I distinctly remember sitting on a panel of IT executives, and someone asked, “How do you balance work and life?”. My answer was simple; you don’t. There is no work-life and personal life; there is just life. Sometimes the scale tips more one way than the other. Don’t get me wrong, I am as ambitious as anyone and have struggled mightily at this thing called life. I have worked late, procrastinated on a project to the last minute, missed a deadline, missed family dinner, or ran into my daughter’s activity at the last minute. Over the years, however, I have integrated my work and personal lives with the technology available to us. Ultimately reducing stress and increasing my engagement.
The starkest example of balancing life I can give is many years ago, a critical conference call was scheduled at the same time my weekly bicycle club ride started. Instead of rolling over and staying at work, I kitted up, plugged a wired headset into my cell phone, put the phone on mute, and frantically pedaled to keep up with my cycling buddies. When I had to participate in the phone call, I pulled over to the side of the road, unmuted, and said my peace. While my ride was interrupted a few times, I was satisfied with my day when I walked into my house that evening. I didn’t harbor resentment at my job, making me moody when it was time to be with my family. Nor did I resent my family because I was squeezed for time and missed my bike ride. This was my ah-ha moment.
At first, I would be as discrete as possible about these behaviors. However, a funny thing happened, I learned that the more I shared about my personal life at work, the more accepting my actions became. I found that all my co-workers and leaders struggled with the same things. At the time, we all grew up in corporate environments that discouraged bringing your personal life to work. Yet, at the same time, there was this push for authentic leadership. To inspire your team, you had to be vulnerable, show empathy, be inquisitive into your teams’ lives, know your employees’ names, and so on. This dichotomy was hypocritical at best.
So I started to experiment. I shared more about my activities: my love of cycling, my daughters’ theatre obsession, and my wife’s career. I found the more I let others into my life, the more understanding they were when my life bled into my work. I started to…