How To: Find balance
Like most of you, I wear many hats. From managing director to mate, mentor and mother, my life is full, challenging, frustrating, fast paced, and there is certainly neither a dull nor idle moment. I do get asked from time to time how I achieve a balance, and whether or not it's possible to "have it all". I respond that I have a balance that I am happy with. One that allows me to juggle my roles, and find a sense of fulfillment in each of them. I think that this comes with experience, so the purpose of this blog is to share what I learned along the way.
What I've learned as a person is that you need to give up on the idea of perfection. Given the nature of the fast paced world we operate in, I am not sure this is achievable nor is it required (I am generalizing here – if you are a surgeon, for example, you might want to skip this bit). What balances this out though is observation, constant course correction, and being creative and adaptable about how you resolve issues along the way. I am a huge fan of getting stuff done, then doing a quick post-analysis about what I would do differently next time. If something is not perfect, but it moves us along further to meeting the goal, then it's good enough.
What I've learned as a manager is that achieving balance is about communication and setting expectations. When I hire people into the team they quickly find out that I have a couple of young kids and a husband who travels quite a bit for his job. I need to manage my life around that, and I respect that other people have things that they need to get done as well. I mark those times in my calendar and (this is the important bit) I do what I need to do to get my job done the best I can. I am OK with logging in after dinner, or working on a weekend, I have no problem starting early or late. I am my own accountant for the giving and the taking of balance, and I measure that by what I achieve.
What I've learned as a leader is that the workplace currency for balance is trust. I need to trust that my team, that my direct reports, will do their jobs to the best of their ability. I need to trust that I hired well. I need to trust that they will come to me when things are not going so well and that we can have a conversation about how to get back on track. Once you have established a level of trust, you don't have to oversee, micromanage or "do anybody's job for them". It's liberating! My role is to make sure that the team has a very clear picture of what success looks like, and that they are equipped with what they need to get their jobs done. I know that a culture of transparency, authenticity and integrity will aid this trust. I know that a culture of blame and secrecy will destroy it. I know that feedback and communication stoke it, and I know that rewards and recognition grow it. In balance, trust is everything.
What I've learned as a mother is that kids don't measure things with KPI's or scorecards or expectation setting or collaboration, and they certainly don't have any idea what perfection looks like! My kids just want to know what is going on; they just want to know where I am if I am not home. They want love and cuddles and my time and ice cream and Lego. They have the lowest expectations of all, but can be my most demanding stakeholders. There is an irony in working so hard to achieve a balance – or as some would say, an "integration" – but my life outside of work is why I do it.
So, can you have it all? I don't know. I don't actually want it all. I just want enough.