At a youth soccer game, four-year-olds swarm a ball. It’s a mass of kids pushing and shoving while, on the opposite end of the field, a few rogue players pick flowers. It’s a wonderful chaos, full of frantic laughter and smiling faces. But you’re distracted because your hip keeps buzzing. With the advent of smartphones, will we ever disconnect again?
Today, the business community works around the clock. Ever-present communication has replaced the days of going home from the office and returning the next morning at 8. It has become increasingly easy to get pulled off course in your personal and your professional life.
Achieving a balanced life — finding time for family, community, friends, and yourself — is more difficult than ever. You have to demand it, cultivate it. Occasionally you have to enjoy the hustle and bustle of regular life without work drawing you back. You have to find ways to disconnect.
Calling a timeout to review your balance
Stop for a moment, and assess your work/life balance. Think about your family, community, friends, professional life, and the time you devote to yourself. These four buckets constitute a life. You must devote time to each.
In Discover Your True North, I write:
If we sell our souls to the company, at the end of the day, we may find we have little to show for our efforts. If we seek organizations that nourish our souls, permit us to grow into fully functioning human beings, and enable us to integrate our lives, we can find fulfillment. (Chapter 8; p 166)
When I was an executive at Honeywell and later CEO of Medtronic, I found time to coach my sons’ soccer teams for twelve years, but always with a co-coach. In retrospect, I’m not sure how I found the time, but in retrospect, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Today, my older son, who runs an $11 billion company, is co-coach for his 8-year-old daughter’s soccer team.
Kimberly Eclipse, M.A., M.S. Ed, asks, “Are you truly living while you’re working?” For some the answer is no. They let their professional life push the other parts of life to the back burner. Authentic leaders do the opposite. They bring their entire self to work each day. This means the family man comes to work, the soccer coach leads a meeting, the whole person sits down with each client.
Rather than separate parts of your life — integrate
Why is the whole you important? Why are you merging the personal and professional?
In your pursuit of authenticity, I asked you to review your life story and learn from your crucibles. You were focusing on becoming more self-aware. Leaving all this knowledge at home and separating out a “work you” would waste this effort. While many organizations of the 20th century wanted you to come to work and leave “you” at home, today you have to use the whole you to reach your full potential as a leader.
In an article posted on the Harvard Business Review, Author Stew Friedman said that leaders find “ways to integrate the different parts of their lives to reinforce and enhance each other.” Everywhere he looked he found successful individuals who used who they were as a person to influence how and why they worked. From Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to rock icon Bruce Springsteen, Friedman points out that successful people channeled what made them a powerful person into creating a powerful product or being a powerful leader. When you give your whole self to the moment, you not only benefit personally, but it dramatically impacts your business as well.
When you are grounded in your approach to life and focused on your family, you can draw on this for motivation. When you wake up each morning knowing not only what you are doing, but why or for whom you are doing it, you will be more authentic, more genuinely you, and more effective.
Integration is the key to authenticity
When you find ways to integrate all the important parts of your life, you can define a vision for your organization that is in line with your character and goals. This is how you become an authentic leader: you build an organization founded on the values and principles you represent.
If you find yourself caught up in your professional life and unable to stop and enjoy a youth soccer game, blow a whistle and reset. It’s your duty as an authentic leader, someone growing in self-awareness, to carve out time in your life for living. When we were kids we brought our whole distracted selves to every event. As an adult, let’s bring our genuine, focused self to everything we do.
Learn more about this topic in Chapter 8: Integrated Life.