The Fallacy of Work-Life Balance

worklife balance X

Considerable effort has been devoted to discussing and developing “work-life balance” – the ability to achieve all that you want in both your personal and professional lives.

The problem with this is that “work-life balance” doesn’t exist!

Let me explain. Work-life balance is an artificial construct developed by people, it is not “real” and you find it nowhere in the natural world. When I started work some 30 years ago the concept of “work-life balance” did not exist, nor was it in the common parlance. Nor had it been for hundreds of years previously. The fact of the matter was that you lived and worked as did everyone else. So what has happened to result in the rise of the “work-life balance” construct?

Personally, I attribute it to two factors:

1. People’s expectations and

2. People’s mindsets

People’s expectations have changed over time. People want and expect as a basic human right the ability to have a work life which will not impinge on their personal life but which, at the same time, will also support their desired lifestyle.

Secondly, people’s mindsets have changed towards that of a fixed mentality in which the size of the pie is fixed, so the only way you can increase your piece of the pie is by taking more. As regards work-life balance this means that to improve your personal life you can only do so by reducing your efforts in your working life. This is reflected in people’s expectations.

The Flawed Assumptions

Why the work-life balance is a fallacy is because it is based on two key assumptions which are essentially flawed.

Firstly, the fixed mindset not only limits your choices, but it diminishes the individual as it reduces opportunities. Rather, there should be a growth or abundance mindset – not “either/or” in work/life but “and”, work and life. This provides you with a wealth of opportunities which you can create and select from, allowing you alternatives that you are otherwise excluded from. Here the size of the pie can be increased, allowing you to obtain more without having to diminish the remaining part of the pie.

Secondly, you only have one life, not two. Tell me, do you never think or do things related to your work life when you are in your personal life, or that you never think or do things related to your personal life when you are in your work life? Exactly. So why create arbitrary lines of delineation when they actually don’t exist, and all they do is cause you stress because you never get “work-life balance”.

Life is for living, live it – don’t spend all your time wishing “I will be happy when…”. It is like trying to reach the horizon – no matter what you do you never reach or achieve it.

Share

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The 5 Challenges for Leaders

What are the top 5 challenges for leaders globally, and how can you deal with them?

Leaders are under increasing pressure having to deal with more, with less, whilst having to handle the 5 challenges of the modern business world.

This article looks at each of the five major challenges in turn, and identifies the key strategies that leaders need to develop to meet these challenges and, in doing so, become great leaders in turn and to develop leaders within the business at all levels.

Andrew’s 5 Challenges for Leaders

1. Dealing with the New Business Reality

2. Paradoxes Moving from “Either/Or” to “And”

3.Restore Confidence & Trust

4. To Collaborate & Empower

5. Building Individual & Organizational Resilience

Challenge 1: Dealing with the New Business Reality

The world for leaders is changing, and the rate at which this is occurring is increasing exponentially whilst its effects are being seen, and compounded, in 4 different areas:

  1. Volatilitythe increasing rate, amount, and magnitude of change
  2. Uncertainty – the amount of unpredictability inherent in issues and events
  3. Complexitythe increasing amount of dependency and interac­tive effects between multiple factors and driver.
  4. Ambiguity the degree to which information, situa­tions, and events can be interpreted in multiple ways.

For further information on this see How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 1

To deal with these factors, leaders need to develop on an integrated basis, the following:

  1. Vision – having a clear picture of the purpose of your business and where you are going.
  2. Understanding – the leader takes the time to stop, look and listen to what is happen, this is beyond their functional expertise and beyond just their business.
  3. Clarity – the leader needs to spend the time and effort in deliberately working to make sense of the chaos that exists.
  4. Agility – the ability to communicate openly across the organization and to move quickly to apply solutions, the rapid prototyping of ideas & actions to develop solutions.

For further information on this see How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 2.

Challenge 2: Paradoxes Moving from “Either/Or” to “And”

Leaders are having to make decisions and deal with increasingly juxtaposed areas: for example, do we mass produce or customise our offerings, do we focus on the short-term or the long-term etcetera. Usually this has been treated as an either/or choice or, at best,  achieving a blend between the two and effecting a compromise.  Either of these two ways are often sub-optimal and limit the future opportunities.

FROM

5 challenges for leaders - pic01 Leaders need to manage these paradoxical situations, and to meet both sets of demands simultaneously to survive and thrive.  Leaders need to achieve a balance between multiple sets of demands, requiring them to be able to quickly weigh and evaluate the situation, and to obtain multiple perspectives from others to incorporate in the development and execution of the appropriate strategy.

TO 5 challenges for leaders - pic02

Challenge 3: Restore Confidence & Trust

Research from Sirota has shown a steady decline over the last 5-6 years in the level of people’s confidence in their business, their leaders and the future.

