The Business of busy-ness.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on all those who fought and died for our rights to a balanced life (Source: FastCompany.com) because after a few quick calculations my conclusion is that many of us are not living the balanced life they fought so hard to achieve.

Whilst their efforts were not in vain, modern society needs more growth to reach a point where we ‘work to live’ not the other way around. Below is a breakdown of a typical working year for most people employed in large corporations*. For all our talk about work/life balance, has anyone done the math? Because things don’t look very balanced to me.

A year in the life of an average corporate employee.

For all our talk about work/life balance, has anyone done the math? Because things don’t look very balanced to me.

We may have advanced from working 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week (wait, what? did they work in advertising? ahem!) but it is not near the equitable distribution of time we need to be mentally and emotionally healthy and creatively contributing to the world at large, beyond only our contribution to the corporate bottom line and our own bank accounts.

It takes 42 seconds to do a google search on the side effects of being overworked, which yields 1,230,000,000 results. You don’t need to be an empath to understand the impact on health, relationships and creativity from work/life imbalance.

Many of you reading may be thinking “do something you love and you won’t ever have to work a day in your life.” Certainly, I think this notion can work for a certain period in one’s life, or for a certain project but not as a long term way of life and certainly not if we wish to divide our focus equally between different pursuits. And considering we are working and living longer, it makes sense to have a well-balanced distribution of time across our professional and personal life.

Wise thinkers have pointed out that we join the cult of busy because we are running away from something else. Socrates warned us to “beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

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Certainly, we are required to work hard to achieve all the good things we wish to achieve in life but the point I am trying to make is that we should get to a point where people do what they love and have time to spend with family, friends and creative hobbies. It shouldn’t be a trade-off and people shouldn’t be indirectly penalised for living with this intent.

The New York Times Magazine recently published an article titled “Wealthy, Successful and Miserable,” which showed that once a person provides financially for themselves and family, additional salary and benefits don’t reliably contribute to job satisfaction rather, factors like ‘whether your job provides the ability to control your time’ become more important.

In my case, I love what I do and where I do it. My workplace is relatively understanding that I have a young family and generally accommodate my dynamic schedule. But the effects of not being more balanced certainly have started to show up in other areas of my life.

Reassessing outdated notions of Work/Life balance.

If you work for an organisation or you are currently a manager who is at all interested in staff retention, great performance, building a great company culture, you will have to get better at adapting to the idea that people don’t compartmentalise their life and sometimes there is spillage across professional/personal life. With that, we need a more accurate and balanced definition of what constitutes work/life balance and how to integrate both areas together.

For example, it no longer makes sense that we have inflexible check-in and clock-off timing inherited from bygone eras that fit around the company but not employee life schedules. This may be difficult for some old-world managers to accept.

There may be days when your staff member needs to work from home. But if you’re a micro-manager who keeps count of how many kitchen breaks your staff take, this might take some getting used to.

Paradigms are shifting and it is necessary that we start to question some of the old structures that have held up our economy for decades.

Work/life balance is a recognition that sometimes we do get out of balance but this can be rectified at a later time. But corporations need to be flexible and adaptive in order for staff to do this. For example, a member of staff may wish to take additional annual leave to participate in a marathon overseas and this could be accrued annual leave from all the additional time in-lieu working late nights rather than taken as leave-without-pay.

A New Dawn

Paradigms are shifting and it is necessary that we start to question some of the old structures that have held up our economy for decades. And one of the main pillars of the old structure has been corporations which push the view that we need to be achieving our KPI’s and sticking to the bottom line without consideration for employee welfare. Corporate success looks like hitting profit and growth targets and achieving management objectives, not how often staff get home to see their kids before bedtime or how many weekend conference calls their executives take. More advanced corporations have begun to examine their company culture and values, and that’s a good start.

But I say there is still more that we can do if we walk down the path of authenticity and consciousness. If we allow people to show their true nature, empower them to self-manage and work in ways that fit around their life, then businesses can be unifying clusters that unite people to fulfill a common aim, and in that way be of service to their employees and humanity at large.

