Series on Work-Life Balance: How Successful Executives Manage

We live in a 24/7 culture that’s always on. With the ability to stay connected around the clock, the lines between work and home have blurred. Work-life balance and work-life integration can be hard to manage, but we found successful executives who have figured out how to remain successful while still making time for their friends and family.

Indra K. Nooyi CEO, PepsiCo- Nooyi doesn’t believe women can have it all, but she does believe a balance can be achieved. “I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. “And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact, many times during the day you have to make those decisions,” she tells The Atlantic. She admits that “meticulously planning” her life has allowed her to be a “decent parent,” and she believes her daughters, if asked, would say she is a good mom. To balance her work and life Nooyi allows her personal assistant to give her children permission to do certain things when they call the office. Nooyi provides her assistant with a set of questions that when answered correctly allow her children to play with friends, play video games, and take part in other activities.

Mark Weinberger, CEO, Ernst and Young- “At any moment you are going to feel guilty about what you’re not doing, like today I’m missing the World Economic Forum in Europe to move my daughter into her dorm in USC,” EY CEO Mark Weinberger tells Time. Among our list of executives, Weinberger has perhaps the most family-focused approach to work-life balance. Following a meeting in China, EY’s CEO was asked if he would be taking selfies with his employees at the Great Wall. He said that wouldn’t be possible because he needed to be back in Washington, DC, the following day to take his daughter to her driving test. His message has resonated with employees. “Afterwards, I got hundreds of emails: Not a single person remembered the terrific speech I gave, but everybody remembered I went home for my daughter,” he tells Time.

Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo- Marissa Mayer, CEO, YahooMarissa Mayer took only two weeks’ maternity leave when her son was born. But she didn’t compromise on spending time with her newborn: She had a nursery built next to her office. Of course not everyone has the opportunity to bring their children to work. For those workers, Mayer offers a simple suggestion: “Find your rhythm.” “Avoiding burnout isn’t about getting three square meals or eight hours of sleep. It’s not even necessarily about getting time at home,” she tells Bloomberg. “I have a theory that burnout is about resentment. And you beat it by knowing what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful. I tell people: Find your rhythm. Your rhythm is what matters to you so much that when you miss it you’re resentful of your work.”

Kim Jabal, CFO, Weebly- “The only way that anyone can balance work and family or work and personal life, is if everyone within an organization agrees that ‘life balance’ is critical to the overall well-being of employees and the productivity, and effectiveness of the company,” Jabal tells Business Insider. Jabal says flexibility is key when finding your work-life balance. She has no problem leaving work early for family dinners if it means taking a few hours at the end of the night to finish her work. “Rigid work hours and work location make it much more challenging,” Jabal says. Her plan seems pretty straightforward. “Home an hour in the morning, get kids to school, work in the office 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., have dinner with kids, work three hours at night,” she says.

Employees put in the same number of hours but spend a critical few hours with their family members. Jabal also says both parents need to make sure parenting is 50-50 from day one. “It’s not just the mom’s job. It’s the parents’ job,” she says.


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Series on Work-Life Balance: Richard Branson style

“Running a business (or many of them!) can be a stressful endeavour,” says Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire chairman of the Virgin Group. “Looking back over my 50 years as an entrepreneur one of the major keys to my success has been my ability to maintain a healthy balance between work and play.”

Richard says that he has six habits that help him to achieve a healthy work-life balance, no matter where he is travelling at the time. Here’s his secrets:

1. Rise early- “I tend to wake up at 5am so that I can use the early morning hours to get some exercise and spend time with my family,” he says. “This routine helps put me in a positive mindset before I get down to business.” He admits that this won’t work for everyone but recommends finding a “routine that enables you to work on your most challenging tasks when you’re at your most productive”.

2. Limit screen time- Richard admits that he loves social media, email and the communication opportunities that technology provides, but says “you can’t let your devices take control, especially if you’re a busy entrepreneur”. He limits himself to checking email and social media only at the start of his working day, and then again at intervals that he determines for himself, rather than letting it take over his day. “If you’re not paying attention, social media can become a distraction and a hindrance, rather than a highly useful business tool and a fun way to communicate,” he warns. “Monitor your usage of your devices so that they don’t run your life.”

3. Write lists- It’s a well-known fact that Richard carries a notebook everywhere, he’s forever scribbling away and jotting things down. “This technique has helped to make Virgin what it its today,” he says. “Everything from our original logo to our first business plan all began as scribbles in a notebook.” He recommends finding what works for you – doodles, charts, bullet points. “Or, just write down what you need to accomplish and cross tasks off as you complete them,” he says. “There’s something very satisfying about ticking items off a list.”

4. Make time for sports- “I get up early to exercise because it gives me energy, improves my focus and concentration, and even helps me sleep better at the end of the day,” Richard says. He chooses to kite surf, saying it’s a “good opportunity to get away from all the other stresses of life and business”. But it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, Richard says, find “something you like doing, perhaps a sport or a routine at the gym, to keep yourself focused throughout the day”.

5. Make time for loved one- Virgin is a family business and Richard says he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for his family. “I make it a priority to spend time with my wife Joan every single day,” he says. “It reminds me of why I do what I do.” He suggests setting some time aside every day for your loved ones – even if it’s just a phone call or a Skype chat. “Switch your emails off and give them your full attention, even if it’s just half an hour,” he says. “You’ll be more relaxed, and may even learn things from them that can help in your business.”

