Is a Balanced Life Impossible?

A work-life balance is something we all wish we had. To me it has always seemed elusive. I can only do one thing at a time, so balance must come from splitting time among activities that I care about. At any one moment, balance is an illusion.

Victor Hugo wrote, “To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better.” Harmony may be a better way to evaluate our efforts, rather than balance.

As a reflection exercise this week, I focused on the word balance. Here are some thoughts I had.

1. Consider both heart and head. The energy to do something comes from the heart. If you listen mostly to your head, you will most likely run out of steam.

2. Keep moving. Life is like riding a bicycle. If I keep moving, then it is easier to keep my balance. If I wait too long to take action, I risk getting stuck.

3. Lean into the future. What is in front of me tends to be more important than what is behind me. I can’t change yesterday’s balance, but I can change tomorrow’s balance.

4. Recognize hopes and needs. I need to know the difference between my hopes and my needs. Hope helps me reach for more. Needs focus my efforts, and demand humility.

For me, balance may always be just out of reach, but maybe that is a good thing. How do you find balance in your life?

Have We Forgotten the Purpose of Compromise?

When I was in school, I studied the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. I can imagine the representatives debating, arguing, and discussing the fundamentals of democracy. The process was not easy or elegant.

Today, our society continues to debate many social and political issues. Although not true, it feels like we have never been more divided as a culture.

As a manufacturing plant manager, one of my main tasks was to develop a management team built on shared values. I encouraged my team to challenge each other and the status quo. In the process, we were able to create a stronger vision of the values that drove us to success.

There are two main points to consider when you are trying to build a team, an organization, or even a country.

First, expression of opposing views should be welcomed. It is the difference of perspectives that let us discover the shared values below the surface. If everyone only settled without voicing their opinion, the team would lack strength.

Second, compromise is required. The hard work of true compromise consists of dissecting discussion to understand the basic truths of our beliefs. Then working together to find a solution that best meets our needs and supports our values. A good compromise does not require anyone to oppose their basic values. As this process is repeated, the team begins to coalesce around the  underlying shared principles. Just like the creation of the United States, the process is not easy or elegant.

In today’s United States Congress, we don’t see debate that leads to understanding and compromise. Instead we see politicians that are polarized, and divided by their party line. No one is trying to understand the shared values that would lead to better solutions.

If your team appears divided like politicians, or lacks the courage to debate issues, then you have a problem. If this is the case, then you have a great opportunity to improve your team with your leadership.

Effective Rules

When I see an organization or a team with rules that are not being followed, it usually reflects a weakness in leadership. Not just because the rules are not being followed, but because the rules exist in the first place. Unfortunately this is too common.

Rules are created to keep people safe, to provide guidance for actions, and prevent mistakes. In many cases broad rules are created in reaction to specific incidents.

For example, if an employee spills a beverage affecting their workplace, a rule may be created to prevent employees from drinking beverages. There may be locations in the workplace or types of work where the presence of beverages is not a potential accident, or using beverage containers with lids would be effective.  Yet a rule is created covering the entire workplace.

This occurs because an ineffective leader views the new rule as the easiest to manage. A stronger leader would create a rule that supports the employees drinking beverages but at the same time protect the workplace. This rule would be more difficult to define and manage. But it also becomes a rule that people will actually follow.

Ineffective rules result in an unhappy workforce, or a workforce that ignores the rules. This is not an employee problem, it is a leadership problem.

As a leader, you must enforce the rules. If you don’t think the rule should be enforced, then work to change the rule.

All of this takes more effort. That is why we continue to see broad, ineffective rules in many workplaces and organizations. If you want effective rules, you need to be an effective leader.

Building Trust

Peter Lerangis wrote, “Trust is a fragile thing – difficult to build, easy to break. It cannot be bargained for. Only if it is freely given it can be expected in return.”

When someone doesn’t follow through with a commitment, any trust you had with them will be reduced, maybe even broken. What about when you break a commitment with yourself?

All of us probably fall short when it comes to completing the things we wish we could do every day. What is the impact on the next day? Do you find that it is easier to fall short again?

As soon as we miss a day, it becomes easier to miss the next day. We have broken our own trust.

Whatever we want to achieve is easier when we trust in our commitments to our self. When viewed from this perspective, the goals we set each day are critically important. We must stretch ourselves to achieve, but we can’t allow ourselves to overcommit. What a difficult balance!

Try it. What ever goal you are working on right now, think of it in terms of building trust. What do you need to do to build the trust within yourself? What can you do that will prove you are committed to achieving the goal?

If you never break your own trust, you will continue to grow and achieve great things. Building trust with yourself is important. Who should trust you, if you don’t trust yourself?