This is reflected in the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, with nearly two-thirds of people 5 challenges for leaders - pic03only believing what is said by companies having heard it three to five times.  This reflects both the high level of scepticism and the fact that messages need repeating to get through the ‘noise’ of the environment.

Leaders need to restore confidence and trust in themselves, the business and the future.  This needs to extend to include the external stakeholders, not just the only internal stakeholders (e.g. employees).  In doing this leaders need to provide clear direction, clear and consistently understood message, and that everyone is aligned with this by ensuring the core values are commonly understood and applied throughout the business.  This needs to ensure that the systems & processes and reward systems actively support this.

Challenge 4: To Collaborate & Empower

To lead in an increasingly challenge environment requires leaders, counter-intuitively, to loosen controls to gain more control.  Being able to adapt and anticipate to the new business reality requires leaders to review and refine their goals, and to create an inspiring vision which is clearly articulated and understood to all levels of the business empower-network-leverageinternally, and to external stakeholders.  In doing this leaders need to be open to new ideas and perspectives, and to extend their networks of relationships. They also need to ensure that the business has the right core values, and that these are actively supported and built into how business is done.  This creates a strong, pervading culture that aligns people and what they do.

To drive better communication and coordination between departments, and to reduce internal turf-fights and conflicting objectives, the vision needs to be shared and cascaded appropriately at each level.  Furthermore, in doing this, leaders across the business and at all levels need to be empowered with the responsibility and authority to achieve their goals, to be equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities to carry them out, and enable them to perform by providing the necessary support to actively developing both their skills and potential as leaders and those of their reports.

Challenge 5: Building Individual & Organisational Resilience

In dealing with new business reality leaders need to help their people and their organisation to build resilience and agility.  This includes the ability to move quickly, decisively. effectively and proactively whilst capitalising on existing strengths, developing new strengths and identifying current strengths which may become weaknesses or liabilities as the business and market environments change,

resilience pictureThe importance of developing people resilience, including engaging people emotionally whilst growing and developing them, and providing them with a sense of purpose and belonging, is reflected in the findings of the 2012 American Psychological Association Workplace Survey reported.  In this it reported that 41% (over two out of every five employees) of employed adults feel stressed out during the workday.

The top 5 sources of stress were identified as:

  1. Low salaries
  2. Lack of opportunity or growth or advancement
  3. Too heavy of a work load
  4. Long hours
  5. Uncertain or undefined job expectations

Furthermore, less than half of employees reported:

  • Being satisfied with the growth and development opportunities offered by their employer (46%)
  • Being satisfied with the employee recognition practices of their employer (48%).
  • Feeling they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (48%).

The importance of having employees who feel valued is also important:

  • Employed adults who report feeling valued by their employer are significantly more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best for their employer (93% vs. 33%).
  • They are also more likely to report they would recommend their workplace to others (85% vs. 19%).
  • On the other hand, those who do not feel valued are significantly more likely to report that they intend to seek employment outside of their company next year (50% vs. 21%).

Summary

In dealing with these five challenges leaders need to have an integrated and disciplined approach.  At its essence is the ability to empower, enable and equip people and leaders at all levels in the organisation.  Critical to doing this is building the necessary skills and capabilities into their day to day work.

To develop the necessary individual, team and organisational agility and flexibility leaders need to develop and embed the skills into how they work, allowing experiential learning to occur as they learn and apply the new skills in addressing and gaining traction with key challenges and opportunities.  Providing the on-going support to help the teams and individuals is essential to this, and by enabling people to teach what they have learnt to their peers, team members and reports they can gain mastery and continue to deliver sustainable results.  This produces not only in-house skills and capabilities, but creates leadership bench strength and an on-going leadership pipeline on which the organisation can draw to meet current and future needs.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Five Strategic Tips for a Profitable Future

Future Profit

A recently published book, Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential guide to competition and strategy (Magretta, 2012), compiles and applies the work of management guru, Michael Porter.   Full of useful insights, here are five pearls of wisdom that can if applied, create a more robust, more profitable and sustainable business.

Tip 1: “Strategy explains how an organization, faced with competition, will achieve superior performance. The definition is deceptively simple”

Performance is not about your competition, it is about achieving superior performance, every day, regardless of what is happening with your competitors or markets.

Tip 2: “Competitive advantage is not about beating rivals; it’s about creating unique value for customers. If you have a competitive advantage, it will show up on your P & L”

To create unique value is not about you beating your competitors, it is about you delivering (through superior performance) the unique value by focusing on your customers’ needs.

Tip 3: “Strategic competition means choosing a path different from that of others”

If you accept that the competitive goal is superior performance, then it makes sense to achieve that performance using methods different to the competitors. You have to be able to differentiate yourself not only in the customer’s eyes but in how you achieve that differentiation – in how you deliver value to the customer.

