This week, I read a thought-provoking blog post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network called “The Myth of Work-Life Balance,” by John Beeson, and it really got me going. Mr. Beeson is a professed expert on the topic, as Principal of Beeson Consulting, a management consulting firm specializing in “succession planning, executive assessment and coaching, and organization design.” So it appears he’s in the trenches, working with executives.
Here are some key tidbits from his piece:
1) [Senior executives need to] “forget work-life balance and think personal organization and finding ways to relax.”
2) “At one large, global company, the CEO was known to keep his top 100 people on speed dial for impromptu phone calls at any time of the day or night. In many companies it can be difficult if not impossible to break away from this routine even for a long weekend.”
3) ”Say goodbye to the two-week vacation with the family. That’s history in most organizations. Instead, seek to find those activities that allow you to relax — even if only for 15 minutes a day.”
4) “…to succeed at the C-suite level where the pressures are greater and the consequences of failure more punishing, it’s critical to equip yourself for the long haul. And that means making sure you have the necessary support structure around you and those precious few moments of relaxation that help you maintain the bounce in your step and theoptimistic tone required of a senior leader.”
Bounce in your step? Optimistic tone? How can you have a whisper of that when all you do every waking minute is attend to work? It’s not possible, folks.
My response to Mr. Beeson’s piece follows:
“Thanks for a thought-provoking piece. As a leadership and executive coach for professional women, I’d say that the picture you present is truly the way it is now, but is not the way it will be in generations to come. Asking senior leaders to have an unrelenting, 300% focus on work to the detriment of all else is just not sustainable. That type of personal availability and demand is a uniquely American perspective (check out other countries’ effective policies on child care, vacation, work-life, etc.).
This limited thinking you describe emerged from the existing traditional competitive career model in place from many years ago. But as new, more inspiring, innovative and creative male and female leaders emerge, they’ll want and demand an increase in flexibility, diversity, and creativity in the way professionals think, work, and behave. Read Kathy Caprino's complete response in Forbes.