This is not a socialist dream, on the contrary, I am talking about companies like Patagonia and Nadaam who live the ideals they espouse. We can start by questioning what type of company we want to work for, what start-up we want to build, and who we want to buy from, and raise these questions with our teams. Of course, we would need to hire the right people to start with.

Business needs to follow the path of authenticity and consciousness.

Do the math for yourself and let me know what it looks like for you. Change starts from raising awareness and starting conversations about what good can look like.

Live consciously,

Brenda.

Cover Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels.

*This is based on 25 annual leave days and does not include sick leave. Outside of maternity leave, in my 15+ year working career, I have only used my total annual sick leave once when I needed a medical procedure, have you?

Great Leaders Ask Questions.

Many of today’s organisations and even our personal modes of thinking are based on an achievement orientation, meritocracy and sense of competitiveness.

When viewed on a continuum, these attributes certainly helped propel modern society from a feudal, hierarchical state and bring about huge advancements in innovation and accountability, and improved levels of equality.

But these traits have masked society’s unconsciousness in certain areas. For example, this kind of thinking is more likely to lead to a siloed mentality, the notion that for one person to be right another needs to be wrong, people are put in boxes – humans are ‘resources’ to be ‘managed’ in this model, we busy ourselves building plans and blueprints for things that may not necessarily add value only to meet budgets and excel spreadsheets with fictitious forecasts.

And where you have unconsciousness, you have Ego.

Ego finds its home in unconsciousness.

One of the main aims of ego is to look good – intelligent, clever, in control, funny, productive – in front of others. In this mode, leaders find it paramount to have answers, they have been trained to provide direction to their teams, and direction means providing solutions and having a plan in order to look competent.

Emerging Leadership

On the other hand, emerging modes of thinking require mental strength, empathy and self-esteem to allow ourselves to feel vulnerable and open to collaboration.

Leadership in this new mode is about creating space for others to contribute and collaborate. It is having the confidence to recognise that you may not always have the best answer.

The best leaders I have worked with focus on questions, not answers.

By asking the right questions, strong leaders facilitate dialogue which contributes to a creative solution. Having a questioning mindset is recognition that the germ of your great idea, when combined with other ideas can sprout into something much more powerful.

Questions empower others to raise their true voice. Rather than feeling stuck in a silo, people feel heard and valued, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

Asking questions opens up space for the team to have a sense of ownership of the process and this ensures that people are motivated to contribute and work together to develop the right solutions.

Leadership is about having the generosity of spirit and confidence of character to work together and not always needing to be the star of the show.

Depending on your category, here are some ways you can facilitate a team discussion by framing questions in the following manner:

How might we think about this from a product design point of view?

What inconvenience can make better for our customer?

What can we borrow from (insert another category than the one you usually work in)?

What if we turned back the clock and redesigned our customer experience?

I wonder what would happen if we transformed our thinking about this from a communication to a customer service approach

I hope this post has helped you begin to transform the way you, your team and your organisation view leadership.

Have a purposeful day!

Brenda.

Winning with Heart.

The creative business is a people business. It’s about understanding, connecting and inspiring people through ideas and solutions.

The best communication is that which capture hearts and tells compelling stories. Additionally, those that nudge people into changing attitudes or behaviour are the ideas based on understanding the human mind and psychology to work out underlying thought patterns or habits.

Making a connection is sometimes art and other times science.

To do this well, we must be able to use our empathy and human understanding to unravel motivations. If we do not spend time or are not open to figuring out what drives motivations we will be less successful at connecting and winning with heart.

Winning with Heart

Whether we are thinking about our own personal or professional relationships or we are designing winning brands and companies, winning people’s hearts requires us to embody and nurture the values that our audience also finds important.

What do you do in your daily life that helps you

  • Uncover the motivations of your audience?
  • Mirror your audience’s values?

Live consciously!

Brenda