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The Myth of the Work-Life Balance
Many companies extol the value of work-life balance for their employees, but the reality for senior executives? There isn't any.
Many companies extol the value of work-life balance for their employees, but the reality for senior executives? There isn't any. Frequently, stressed and harried managers look up the organization hierarchy and assume that they'll have greater control of their time when they advance to the C-suite. What they don't understand is that modern-day telecommunications, the hair-trigger requirements of financial markets, and the pace of global organizations create 24 x 7 work lives for most executives. So, forget work-life balance and think personal organization and finding ways to relax.
I see too many new and aspiring executives who are naïve about what it takes to succeed at the C-suite level and surprised by the withering demands placed upon them. The first step in dealing with the workload is putting in place the support structure that allows you to focus your energies on key priorities and issues where you can add the greatest value to the business.
Think for a minute. If your boss came and asked you to lead a major change initiative, your first questions would be about the budget and staff you would have at your disposal for the effort. The same logic applies to preparing to operate as an executive. At work and at home, who are the people who allow you to leverage your time and energy: your go-to staff members to keep track of major projects at work and those who help with childcare, eldercare, or managing a household?
In their drive to succeed, many new executives get caught up in a merry-go-round of business reviews, executive team meetings, e-mail, and late-night conference calls with colleagues around the world. At one large, global company, the CEO was known to keep his top 100 people on speed dial for impromptu phone calls at any time of the day or night. In many companies it can be difficult if not impossible to break away from this routine even for a long weekend, and the cumulative effects of stress and workload are damaging. We know a great deal about the long-term health dangers of prolonged stress. However, as described by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee in Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, the effects on executive effectiveness are just as profound.
Under continued stress an executive loses his or her perspective on issues and the ability to look at problems creatively. Molehills become mountains. Conflict with colleagues becomes personal. The "flat spots" of our personality — for example, arrogance, inflexibility, aversion to risk or a tendency toward negativity — become evident. And most of us revert to tried and true solutions — the enemy of breakthrough strategies and new innovations.
Say goodbye to the two-week vacation with the family. That's history in most organizations. Instead, seek to find those activities that allow you to relax — even if only for 15 minutes a day. One CEO races performance sports cars on weekends. Another works out vigorously early every morning and adds a walk around Central Park on weekends. Yet another would end a grueling day of work listening to jazz on a professional quality sound system installed in the basement. Such executives recognize that these moments of relaxation are critical to maintaining resilience: their ability to rebound from obstacles and setbacks whether it's an unplanned marketplace event, the resignation of a key staff member or a promotion decision that didn't go their way.
Many managers are "sprinters" early in their careers. Recognition, rewards, and promotions come their way quickly. However, to succeed at the C-suite level where the pressures are greater and the consequences of failure more punishing, it's critical to equip yourself for the long haul. And that means making sure you have the necessary support structure around you and those precious few moments of relaxation that help you maintain the bounce in your step and the optimistic tone required of a senior leader.
Some mysteries take generations to unfold.
- In 1959, a group of nine Russian hikers was killed in an overnight incident in the Ural Mountains.
- Conspiracies about their deaths have flourished ever since, including alien invasion, an irate Yeti, and angry tribesmen.
- Researchers have finally confirmed that their deaths were due to a slab avalanche caused by intense winds.
a: Last picture of the Dyatlov group taken before sunset, while making a cut in the slope to install the tent. b: Broken tent covered with snow as it was found during the search 26 days after the event.
Photographs courtesy of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation.<p>Finally, a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43247-020-00081-8" target="_blank">new study</a>, published in the Nature journal Communications Earth & Environment, has put the case to rest: it was a slab avalanche.</p><p>This theory isn't exactly new either. Researchers have long been skeptical about the avalanche notion, however, due to the grade of the hill. Slab avalanches don't need a steep slope to get started. Crown or flank fractures can quickly release as little as a few centimeters of earth (or snow) sliding down a hill (or mountain). </p><p>As researchers Johan Gaume (Switzerland's WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF) and Alexander Puzrin (Switzerland's Institute for Geotechnical Engineering) write, it was "a combination of irregular topography, a cut made in the slope to install the tent and the subsequent deposition of snow induced by strong katabatic winds contributed after a suitable time to the slab release, which caused severe non-fatal injuries, in agreement with the autopsy results."</p><p>Conspiracy theories abound when evidence is lacking. Twenty-six days after the incident, a team showed up to investigate. They didn't find any obvious sounds of an avalanche; the slope angle was below 30 degrees, ruling out (to them) the possibility of a landslide. Plus, the head injuries suffered were not typical of avalanche victims. Inject doubt and crazy theories will flourish.</p>
Configuration of the Dyatlov tent installed on a flat surface after making a cut in the slope below a small shoulder. Snow deposition above the tent is due to wind transport of snow (with deposition flux Q).
Photo courtesy of Communications Earth & Environment.<p>Add to this Russian leadership's longstanding battle with (or against) the truth. In 2015 the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation decided to reopen this case. Four years later the agency concluded it was indeed a snow avalanche—an assertion immediately challenged within the Russian Federation. The oppositional agency eventually agreed as well. The problem was neither really provided conclusive scientific evidence.</p><p>Gaume and Puzrin went to work. They provided four critical factors that confirmed the avalanche: </p><ul><li>The location of the tent under a shoulder in a locally steeper slope to protect them from the wind </li><li>A buried weak snow layer parallel to the locally steeper terrain, which resulted in an upward-thinning snow slab</li><li>The cut in the snow slab made by the group to install the tent </li><li>Strong katabatic winds that led to progressive snow accumulation due to the local topography (shoulder above the tent) causing a delayed failure</li></ul><p>Case closed? It appears so, though don't expect conspiracy theories to abate. Good research takes time—sometimes generations. We're constantly learning about our environment and then applying those lessons to the past. While we can't expect every skeptic to accept the findings, from the looks of this study, a 62-year-old case is now closed.</p><p> --</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
As patients approached death, many had dreams and visions of deceased loved ones.
One of the most devastating elements of the coronavirus pandemic has been the inability to personally care for loved ones who have fallen ill.
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.