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Dr. Dianna Lindsay's picture
After 43 years in my chosen profession, I remain excited, alive, and learning! From an active Twitter Account to blogging, from teaching Constitutional Law to Pre-AP English, from a national winner...
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Energy: Critical Advice from Harvard Review

In this thoughtful Harvard Business Review article~ Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams (Harvard Business School) offer advice to maxed-out~ stressed-out leaders who have concluded that work/life balance is an unattainable goal. The authors and their collaborators spent five years interviewing 4~000 executives around the world and report that prospering in the senior ranks is a matter of carefully combining work and home so as not to lose themselves~ their loved ones~ or their foothold on success. The key is making deliberate choices about what to pursue and what to say no to at work~ at home~ and in the community. Deliberate choices dont guarantee complete control~ say Groysberg and Abrahams. Life sometimes takes over~ whether its a parents dementia or a teenagers car accident. But many of the executives weve studied men and women alike have sustained their momentum during such challenges while staying connected to their families. Here are the key factors:

Defining success At work~ it might be financial success; individual achievement; making a difference; winning respect from others; working with a good team in a good environment; ongoing learning and development. At home~ it might be relationships with loved ones; a life of meaning without regrets; understanding whats going on in the lives of family members; having dinner at home four nights a week; never missing a Little League game; having emotional energy at work and at home. Groysberg and Abrahams found marked gender differences~ with women feeling the cultural expectations of parenting and men being more comfortable rationalizing absences by being good providers and opening opportunities to their children. One woman had a clear template for success: Define your house right have a table in the kitchen where your kids can do homework while your husband cooks and you drink a glass of red wine.

Managing technology Figuring out how to handle the deluge of e-mails~ text messages~ voice mails~ tweets~ and other communications is the key to sanity and productivity. The key~ say the authors~ is to make yourself available but not too available to your team; be honest with yourself about how much you can multitask; build relationships and trust through face time; and keep your in-box under control.

Successful executives spoke of the importance of undivided attention and not trying to be in two places at the same time. When Im at home~ Im really at home~ said one. I want to give my kids 100% of my attention. But this also works the other way around~ because when Im at work I really want to focus on work. I believe that mixing these spheres too much leads to confusion and mistakes. Theres also a trend in the business world toward in-person communication. The key is careful~ thoughtful listening~ and that happens best in face-to-face conversations.

Groysberg and Abrahams point to research on the professional benefits of stepping away from the frenetic pace of work. Over the years~ a number of important discoveries have popped into scientists heads while they were doing mundane tasks (or asleep). Being available 24 hours a day can also enable subordinates. If you have weak people who must ask your advice all the time~ you feel important~ said one executive. But there is a difference between being truly important and just not letting anyone around you do anything without you.
Building support networks Having helpers who can handle tasks like shopping~ transporting children~ and monitoring aging parents is vital~ say Groysberg and Abrahams; they make it possible for leaders to spend quality time on the most important human interactions. Emotional support is equally essential~ they say. Like anyone else~ executives occasionally need to vent when theyre dealing with something crazy or irritating at work~ and friends and family are a safer audience than colleagues Support at work matters too. Trusted colleagues serve as valuable sounding boards. Sympathetic colleagues are also vital when the unexpected happens a heart attack~ a childs illness~ parents in need of care.
Traveling or relocating selectively Some of the leaders in this study tried to do their most extensive travel and job moves while they were young and unattached. Among married executives~ travel and relocation often posed difficult challenges a number had turned down assignments that involved relocating~ and this was more often true of women than men~ especially when their children were in their teens. The researchers were discouraged to find that executives of both sexes consider the tension between work and family to be primarily a womens problem.
Collaborating with ones partner Many of the leaders Groysberg and Abrahams interviewed said how much they valued their partners emotional intelligence~ task focus~ big-picture thinking~ detail orientation in short~ whatever cognitive or behavioral skills balanced out their own tendencies Partners can help them keep their eyes on what matters~ budget their time and energy~ live healthfully~ and make deliberate choices sometimes tough choices about work~ travel~ household management~ and community involvement. Among executives with the best work/life balance~ emotional support and encouragement built on a shared vision of success between partners.

In pursuit of rich professional and personal lives~ the authors conclude~ men and women will surely continue to face tough decisions about where to concentrate their efforts. They offer three concluding thoughts:
- Life happens. A well-planned career path can be upended by an unexpected crisis.
- There are multiple routes to success. Some leaders stay in the same workplace for decades while others have a series of different jobs. Some have stay-at-home partners while other couples juggle two full-time jobs.
- No one can do it alone. A support network is crucial both at and outside work~ say Groysberg and Abrahams~ and members of that network must get their needs met too.

Manage Your Work~ Manage Your Life: Zero in on What Really Matters by Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams in Harvard Business Review~ March 2014 (Vol. 92~ #3~ p. 58-66).