The business — and the balance

My most recent column for ColoradoBiz was due last week. I am obviously a little late.

My most recent column was a good one, typical of the articles we so often read in this magazine. Instead of submitting it this week, however, I chose to keep it until next time and write a new one – because as last week dragged on, I knew I had a different story to tell, a story that feels more relevant to me at the moment and might also hit close to home for many of you.

We’re all familiar with the idea of work/life balance. We all know there is a price to be paid for losing oneself at the office or spending too much time (or too little) on our careers – and that there are so many elements involved in finding the ideal balance, if there is such a thing. Inevitably, something has to give.

From executives to employees, I believe everyone should have goals for success at work but also at home. As president of a company, I ultimately decide which opportunities to seek, which projects to implement and which ideas are unworthy of our time. These responsibilities take a lot of time and energy, and (try as we might) nobody can do everything.

My capital is limited to 24 hours a day, minus seven hours for sleep each night – and I think the feeling of running out of time or energy is a relatable one: At the end of the work day, do we have enough emotional gas left in the tank to be engaged with our partners and kids?

What I have learned is that even the best-laid plans and goals can often go awry. Life can get in the way of just about any venture. You cannot control everything.

Work/life balance goals can be as simple as picking your son or daughter up at school or watching a soccer practice once a week. They can also be more ambitious, such as opening up new Anthony’s stores in Fort Collins. Both types of goals are important, and both can be quite difficult to achieve.

I asked a few friends recently about their goals for work/life balance, and they all said they would like to spend more meaningful time with family. Just about everyone also said they needed to find a better way to manage technology (and its ability to keep us “on” all the time).

I am certainly guilty of that. I am very hands-on regarding complaints and problems at our stores. I try to reach out personally to customers who have had a bad experience. The collision of these worlds can be dangerous. Also, if you are constantly available, I believe your employees cannot learn to solve problems on their own; they are always looking for your response.

But the next time you are on a soccer field, look to see how many parents are talking and texting on their phones while ignoring the game.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t juggle. Work/life balance goals are meant to calm both work and home lives. Instead of constantly checking our phones and inboxes after hours, wouldn’t it be better to stay an hour or so later once or twice a week for the chance to stay connected to the family in the evenings?

Makes sense to me. I have used the words “fire drill” too often at home and work lately. For me, that is a sign that I must rethink and adjust my goals and strategies. Opportunities, projects and family life all change. Goals must be adjusted to keep balance on the forefront of life.

It’s also important to mention that successful executives who also strive to maintain a strong family presence typically have a strong partner. I think my spouse is complementary to my thinking, and she makes me think in ways that I typically don’t – especially when it comes to things that I was so sure I was right about. A strong spouse can help you manage your human capital at work and home.

Finally, we must prioritize. Successful executives do not take a swipe at everything. They know that opportunities come and go. Projects that seemed meaningful at one point can often seem unimportant years later.

Learn from past experiences and know your limitations at home and work. I rarely missed my daughter’s soccer games. When I did, I felt guilty. All parents have felt that way.

Cut yourself some slack. Nobody can do everything. In today’s world, work/life balance may seem unattainable – but that doesn’t mean it is. The best, most successful executives are the ones with more balance in their lives.

Categories: Management & Leadership