Leadership 104: Leading a Balanced Life

By Mike Figliuolo

If you’re burned out, you’re worthless.

We all run around waving our arms proclaiming we want (and we want our people to have) a balanced life. The problem is we never define what that means, let alone actually behaving in a manner that keeps us balanced.

We’re our own worst enemies. The good news is the ‘leadership maxims’ approach to leadership includes keeping you sane. This concept is the fourth major section of my book “One Piece of Paper”.

In this post I’m going to ask you to define a set of rules or reminders to help keep your overobsessive hypercompetitive too-long-at-a-keyboard-every-day psycho self in check. If you’re still having trouble creating your maxims, I again encourage you to check out the course we teach on the method by clicking here.

The first point on living a balanced life comes from realizing both your life *and* your work need to be in balance. So many times we perceive this concept as only pertaining to not working late or on weekends. Sure, that’s one aspect of balance. Balance is all about making yourself more resilient (and yes, we teach a course on Building Resilience).

Another aspect of balance is having work you enjoy. If work sucks, life sucks. You spend more time at the office than you do with your family (unless you work from a home office like me where you experience the joys of trying to write a blog post while your boxer is whining at you and while your son is in the basement below you playing Xbox with his friend and screaming how he just “pwned someone with a no-scope headshot!”).

Part of creating maxims for a balanced life requires you to define what is or isn’t acceptable behavior for your boss, co-workers, or team. The second part of articulating your leadership philosophy in this arena is about how you spend your time off.

Articulating your leadership maxims around balanced life requires you to reflect on:

  • Setting and keeping boundaries;
  • Maintaining a healthy perspective; and
  • Knowing and pursuing your passions.

Let’s begin.

Setting and keeping boundaries

You’re the only one who can protect your time and your interests. The problem is, no one knows where your line is until you tell them they’ve crossed it. Whether it’s the number of hours you work, the work you do (and the work others do), or the physical layout of your workspace, there are things that are or are not comfortable for you.

Unless you let others know what your comfort zone is, they’ll superimpose their own upon you. Nine times out of 10, that will result in you being unhappy or dissatisfied with their choice. You have to set boundaries.

My maxims on this point? There are two:

  • A failure to plan on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine. Said simply, if you mess up and didn’t plan, it doesn’t obligate me to fix things. That said, I may *choose* to fix things — just don’t take it for granted.
  • “I’m going home. You’re doing my job.” This one is centered around a long story where someone was micromanaging me. That led me to be dissatisfied. I expressed that dissatisfaction. You can read the entire story by clicking here.

Maintaining a healthy perspective

We take stuff waaayyyyy too seriously. Think about why you enjoy reading this blog (you do enjoy reading it, right?). Does the up front, no-BS, semi-lighthearted nature of it appeal to you?

Now think about your workplace. Is it more uptight than Mr. Belvedere? When you take things too seriously, you lose perspective. Losing perspective creates stress. Stress makes you fat, bald, gray, and die faster. Not cool.

Maxims can be a helpful tool for maintaining a healthy perspective. They serve as that check to keep you from flipping out over things that, in the grand scheme of things, aren’t really that important.

My favorite maxims?

  • Burger King is hiring (translation: No matter how bad this place gets, there are other places you can go). Better yet, try on a Burger King crown sometime. You can learn a lot from it just like I describe in this post. If a crown doesn’t work for you and you don’t like your job, try this piece of advice: Shut up and quit (another favorite article of mine).
  • “It’s only (insert whatever is driving you nuts here).” Unless you’re a brain surgeon, try this maxim on. “It’s only a budget.” “It’s only computers.” It’s very clarifying.

Knowing and pursuing your passions

You have to know what you’re passionate about. And in this case I’m talking about things outside the office. We work to live, not live to work. I challenge you to come up with a maxim that puts the living part into perspective. A good maxim will remind you that work is a means to an end.

My reminder? A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work. That’s my maxim.

I love to fish. I love to fish with my kids when I get a chance. Great time with people I love and pulling big smelly thrashing bleeding things into a boat. What could be better? What will your reminder be to pursue your passions? (And no, I didn’t pee my pants when I caught this 42-pound monster — they got wet when I leaned on the rail of the boat, smarties).

So there you go, folks. Four major areas to consider (leading yourself, the thinking, your people, and a balanced life). A simple approach to articulating your leadership philosophy on one piece of paper.

Make it real. Make it meaningful. Share it with your team, your boss, your coworkers, your family. Try living up to the leadership code you just wrote for yourself. If you do it right, it’ll be hard to live up to, but it will make you that much more of a leader.

I invite you to share some of your maxims in the comments section (or even email me your maxims and I’m happy to provide some quick thoughts as I’m able). So what are your leadership maxims? Please share.

Check out the other articles in Mike Figliuolo’s Leadership 101 Series:

Mike Figliuolo is the author of “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.” He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC — a leadership development firm. An honor graduate from West Point, he served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog, read the full original post here.
Originally published: Mar 2, 2012

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