organizations can learn to demonstrate new models of practice management, team development and career-life integration.  As an individual progresses to higher levels of management, they must delegate or let go of various responsibilities to spend their time effectively.  The same concept is true in building support systems in ones’ personal life. Everything does not need to be done by you but you do owe it to yourself and those close to you to be conscious about how you choose to spend your time.  Heroically cleaning you own house or mowing your own lawn while your family waits to spend precious time with you may not be in alignment with your goals when you compare your values with how you actually spend your time.  Continuing to handle work that long ago should have been handed off to managers and staff to enhance their development does not help you or the firm. . Strengthening communication and relationship building skills is also essential to setting boundaries effectively.

8-As human beings we are all bound by capacity limitations. Organizations also have a role in setting culture that supports health and self-care. Despite the myths and outward appearances of the “super human beings” that roam our hallways, everyone must manage their time.  No one has unlimited hours to give.  Many organizations have developed cultures of competition and self-sacrifice that to not support long term sustainability of its leaders and therefore of the firm.

Which of the above might you use to make a difference in your own life and the lives of those around you?

About the Author

Mary Bennet

Mary helps organizations adjust culture effectively.  Mary offer programs that educate and coach developing leaders regarding the topic above as well as others related to talent development. Topics include diversity and inclusion, coaching cultures, and leadership development. MLBENNETT

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