Monday, June 7, 2010

From Overcrowded Living to Personal Balance and Excellence - part #1

THEME: Spring 2010 From Vision to Action Roundtable Report

FOCUS: From Overcrowded Living to Personal Balance and Excellence - part #1

Monday afternoon: June 7, 2010

Dear friends,

Recently, I have been working with a young woman executive who is being prepared for senior leadership within her company. We visit on a regular basis and explore critical issues on a deep level. Recently, she explained to me that her life was already full. With children and a working husband, her reality was living busy, drained and overwhelmed all day and every day. She said to me “being a senior leader is just going to be more rather than different.”

I explained to her that there are two stages in life. One is called before children and the other is after children. For all the books, workshops, advice and counsel we are given, when we live in the land of before children, we can never fully comprehend the land of after children. What is theory on one level quickly changes when it becomes reality.

Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned from others who have traveled the road before us to senior leadership. The first two lessons comes from Peter Drucker who wrote in an article called “What is Our Business?” from the June 2001 issue of Executive Excellence magazine. As he explained, “The executive’s time tends to belong to everybody else.” He notes that everybody and anybody can move in on your time and eventually does when you become a senior executive. Second, “Executives are forced to keeping “operating” unless they take positive action to change the reality in which they live.” As he reminds us, we can let the flow of events determine the priorities we hold or we can define what is important in spite of the flow.

The next lessons learned comes from Margaret J. Wheatley from her book, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, Berrett-Koehler, 2005. Here, she explains that “... humans usually default to the known when confronted with the unknown,” and “new leaders must invent the future while dealing with the past.” Both are excellent observations.

However, living busy, drained and overwhelmed is not living well and not the goal of most people. This past winter into spring the most common question I got asked by people who had moved into a senior level position is the following: How do I find a sense of balance? The real answer is difficult but important to digest. The long and short of it is that you will not be able to achieve personal balance in the sense that everything will equal out when you become a senior executive. There are days when you will have way more work than time and way more family expectations than time. It comes with the power of the chair and the territory.

Still, there are solutions. First, now is the time to move from a focus on success to significance. Rather than striving for the next rung on the ladder and more external definitions of success, realize that the best place to start living a more healthy lifestyle as a senior executive is to rediscover what gives your life meaning and to schedule time for this on your calendar. As Stephen Covey reminded us many years ago, when we put first things first, then we have time for the people and events we want to focus on.

This week, rediscover what gives your life meaning and make time for it on a regular basis.

Much joy to you and yours,


P.S. For those who enjoyed the following book: Loehr, Jim & Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, Simon & Schuster, 2003, the author, Tony Schwartz, has a new article out, a summary of his new book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Nees That Energize Great Performance, The Free Press, 2010, in the June 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review called “The Productivity Paradox: How Sony Pictures Gets More Out of People by Demanding Less”. As he explains, “Human beings don’t work like computers; they can’t operate at high speeds continuously, running multiple programs at once.” Instead, he explains that “people perform at their peak when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.” The key to success according to Schwartz is the following: “Employees can increase their effectiveness by practicing simple rituals that refuel their energy, such as taking a daily walk to get an emotional breather or turning off e-mail at prescribed times so they can concentrate.” Furthermore, he notes that “if companies allow and encourage employees to create and stick to such rituals, they will be rewarded with a more engaged, productive, and focused workforce.” When you have the time, check out the article and if it speaks to your condition, then check out the new book, too.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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