When we talk about leadership we often talk about all of the attributes of successful leaders in their work environment. We don’t always talk about the foundation that supports that work environment or nurtures it allowing it to be successful. In the context of the whole work environment, this foundation is essential to get right. I would offer that we need to take account of that foundation from the beginning. Then find a way to make it part of our leadership process.
Family as the Foundation
The foundation I’m talking about is our families. We are proud of them and we know they are important to our lives but do we account for that in our approach to leadership? Some of you, no doubt, have this nailed. For many of us, it takes time to realize just how important our families are in the context of our lives. We acknowledge them (often after the fact). Where we are proud of them. But do we integrate them into how we approach our work life from the beginning? For many of us, I think we could do better. We can help others we work with do better just by the example we set.
As an example, I’ll use my wife Terri. I certainly could have done many things better in our nearly 38 years of marriage. Thankfully she is a patient woman! I deployed a lot as a Marine for the vast majority of that time, just like all of our service members. She raised two wonderful daughters while I was gone, and fixed everything that broke (and you know most things break when you leave). Continued to care for our ladies after they left home and found their way into their adult lives. The gravity of what she did hit home towards the last few years of my career.
One of our daughters had to move from Washington to southern California. While I was working she flew up, packed her out, and drove the truck with a car carrier down to San Diego. On the way, the truck had a maintenance issue around 8 pm on the final day of travel near the edge of a town 3 hours outside of San Diego. She called me to let me know that she would soon fix it and be on her way. I got a call a little over an hour later and she said the truck had broken down again. It’s now nearly 10 pm and they are between populated areas.
That was enough for me to tell her I would drive up and take over while she jumped in the car and drove with our daughter to our home. Is this where the story ends? No! When I told her I was going to do this I heard something on the other end of the phone that I soon figured out was laughing. When she got control of herself she said “I don’t need your help, I’m just telling you what is happening. I’ve got this”. It was at that moment that it all came home to me.
The foundation on which I was able to do what I did was built on a very strong, independent, and highly capable human being that had grown that way out of necessity. Like many of our families, she did it without fanfare, no homecoming celebrations, and no breaks. She just did it day in and day out because we needed to get it done. That’s what our families do for us and often without us.
How could I have done better?
I could have planned better from the beginning. I could have stopped waiting for a break to pay more attention to them and made the time to pay more attention to them. This is of key importance. If you want to do it right you must MAKE THE TIME to get that balance right. That means when you are planning your work life you should be planning your family life at the same time. Ensure they own part of your schedule. Work-life balance isn’t something that just happens, it is something you have to make happen if you want to get it right.
In the end, after all of our careers are over and we’re sitting on the porch with those that are most important to us I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to be reflecting on our lives wishing we spent more time at work.
#leadershipdevelopment #leadership #worklifebalance