Gut Check: Have You Defined Your Work-Life Balance Equation?

August 18, 2014 Vince Molinaro
Leaders have many obligations. They are responsible to their customers, shareholders, employees and the broader communities in which they work.

However, leaders also have obligations to their families. With all these competing obligations, it’s incumbent on every leader to find that place where they can balance work with their personal life.

Work-life balance has always been a hot-button issue for leaders, although the business media tends to spend a lot more time worrying about how women CEOs find that balance. Mary Barra, newly appointed as the CEO of GM, and Indra Nooyi, the outspoken CEO of PepsiCo, have both been challenged by journalists to explain how they, as mothers, find the work-life balance.

More recently, however, some trail-blazing men have weighed in on the same issue.

Max Schireson, the 44-year-old CEO of software firm MongoDB, recently posted a highly personal blog in which he revealed he was stepping down from his post to be with his family. Schireson said it was a conscious and deliberate decision on his part knowing full well that it might harm his future prospects for CEO roles.

Schireson made it clear that he was aware that the work-life balance is an issue that, typically, only female leaders have had to confront publicly.

“As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO,” Schireson wrote in the Huffington Post. “While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself.”

Male or female, walking away from a high-paying job at a successful company is a dramatic move for any C-suite leader. I applaud his courage to make that personal decision. However, it’s not clear whether Schireson story will help other leaders wrestle with work-life balance issues.

As a successful CEO Schireson, probably has the financial means to make this kind of move. Many others can’t.

Also, his decision reinforces the idea that in the work-life equation, there are only two choices: You either work, or you don’t. You either devote all of your time to your family, or you are neglecting them.

For those who can afford it, Schireson’s approach to finding balance can work. Depending on your current role, it could also grab you a few headlines.

I believe it’s also important to understand that for many of us in leadership roles, a job is not just a job. It’s part of our DNA. The demands are great. Many believe balance isn’t possible, that you can’t have it all.

No matter where you stand on this important issue, it’s important that you have a stand. You need to figure out your own work-life balance equation.

For me, my approach has always been to strive to manage both parts of the equation, and do it in a way that doesn’t lead me neglecting, sacrificing or regretting either side of the equation.

I also found that the equation evolves, as your life evolves. Work and family demands evolve. They ebb and flow over time. So the equation looks different over time. So the key is to know where you need to focus for a period of time.

For example, right now, my primary challenge is to be fully present when I’m spending time with my family. I’m finding times, when it’s hard for me to “turn off” my work brain when it’s time to do family stuff. This can result in me being there with my family, but not being there.

What’s your experience? This week’s gut check asks: have you defined your work-life balance equation?

About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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