When my son was very young, he would give me the same advice as I left for work every day: “Goodbye, Daddy, have a good day at work. Be sure to drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.” I always thought his farewell each day was far more insightful than just a small boy’s simple advice. In fact, it’s a great chance to talk about life balance.
There are many different ways to understand and dissect the topic of life balance. My model consists of 3 main focus areas: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual. Others use Health, Wealth, and Friends, or Work/Life. The US Air Force has an outstanding approach to balancing the demands of work and life in their Comprehensive Airman Fitness Model which takes the familiar Mental, Physical, and Spiritual dimensions and adds a fourth, Social. And of course there’s always the familiar Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.
No matter how you slice up the dimensions of the human person, the take away is that humans are multi-dimensional, and therefore leaders should be intentional about engaging the whole person and not just the external part. Each person has a body, mind, and the intangible part of themselves religious people call a soul, and non-religious people often refer to as the human spirit. The point is that every person is more than meets the eye.
Being a leader means trying to find what motivates people, and what fulfills them, then intentionally working to harmonize those very personal needs with the needs of the organization. It’s more than a mere transaction: leaders must recognize that their team is more than their collective job titles. They are people with needs and aspirations of their own, persons who have come together to do a job for their own reasons that may or may not be because they’re drawing a paycheck.
The companies consistently rated best to work for seem to get that idea. They provide benefits that let the employees know they’re valued beyond their contribution, but also valued as persons too. There’s plenty of examples with Google and Southwest Airlines often at the top of the list. In each case the employees at those top rated companies like their work and their environment first; the benefits are simply the externals. The companies that treat their employees as whole persons, with more than a single dimension, are the ones who get the most engaged employees at work in return.
So the next time you look out over your team, stop for a minute and remember the words of my then four year old son: drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.
Living life balance as a leader is challenging. There are a lot of demands on a person’s time when they’re in charge, but finding time to feed all aspects of your body and soul is a key to any successful life. Anyone can put their head down and power through life; it takes a mature leader to understand that how you live is equally important to what you accomplish.
Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, and GeneralLeadership.com.