A Major Shift In Work Life Balance?
Written by Maria Gamb for Forbes.com on December 17, 2013. Creative Commons Licensing.
Over the past few months I have been doing a great deal of travel, speaking to a number of associations on the subject of leadership, gender communications and increasing productivity in the workplace. As I scanned the list of co-existing speakers I have begun to notice something very important. There is very little discussion on work life balance anymore. Yes, there are always segments on health, nutrition and stress relief. But, where are the work life balance seminars that have become a hallmark of American corporate culture trying to “fix” their stressed out executives and staff? Has the rally to be more balanced been forgotten or have we just become more adept at setting boundaries?
Something is clearly shifting.
I will admit that part of just about every speech I ever give to groups, especially women, I tell them to never forget to ask for what they want including a work life balance. It is an essential tool in their communications tool kit. The men seem to have been listening too; because the latest study from PELL shows that more men are craving time at home with their families and are asking for it. That statistic now sits at 50% of men polled, whereas in earlier years, those numbers were in the single and low double-digit range. Something is clearly shifting.
A former client once told me, “Maria, women (and men) don’t need one more thing to feel guilty about when it comes to their families.” I never forgot that. Her words have rung true in my mind and have taken on even more meaning as time has passed. So when I noticed the lack of subject matter recently on work life balance I began to look and listen more closely.
There is a new norm emerging. There is a subtle shift occurring, evoking compassion and balance in the workplace. This one is so warmly and wonderfully subtle we could easily overlook its importance. More and more people are talking about their families openly at work, gatherings and associations, but now it’s different.
We are starting to see more fully integrated professionals.
This piece about communicating and sharing more about one’s life is a major shift. It goes far beyond “Billy hit a homerun” or “Mary is in honors classes”. Instead, professional men and women in those hallowed leadership positions are talking about their families from the platform, big stages and in articles. This has been taboo for so long – especially among women. The judgment in the past was that it was a leverage “tool” and often men didn’t want to hear about it. Now they are weaving their stories and insights from this part of their lives; sharing how it has influenced them professionally in how they lead and the choices they make. We are starting to see more fully integrated professionals.
In September 2013 at the Fortune 15 Summit in DC, we saw panels of women from Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg talking openly and freely about their family life in a positive and constructive manner. This evokes a sense of connection and common ground among many other professionals, dare I say a compassionate understanding. Being a powerful achiever doesn’t mean not having a family or personal life. We can integrate as much or as little as we want into our lives. “Either or” is replaced with “both” and a greater freedom to choose because each decision brings something positive to the table.
One golden rule of good marketing is to tell your story and allow people to connect with you and find that you are approachable and real. The more authentic you are, the more human you are to those around you. When you are real about the choices you make or routes you don’t take; the more you can inspire others to feel they too can create a work life balance.
When we allow ourselves to integrate balance into our lives rather than struggling to compartmentalize different elements of our lives – there is a greater sense of ease. It becomes an open, living example of making choices in your career and personal lives. Authenticity, compassion, connection and understanding have become powerful leadership tools. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t common sense boundaries.
It is essential for each person make decisions based on what they truly want their lives to look like and then take the necessary actions to make it so. It’s not always easy but it can be done. Here’s to being a fully integrated human being, professional and compassionate leader.
Maria Gamb is the founder and CEO of NMS Communications and the author of an Amazon Top 10 selling book, Healing the Corporate World. In it she describes many of underlying issues in the current corporate world and sets to offer personal, financial and spiritual advice. Go to the book’s website to download the first two chapters and learn a little from a well-respected and incredibly knowledgable leader!