When talking about leaders, we often focus our discussions around the needs of employees. Not too far behind that, you’ll hear a lot of talk about the needs of customers. But another facet in the ability to lead rarely makes its way into our public conversations, and that’s your needs. This lack may be detrimental to business, the economy and so much more.
Whether a CEO, entrepreneur, or business owner, you’ve got needs. If those needs aren’t being met, it’ll directly impact not just your personal life but your business as well.
Here’s the thing, fulfillment directly correlates with engagement, and engaged employees are 50 percent more productive and 33 percent more profitable. That includes you. You’re also more likely to remain at your job and generate higher customer loyalty — not a bad way to lead, if you ask me.
So, what’s getting in the way?
Obstacles to Satisfaction
In my coaching experience, there are some tendencies that stand out. The very positive sense of responsibility, seemingly hardwired for men, has a definite downside when misused. They more often sacrifice their personal and family life for their business. They may mistakenly replace love, presence and attention with providing financially. This choice results in long hours and inattention on the homefront. In addition, they take responsibility for everyone around them at both work and home, typically at the expense of themselves, their physical health, and their mental well-being — not to mention their relationships with those closest to them.
Trends for women, on the other hand, highlight a number of conflicts. Unlike their confident male counterparts, many feel they are not cut out to be leaders. As seen in a survey by KPMG, a professional services firm, 60 percent of women find it hard to see themselves as a leader. Therefore, seeking help or delegating to others could be perceived as a weakness, so they just do it themselves.
In the positions they do hold, they often try to do it all, becoming the epitome of a multi-tasker. Some have difficulties asking for help, while others have difficulties delegating. The reasons for this will vary, but likely point to confidence. Again, these sometimes beneficial capabilities are counter-productive to leadership and advancement.
Unequipped to negotiate a better way through the maze of corporate life, many women opt to leave due to the costs to their physical health, emotional well-being and family life. What may be a beneficial choice on the one-hand for their family, it deprives these women of developing the valuable leadership strengths our culture so craves.
At the Expense of Self
These tendencies lead to some serious ramifications in your professional and personal life.
At work, you may find yourself feeling isolated, which can lead to stress or depression. Your priorities may become so laser-focused on what you want to accomplish business-wise that you lose sight of other things around you.
At home, you may leave little time for family and friends to the point of feeling a real disconnect in your relationships. You may stop visioning your next personal life steps, such as your exit strategy at work or a succession strategy for a business.
No matter your ability to keep the personal from the professional (and vice versa), these sorts of curve balls will inevitably affect your job performance. In fact, nearly 50 percent of people find it a challenge to concentrate at work when facing issues at home.
Integration of the Two Selves
While work-life balance may be a myth or impossible to achieve on a consistent basis, certain activities can help to integrate the personal with the professional. They help create a sense of alignment, which will reflect in how you behave, how you make choices, and how you arrive at decisions. It all gets easier.
1. Revisit your values.
People who acknowledge their values tend to have a measurement to stay on course. You often refer back your values when faced with a decision on how to proceed in almost any given situation.
Should I take this job? Should I change careers? What would a change of careers do to my family life? Simply put, knowing your values helps focus your time. If something’s important to you, it probably deserves your attention.
2. Refresh your priorities.
Priorities change with time. What once held the top spot may just find its way further down on the list. Take some time to determine your top priorities by looking back at your level of happiness and fulfillment.
Looking at your priorities in such a way forces you to look fairly deep within yourself. As you reprioritize your values, you’re actually realigning and integrating those two selves — the personal and the professional.
3. Bring it to your colleagues.
Because reprioritizing your values realigns your life, it can be critical to your progress to inform your team, team leaders, and whoever else is part of your work family. It can serve as an opportunity to look inward for them as well.
It’s also an opportunity to reestablish your company mission — if you own a business, of course. The same can be said for a company’s focus, values, or culture. By role-modeling and bringing them into the process, priorities shift.
A few summers ago, a local ad agency gave everyone 500 hours off to pursue their own personal passions. It was a chance for the team to reenergize. It was also a demonstration of the owner’s commitment to self and staff, banking on the fact that pursuing personal passion would re-energize the employees and their creative work within the business.
4. Bring it home.
Do the exercises together with your family, setting goals accordingly and establishing steps to achieve the personal alignment. Include your children in the process as well. You’re never too young to learn the value of values.
I’ve worked with many professional couples with kids, who feel successful at home and at work when they’re on the same page. They revisit their values together, making sure they’ve aligned these values with each other.
5. Find a peer confidant.
Establish a relationship with another professional to check in with on a regular basis. Choose someone you like and respect. The goal is to put someone in place to hold you accountable and keep you on track.
Some peer-to-peer confidants choose to talk on the phone each morning to go over their priorities for the day. Others choose to meet over lunch once a month. You may decide to do both, especially at first.
The reason for this goes back to the feelings of isolation. It also has something to do with the privacy and confidentiality often associated with leadership. You need someone you not only trust but who understands. A peer gets how it all impacts outcomes, growth, and level of satisfaction.
6. Consider seeking support.
A peer-to-peer confidant isn’t always enough. He or she may be able to empathize and keep you in check, but sometimes you need guidance. You need someone to provide insights. A combination of a trusted advisor plus a group of like-minded leaders learning together is ideal.
We all have aspect of our personal or professional lives that can be challenging to realign with the rest of our life. When you know what you are trying to do and become—sometimes this means sharing a confidential vision and sometimes it may be sharing something that’s troubling you—it helps maintain focus. It keeps you aligned with your values and visions while also providing solutions you wouldn’t otherwise consider.
As you revisit and reprioritize your values, you’ll start to feel more centered. You’ll start to feel more confident in your decisions. This allows you to bring these values and priorities to the forefront, which can have a ripple effect on those around you. You’re now able to start living the best version of yourself — and have the support to maintain it. The effort is well worth it.
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