People want balance in their lives, but often life is more like a teeter-totter. Remember the old-school teeter-totter? Two playmates, sitting on opposite ends of a narrow board and holding onto handles, taking turns bouncing off the ground with their feet. When the playmates balanced the board to accommodate their differences in size, the sensation was engaging—just enough ups and downs to keep it interesting. When the teeter-totter was out of balance, however, it wasn’t so much fun, especially if you happened to be the one high in the air and at the mercy of your friend to make a gentle landing.
Maintaining work-life balance can be a lot like being on a teeter-totter with you on one end and your responsibilities—work dictates, personal desires, family commitments and all the other stuff of daily living on the other end. It’s stimulating until the “stuff” throws you off balance and up in the air.
Working with clients to bring more balance, control and choice back into their lives is a common topic in Executive Coaching. It’s no wonder. Time demands on leaders can seem endless—customer agendas, staff meetings, business reviews, budget work, and so on. Throw on medical or dental appointments, key family events, vacations, personal fitness and other needs—it gets harder and harder to touch the ground without supplementing one’s own end of the teeter-totter with the extra weight of evening and weekend work.
While clients have different demands and desires for work-life balance, I’ve found that many opportunities exist to coach individuals to achieve more control of their schedules and create greater equilibrium in their lives. Specifically, I engage clients through exercises to define values and key priorities, control their calendars, reprioritize, delegate, schedule personal time as they would business time, and make technology work for them. The process often involves these five actions:
1—Review and control your calendar. Reviewing clients’ calendars through the lens of their stated values and priorities is an excellent place to begin. With the coaching goal of work-life balance in mind, I ask clients the following questions: What’s missing on your calendar? What values are you not honoring with your calendar? What would you like to make more time for? What are your key priorities and are you giving them the right amount of time? What can be postponed or removed? These questions elicit rich discussions. Clients start looking at their calendars differently.
2—Reprioritize as needed. Clients also need to master the ability to reprioritize as requirements shift and timing changes. Coaching questions to foster such action include: What’s vital now compared to items that can be delayed? What tradeoffs could you propose in deliverables to meet the most urgent goals? Who do you need to involve in the process to gain buy-in and communicate the new deliverables and timelines?
3—Delegate more. Delegation is more about developing your team and successors than it is about eliminating work. A more capable team also means you have more options for distributing the workload and more people you can depend upon to assume responsibilities when other requirements take precedence. I encourage clients to respond to the following questions when coaching on delegation: What will you learn from having your team members or staff pull together key proposals or other projects that are needed? How can you gain by getting more people involved in the solutions? What will you experience when you become viewed as a leader who develops staff and prepares them for growth? I remind them that high potentials and strong performers enjoy the opportunity to lead—especially if they are given the chance to present their own work. How can you engage them more?
4—Schedule key personal time as you do business time. Most people are great at ensuring their kids’ doctor appointments, school plays or athletic games are on their schedules. However, they fail to put their own care appointments, key personal meetings or individual goal items on their calendars. Why? We are reminded every time we board a plane that in the unlikely event that oxygen masks are needed, put your own mask on first and then assist others who are dependent on you. I encourage clients to own their calendars.
5—Make technology work for you. It’s a 24-7 world. Work emails and texts fly at all hours of the day, on weekends and while on vacation. Since we bring work items into our personal lives, we need to recognize that it goes both ways. Technology can free us, but only if we let it. Provided the work gets done, does it matter where or how it was accomplished? Many bosses allow for this flexibility for their team members, but often fail at setting the same example. What would it feel like to have more flexibility in your schedule? How will it give you more balance in your life? Who, beside yourself, needs to give you permission to operate this way?
Many other techniques and ideas come out of meaningful discussions and coaching on work-life balance. Ultimately, it comes down to what clients commit to doing. Typically, the more success clients have implementing these five actions, the more control and choice they have in their lives. They discover the workplace doesn’t fall apart in the process and, oftentimes, find out that work-life balance improves. All of a sudden, their feet can touch the ground and it’s fun to be on a teeter-totter again.
How can coaching help you achieve what’s next?
Lance Hazzard, CPCC, ACC, is an executive coach helping people and organizations successfully achieve what’s next. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. Find out more about Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at oppnacoaching.com