I get a little bit annoyed when people talk about work/life balance.
There’s no such thing: there’s life and then you choose what to fill it with.
If you think about it for a second there’s no logic in the phrase ‘work/life’. The presumption is that if you are at work then you are not living… and that’s just not true.
Or is it?
Tom Peters, the business ‘guru’ describes an exercise he once did with a group of ‘ordinary’ office workers who were employed by a large business. He went round the table and asked each person what their job was. And they told him: clerk, clerk, clerk, clerk.
No spark, no fire, no interest.
The he asked them what they did in their personal life.
The responses were electrifying: I’m building my own house, I’m playing the lead in the Pirates of Penzance, I coach football to youngest from disadvantaged backgrounds, I’ve written a novel…
Two things happened as a result of the revelations.
Firstly, as they told their stories, delegates became animated nd excited, even if they were reticent to start with.
The other thing that happened was that their colleagues looked at them with astonishment. ‘I didn’t know you were doing that… it’s brilliant!’ ‘Can we get tickets?’ And so on.
These responses prompted Peters to ask the rhetorical question (at least I hope it was rhetorical):
What kind of hell holes do we create a work when people feel that they have to leave their soul at the door?
Sounds to me that the phrase (in some instances) ‘work /life’ balance might be correct after all!
Mindful of this we held a ‘team day’ yesterday for… well… for my team, strangely enough.
Now, it has to be said, the team is pretty young. They are also very talented and dedicated and we want to help them develop their talent and stay dedicated and we want to involve them in the development of the business.
So, we (I hope) created an environment in which we gave our team the chance to shape the future, to paint a picture of the future and to give them the opportunity to choose their place in that picture.
In short, I explained to them where I wanted the business to go and then asked them what we needed to do to make it happen.
The results were remarkable. The team threw themselves into the task and with very little prompting talked about their objectives, the help they needed to achieve them and what else we could be doing as a business.
We’ll certainly be doing it again.