Unlikely Source of Career Life Integration

Jayne is a team player. She is very passionate about her work and life. She has many things she wants to be involved in. She can be relied on to take things and run with them.  Unfortunately at this stage in her career, as a director, she is seriously considering leaving the organization. She is continuously torn between personal and professional priorities and is feeling exhausted from the pace. Just last night as she was on her way out to make it to her son’s basketball game, she was sidelined by a colleague who had a technical issue to discuss. She knew it was important and therefore did not interrupt him to let him know she had a personal commitment. She missed the first half of the game.  She had set a goal for herself to make all of these games is disappointed and concerned about how often this is happening now. She feels she cannot continue to meet her own standards for the kind of parent AND the kind of professional she wants to be.

Jack is a go getter and will assertively push for committee assignments and new clients. He has always felt this was the road to success. Lately, however, he feels he is not meeting many commitments well. He missed a few days of his family vacation this year and his daughter’s birthday celebration. The professional reasons were solid and he does not want to be considered unreliable or uncommitted. He does feel his family is starting to see him as unavailable which causes him to feel sad.  He is beginning to worry him about future relationships with his wife and daughter.

Do these scenarios sound familiar either personally or in regard to the top talent on your team? Is there a commonality in these scenarios? If you want to help your employees with career life integration strategies, where do you start? Do you want better alignment between work and your own personal commitments?

Improving skills in “personal boundary setting” is a much overlooked strategy relative to effective integration of career and personal life. Many organizations believe they need “work life balance” programs when in fact these programs will not make a difference if individuals are unable to make aligned decisions and set personal boundaries. Understanding professional priorities and how to meet those while also effectively setting personal boundaries is a gap that can be addressed by individuals and organizations.  Below are seven steps to building skills in this area:

1-Understand what you really want personally and professionally-engage in guided self-reflection using an influential sponsor or personal executive coach.  Do this at least annually if not more often.

2-Understand what adds the most value in your organization-this is not based on conjecture- but on input from reliable and knowledgeable sponsors within the organization (if you have not formed relationships with influential sponsors, these are crucial to successful career navigation)

3-Set a goal and strive to spend your time on what adds the most value, practice communicating this to the leaders you work with most.

4-Train a strong team to continuously take on challenges once you have mastered them.

5-Teach yourself and hold yourself accountable for letting go of what does not add value or what someone else on your team is now more challenged by then you.  Pass the work down, delegate and leverage yourself over your team.

6-Learn (and practice) communicating effectively what your priorities are and why you are making the choices you are making.  Practice saying no.  Every time you say no to something that is not aligned you are saying yes to something that is aligned with your personal and professional goals. The reverse is also true- every time you say yes to something because you feel guilty or because you did not think about the impact it would have on other commitments, you are in effect saying no to the things you already determined were most important. Communicating the personal and professional reasons for your decisions with those closest to your work can make a difference

7-Make intentional and conscious choices about how you spend every part of every day and be willing to hand over personal duties as well as professional duties to your support teams at work and at home.  The goal is to maximize your time spent moving toward your vision of the person you want to be both professionally and personally. There will still be conflicts.  However decisions are easier to make. When torn between two choices, you will have increased clarity and peace of mind in making your decision.


About the author

Mary BennetMary has spent the majority of her career as a partner in a top ten firm.  Mary now works as a consultant to public accounting firms in all areas related to organizational development and effectiveness.  Mary’s expertise includes diversity and inclusion, executive coaching, business performance, and leadership development as well as many other areas of organizational effectiveness.


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