Raising Your Leadership Bar – Balance Work and Life During Crisis

Amid the fear and uncertainty so many of us are facing today, we have an opportunity to show who we are as leaders. Today, now more than ever, we are being beckoned to raise our leadership bar.

While raising that bar means having the clarity to grasp fundamental truths, evaluating possibilities and potential and letting go of worries, there’s one other aspect to raising our leadership bar and it’s this:

With the impact of the Coronavirus and so many people “sheltering in place” for weeks, maybe months to come, balancing work and home in new ways is paramount for leaders forging a new normal for the time being.

As Peter Bergman rightly observes in In Leading with Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, and Inspire Action on Your Most Important Work (Wiley, 2018), the workplace is now everywhere. This means our work life and home life are intricately blended.

So many of us – yours truly included – grapple with striking a balance between work and all the other joys life has to offer. Here’s the common thread from the leaders I’ve talked with: our balance gets thrown off because we have this notion that we can’t be fully human at work. Personable, yes – but showing our messy edges? Nope.

Why? Because our credibility, our ability to be culture shapers and influencers means we hold high standards for ourselves and others. Flaws only hold us back from achieving our high standards (or so we think).

But living in the unknown and wondering what comes next requires us to give ourselves permission to be flawed. It requires us to destroy the myth that perfection gives us strength and credibility.

Here are three things you can do now to find work-life balance in times of crisis – and continue raising your leadership bar:

Go slow to go fast.

Be exceedingly human.

Create new rituals.

#1 – Go slow to go fast.

How often have you found yourself going mindlessly through the motions or hit the ground running – only to look back on the day or week and wonder what exactly you did? Slowing down isn’t just about finding time to relax; it’s about relationship with ourselves and others. It’s about being connected with the meaning and purpose of our actions. When we slow down something magical occurs – we find deeper connection with the people in our lives

Try this…

At the start of each week, ask yourself three questions:

  • What is my True Priority? Your True Priority is neither a goal or the first thing on your ‘To Do’ list. It’s the thing that might take precedence in your life this week – it could be either work OR life related. For example: moving forward on a project or finding a sustainable rhythm.
  • What two things would I love to complete this week? These are things you most want to complete. It doesn’t mean there aren’t more things on your list and it doesn’t mean these are the biggest items either. Maybe making that doctor’s appointment or calling a friend you haven’t talked with in quite some time will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to do the other things on your list.
  • Where do I need the most support? Ask this question to infuse your “Two things to complete” or True Priority with the energy needed to make it a reality. Maybe there’s information, feedback, guidance, or moral support you need to do what you’ve identified as most important.

#2 – Be exceedingly human. Work-Life balance isn’t about doing it all. Resist the need to be a superhero. Yes, we must take care of business but we must also take care of each other and ourselves. Now, more than ever, manage yourself and others with unending kindness and love. In doing so, you increase trust with your team members and family.

Try this…

Acknowledge you don’t have all the answers. Instead of painstakingly drawing up plans for the new way forward, share with your team, “My perception is this isn’t working as we had intended. How effective could we be if it were different?” Essentially, you’re saying, “let’s re-imagine the future together.” (the same is true with family commitments, too)

#3 – Create new rituals – or reconnect to existing rituals. Rituals provide a sense of stability and continuity amidst a volatile and uncertain environment; an ongoing way to structure our lives. Being intentional about your rituals increases clarity and focus.

Try this…

When you need to meet with the same person/people for a number of different things, create an intentional pause between subjects. This may look like disconnecting from your call – taking a couple minutes to stretch, refresh your water bottle or anything else to move your energy – and then reconnecting to discuss the next topic. If you’re meeting in person (and the day will come when we do), get up from the conference table, leave the room and then come back in. Sure, it may same silly but do it anyway and have a good chuckle in the process! An intentional pause before moving to the next item on your list primes your brain to focus more clearly.

Ready to raise your leadership bar?  let’s talk.