Tip 4: “The value proposition is the element of strategy that looks outward at customers, at the demand side of the business. The value chain focuses internally on operations. Strategy is fundamentally integrative, bringing the demand and supply sides together”

A strategy is about achieving a position.  Here it is to achieve superior performance whilst delivering superior value to the customer.  You need to be able to focus on how you will drive that superior performance, and what this means in terms of superior customer value.  In this, you need to continuously improve the efficiency of your internal operations.

Tip 5: “There is no honor in size or growth if those are profitless. Competition is about profit, not market share”

This tip serves as a reminder that we need to be the most profitable, not the biggest in top-line revenue or headcount.

Consider these five tips in a context of your own organization. What should you do to meet the requirements of all five? Is your current strategy going to work for you in the coming next few years?

What has worked or not worked for you? Share your knowledge, share the wealth!

Share

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Five Strategies for Growing Successfully

Not all growth is good growth, five tips to help you ensure that growth is good

Do you want to grow your business?  If so, do you know how you are going to grow the business?  And are you aware of the difference between good growth and bad growth?

People often want to grow for growth’s own sake.  This is more about taking on risk than taking on growth.

Strategy 1: Control Your Growth

You need to manage growth, not have it manage you.  I suspect more companies have failed through poorly managed and unplanned growth than any other reason.  At times you will also want to slow growth to allow you to “catch up” with yourself.  Fast and successful growth is rare.  You need to be able to absorb the lessons you learn as you grow and incorporate them into your next steps.  In doing this you also need to consider some of the risks that are associated with poorly controlled growth, these include:

  • Cash flow risks – growth consumes cash, and rapid growth consumes cash rapidly. If you are not careful you can find yourself with insufficient cash to cover your operating costs; you also run the risk of trading whilst insolvent.  It only requires one unexpected cost or one delayed customer payment to push you over the edge.
  • Operational crunch – to produce the volume required to support your growth can be difficult.  Equipment and/or people have to operate beyond what is practical, and things start to come apart at the seams with increasing inefficiencies and attendant risks.
  • Poor customer service – you have more customers to look after and not always the available people or resources to do so.
  • Rapid expenditure – with more orders coming in you may be tempted to spend more on people, infrastructure, and resources.  You want to invest, but not over-invest or leave yourself exposed.
  • People risks – existing people will be worried about the rapid changes, stressed by an increasing workload, exhausted by an expanded role for which they may not be suitable or experienced, and worried if you will be able to pay them each month.  St the time you need them most you may find your best people, who are the most marketable, may leave.
  • Decision-making changeswith rapid growth people need to step back from an operational focus to a leadership role.  There is a risk that leaders can become disconnected from what is happening at the front-line and make decisions based on the incomplete or inaccurate information.
  • Leadership shortfalls – people who may be operationally adept may lack the necessary leadership skills, business acumen or interpersonal skills to lead effectively.  This can cause problems and compound existing risks.

Strategy 2: Go for Good Growth, Avoid Bad Growth

Good growth is aligned with your purpose and what you are trying to achieve.  Bad growth is not aligned.  Often the problem of bad growth is that you are prepared to take a short-term gain but sacrifice the long-term future.  For example, taking on a big client who has a poor reputation for paying on time leads to serious cash flow issues later and takes a disproportionate amount of your precious time in managing the relationship and fire-fighting. This can also impact your team, lower morale and create stress and pressure.

Make sure that what you do, who you partner with, and who you sell to are aligned.  Good growth is about servicing the need of selected and targeted clients – not any client with a checkbook.  For good growth, you need to say no to opportunities to keep focused and aligned.

Strategy 3: Growth Means Letting Go

If you want to grow you need to prune back.  As the demands and needs of your business change so I remember, as a child, playing on the monkey bars.  The only way you can forward on the monkey bars is to let go with one hand, swing forward, and grasp the next rung. So you need to repeat it to get to the other end. Business is just the same. Let go to grow.

Strategy 4: Lead Your Growth

Growth is about change, and change is about leadership, not management. You need to lead your people and share with them the answers to three questions:

  • What are we changing from and why?
  • What are we changing to and why?
  • How are we going to do this?

Doing this remove any vagueness or information vacuums which can cause stress and rumors and stories (often inaccurate) in an attempt to fill the gap.

Strategy 5: Go Slowly

Business is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Paradoxically, by going slower you will get there faster – and with your risks better managed, and you be better prepared for them.

To grow, and to grow profitably, control your growth, go for good growth, let go to move forward, lead your people to growth and to grow well grow slow.

Please feel free to re-tweet, re-blog, email and share this article with others who may find it of use or interest.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.