What Balance? It's about Survival!

As an executive coach, I recognize the importance of work-life balance. I even offer a program to help stressed-out executives manage the tension, often dynamic but sometimes toxic, between work and personal time. Then one day, a prospective client told me pointedly: “There is no balance where I work, period! The best I can hope for is to survive. I regularly leave home Sunday night on business trips in various cities, with meetings typically starting at breakfast and ending with a late dinner. Then, I get back home on Thursday night, and have to be back in the office at 8:00 Friday morning for a management meeting.” She went on to say, “Show me how to survive and I will gladly give you my business!”

After giving this considerable thought, I have come to the conclusion that without some kind of harmony between her business and personal life, this executive will most probably burn out – no matter how resilient she might think she is. So the question then becomes how do we create harmony in a survival-mode environment?*

Avoid busyness, be present: We often adopt feverish activity to mask our inability to deal with the real underlying issues confronting us. With no respite in sight, we can fall prey to growing, snowballing, worry. By being present on the other hand, we can see more clearly the true nature of the issues and what possible solutions may be available. This awareness leads to informed, purposeful, action.

Embrace Change: Many of us resist change until things, the pain, become unbearable. Why? The reasons are many, but chief among them is fear of change and the risks of loss associated with the unknown. “Better the devil we know”. But change is inevitable in business as in life. We may choose to resist it. But it is at our peril. Rather, if we approach change with openness and curiosity, the transition will be much easier.

Simplify and simplify some more: When we keeping adding to our to-do list, without taking anything off, our productivity, creativity and well-being will inevitably suffer. This is common-sense, yet it is often ignored.

To be effective, our executive will need: (1) To prioritize, and to take off her to-do list an existing item for every new one she adds. (2) Under-promise and over deliver. Many of us do the contrary, which can seriously damage our reputation. (3) Say NO! Yes, it is very hard to say no to the boss… But, it is far better to say no, than to say yes when saying yes will ultimately lead to failure. And 4, Build up reserves. To be efficient, our executive will have to concentrate on being present, to be aware of what is working for her and what isn’t; to be organized, to have sufficient down-time and outside interests, and to laugh…

In working on these steps with my client-to-be, I am convinced I can help her not only to survive at work, but to thrive…

  • The following draws largely from Coaching Out of the Box’s Personal Groundwork for CoachingTM.


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