We live in a complex world where we often seek to reconcile or address countervailing forces.
We seek out equilibrium in many aspects of our lives:
• Inside organizations we seek to balance our books by year end and we make use of assessment tools such as balanced scorecards, to gauge stability;
• Personally we adhere to principals such as work-life balance, healthy eating or fitness programs.
• Closer to home, we look for emotional security within our family and social circles.
The goal inevitably is to find balance. When stability is lost, corrective action is required. Corrective action can range from a simple adjustment at one extreme to a more fundamental or even destructive change at the other extreme. Do we simply adjust the travel and accommodation expense rules or do we reform the Senate?
Equilibrium allows us to assert some measure of control over what appears occasionally to be a topsy-turvy world. It allows us to anticipate, plan and work deliberately to an end goal. In it’s absence, well crisis mode becomes the order of the day. Much of our management and business processes rest on predictability.
Work-life balance can seem a distant goal for many. Having worked in organizations that operated in time-sensitive environments, I have often been expected to set my life aside to finish up a proposal, make a crucial presentation, rescue a project, meet with an important client, fix some calculations, increase travel to inaccessible places and generally ‘be on call’.
How does someone tip the balance the other way? I came across a fascinating book, How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen that frames the question somewhat differently, in a way that readers can apply to their own lives. He references and applies management theories and approaches to answer three critical questions:
How can I be sure that I will be happy in my life?
Happiness begins with self-esteem. Management provides many tools and methods to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement. Whether we are managing a line function or a project team - we can do a great job if we are oriented to building up people in addition to strategic priorities - buying, selling and investing of our resources. Imagine if we were to do that with all of our relationships. Imagine the rewards of interacting with your spouse and children, siblings, friends and extended family members if the orientation was to building esteem and meaningful interactions rather than offloading complaints about other facets of your life that you are struggling with.
How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?
In our daily lives, business school and experience has taught us to base decisions on marginal costs and marginal revenues associates with alternatives, ignoring sunk and fixed costs. This approach does have a longer-term consequence of perpetuating the investment decisions of the past (leveraging what we have) rather than investing in the capabilities needed for the future, and the future is always different than the past!
Dishonesty starts with the marginal cost economics of ‘just this once’. The simple truth associated with this observation is that it is easier to hold your principles all the time than just some of the time. Our CMC code of ethical practice seeks to help us define what we stand for and draw the line in a safe place.
How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
Your life is eventually measured by the outcomes of the initiatives that you invest in. Where do you invest or really spend your time?
If you consider family time as investments in initiatives supporting a long-term strategy, it sheds new light on the utility of family trips, hockey try-outs, ballet classes, birthday parties or a date night with your spouse.. It becomes an easy decision if you practice what any entrepreneur or career professional would do.
Purpose is something we come to via many pathways. Come to understand the purpose of your life and then orient your time, talents and energy to its fulfillment. We understand that strategy and business planning are invaluable tools for focusing the resources of a business. Christensen suggests developing a strategy for your life that is built upon what you believe the purpose of you life to be and allocating your resources accordingly. Making use of some basic management tools in shaping our personal lives make this book interesting and perhaps more relevant to any business professional.
A final word
Applying some simple management principles to our personal domain is a compelling approach to investing in what is important. Sometimes it leads us to uncomfortable truths about how we conduct ourselves. Getting past our walls to build stronger productive relationships with colleagues and family members requires a good dose of humility-that is, the esteem with which you hold others. I believe good behavior flows naturally from that kind of humility.
Some wisdom about ourselves from a man who has contributed his ideas to the betterment of the organizations we work with and for. I hope you too find something to reflect on in these more personal insights.