We cannot overemphasize that every individual has to determine how much work-family imbalance she’s willing to accept and the price she’s willing to pay. Some women, for instance, are willing to forsake a family for their careers. For others, such a sacrifice is unacceptable. Similarly, some executives will sacrifice time with their family early in their career but not later. Others will jump through every hoop the organization places in their
The CEO of a large financial services company told us a story about what
To many people, an event like this would have triggered the beginning of this passage and a questioning of
Perhaps the worst way to deal with this passage (and a way that many executives choose) is to deny that you’re making sacrifices or that you’ll have to pay a price for making them. If you’re traveling around the world and working enormously long hours and thinking about or doing work when you’re at home, you are not engaged and your family
Even at best, though, it can become an issue that creates ongoing tension in your relationships. Today most spouses expect that their partner will contribute to running the household and raising children, and if you contribute only
Similarly, don’t delude yourself that you can “multitask” your way out of this imbalance. We’ve coached incredibly busy senior executives who maintain that even though they work constantly at home, they also pay attention to their spouse and children and that even though they spend a significant percentage of their
Some people also deny that choosing family over work will have repercussions. As we’ve mentioned, some women find it extraordinarily difficult to resume their careers after having children. Whether this is unfair isn’t the issue. Some women
Of course, it’s not just women who choose family over work or try to achieve a perfect balance. We have coached and know male executives who
The thing that I’ve
heardand I think that rings true to me is about the fellow who ran Emerson Electric. I think his nameis McKnight. It was a very successful company for many years. He said there are three great priorities in life and they are your health, your family, and your work. He would order the priorities: the first and foremost is your health. If you are not maintaining your health, you are no good to your family, your work, or yourself or anything else. So your first priority is watching over your health. Your second priority, he would say, is your family. The third priority is your work. The trick is to devotethe time to your work such that you are able to give the first two the time that is needed. That is where the tradeoffcomes because in your life, your work comes and goes and you walk away and that’s the end of that. If your whole life is based on your work, you are in sad trouble. You’ve got to be able to devote the time to it in order for it to be successful. Every day you are making triage decisions. I find that all the time. You are either disappointing somebody at work, or you are disappointing a child, or wife. You can’t be lopsided in that. They need to understand and the business needs to understand that you are balancing a lot of variables. The worst example of this I think is today in the United States with the two- breadwinner family where there are children. The women, especially, have tremendous pressure on them and feel tremendous guilt because they’ve got responsibilities to themselves, to their parents, to their children, to their spouse, to their job; there’s never enough time to feel satisfied. Part of this is just accepting that and not letting it make you crazy. There is no easy out.
Ray Viault, vice chairman, General Mills
To maximize leadership learning and growth, therefore, don’t deny; instead, do the following:
Let your values be your work-family guide. Start out by asking yourself these questions:
How truly important is it to participate fully in your family’s day-to-day activities? (Children learn in both ways: from parents who are present and from those who are absent.)
Do you believe
marriageshould involve an equal division of labor and child-raising responsibilities?
Do you believe in typical male-
femalemarital roles? Is it possible you have feelings about roles that you aren’t aware of or haven’t articulated?
Can you achieve happiness and fulfillment only through reaching ambitious career goals?
These are the types of values-based questions you need to consider. As you enter this passage, you may feel as if the choice in front of you is
impossible: Do you move your family to Saudi Arabia and advance your career, even though your family hates the idea of living there? You can’t use logic to arriveat an answer; you can argue both sides of the proposition. Therefore, take some time out to reflect on what you really value. Admittedly, it is tough to reflect on this issue when you’re working eighty hours per week, so you may need to spend a little time outside the work environment to come to terms with your values; you might escape to the country for a weekendor go on a long walk. A coach or another adviser may be able to facilitate this process, providing you with a sounding board to test what is really important to you. Some people value achieving capstone positionsabove all else, and in some situations their families will support them, no matter how much time and energy they must devote to this quest. Others value family to the point where they draw a line and refuse to cross it when it comes to working more than forty hours per week.
Dan, for instance, had P&L responsibility for a division of a large software company. His organization valued his knowledge and skills and accommodated his
desireto spend as much time as possible with his family. When his company was bought, however, he had to deal with a new boss and a new set of people and procedures. As someone going through the professional passage of being acquired, Dan recognized that he should be creating a new support network. He realized he could use lunches and after-work social gatherings as ways to build this network, but he usually refusedto take advantage of these opportunities. Dan ate lunchat his desk and worked so that he could arrive home to have dinner with his family every night. Because he wanted to be home at night, he went to very few after-work functions. Dan had incredibly strong family values, and he had vowed when he started working for this software company that he would not adopt a schedule that would prevent him from maintaining these values. In Dan’s mind, he knew exactly how much he was willing to give his organization. Though he knew he was placing himself in a vulnerable position by not developing this network immediately, his behavior was dictated by his values, and he felt comfortable with his decision.
Involve your partner early on in your decisions about work and family. Reach consensus on what you’re willing to do for work and where you’ll draw the line. Most people don’t have these discussions until after the fact. When they do get around to talking about these issues, they usually take the form of arguments. Typically, one person misses a kid’s concert or game or takes yet another ten-day trip or misses a birthday or anniversary, and this event triggers an argument in which promises are made and then broken later on. The time to talk is early in a career. At that point, you can create parameters that will help you create a meaningful balance.
Monitor your attitude toward success.
When you join a company, the organization
As you grow older and gain a diversity of life and work experiences, your notions about success usually change. You may not be aware of these changes, however, if you don’t consciously think about this issue or talk to