6. Embrace something new- Richard loves having new experiences and aims to learn at least one new thing every day. He views life as one long educational experience. “No matter what your career goals are, try to do something different each day,” he suggests. “See where it takes you, and what you can learn. This has made every day of my life an adventure – who knows where it might take you!”


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Series on Work-Life Balance: Trade-offs

Bill Gates, in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, revealed that he was so driven during the early years of Microsoft in the 1970’s that he couldn’t help but keep tabs on which Microsoft warriors stayed vigilant along the front and which ones had retreated home for the night. Gates said eventually the fanaticism didn’t last forever.

Gates said, “I knew everyone’s license plate,” he told the BBC, “so I could look out in the parking lot and see when did people come in, when were they leaving.” Gates admitted, “I was quite fanatical about work” during those early days. “I worked weekends, I worked weekends, I didn’t really believe in vacations.”

Gates said the fanaticism didn’t last forever. “Eventually I had to loosen up, as the company got to a reasonable size,” he said. And he said that meeting his wife, Melinda, also changed the equation. “She arrived at kind of the perfect time, and we fell in love … Now we actually take quite a few vacations. I’m sure myself in my twenties would look at my schedule now and find it very wimpy indeed.”

But it’s unlikely Gates would ever have found the worldly success that he enjoys if not for that “beginner’s hunger” that drove him in the early years. Beginner’s hunger drives people who aspire to do great things in every realm of human endeavor—entrepreneurs, artists, rock stars, politicians, military leaders, social-justice workers, prophets and priests.

These people don’t want work-life balance. They want to be imbalanced. It’s what makes them feel alive. They constantly make sacrifices to reach their goal, even without realizing they’re sacrifices. And if and when they reach their goal, that beginner’s hunger dissipates, and they shift into a less frantic, long-term mode. But first comes the single-minded fanaticism, often for many years and often at the expense of many other things.

And so comes an either-or choice:

1.You feel you need to gamble everything on achieving greatness in some area; or

2.You commit yourself to balancing out your career with your family, social obligations and personal interests.

If you choose the first option, you need to accept that there will be trade offs — you will miss children’s piano recitals, lose relationships altogether, and miss out on some of the most deeply fulfilling but passive aspects of human existence.

If you choose the second option, you have to get over the idea that you’ll go as far in your career as the talented, fanatical rivals who are working three hours longer per day and who are far readier than you to pounce on a new opportunity. You accept that you may achieve at best a good station in your career but not a great one.

Yes, being a single-minded workaholic isn’t psychologically healthy. Frankly, great people usually aren’t psychologically healthy. They don’t know how to be, and that’s the source of their fanatic’s advantage. It becomes our job, then, for each of us to decide whether to be fanatics who risk it all for greatness … or to be balanced people who find all the greatness we need within the very act of balance.


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Series on Work-Life Balance: Steve Jobs

The New York Times had published the eulogy that Steve Jobs’s sister wrote to celebrate his life at his funeral. With her words, Mona Simpson paints a picture of a man who was commercially successful and had professional presence – and who was larger than life and really knew how to live.

From her touching eulogy, we can gather a few simple work-life balance lessons from a man who was very successful in his work life and simultaneously present in his home life.

1. Do what you love. According to Jobs’s sister, “Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day. That’s incredibly simple, but true.” The time that Steve Jobs invested in his job was worthwhile, despite his untimely death, because he felt true passion for his work. He felt fulfilled by what he did at the office each day. It was worth it to leave his home each morning to participate in the work he loved, so his work-life balance made sense.

2. Do it yourself. Only you can maintain your own work-life balance. If you become so absorbed in work and so far removed from normal life that the only side of you anyone sees is your professional presence, there might be a problem with your ability to find balance. Even as a very successful businessman, Jobs made the time to dress casually and pick a family member up from the airport. Jobs’s sister describes, “Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.” Delegating is an important management skill, but connecting to ordinary life is an important work-life balance skill. Make sure to mow your own lawn and iron your own shirts every now and again.

3. Cultivate your interests. Despite his commercial success, his professional presence, and his investment in his career, Steve Jobs also cultivated his outside interests, such as travel, gardening, and boats. His sister asks, “What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?” By similarly investing in your outside interests, you will be a more well-rounded person, and you will be more able to return to work refreshed and ready to give it your all after taking time for yourself.

4. Cultivate your love. One of Jobs’s primary characteristics was his deep love for and abiding interest in his wife and his four children. Indeed, “he believed that love happened all the time, everywhere,” according to his sister. With love for his family set as his primary concern, his work-life balance came naturally.

How do you consciously work toward greater balance between your work life and personal life?


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Series on Work-Life Balance: Doing something for ‘me’

If you find that you’re teetering dangerously close to being out-of-balance, consider rearranging your personal life by adopting some of the following things.

1. Exercise.- Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, plays tennis for one hour every day and Richard Branson stays active with kitesurfing. But if exercising brings thoughts of getting a root canal for you, no worries; Harvard-trained psychologist and best-selling author Shawn Achor says all it takes is 15 minutes of fun cardio activity per day. So ditch the gym for gardening or walking the dog. Juts remember: The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant.

2. Pick up a new hobby (or rediscover an old one)- Is there something enjoyable that you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t had the time to pursue? Or something that you absolutely love to do, but haven’t done in years? Need some ideas? Here are the hobbies of some of the world’s most successful people:

• Warren Buffett: Playing the ukulele.

• Aubrey K. McClendon, co-founder Chesapeake Energy: Wine collecting

• Michael Bloomberg: Skiing and golf.

• Peter Thiel, technology investor and former PayPal co-founder: Internet chess.

3. Do something fun for yourself- Don’t neglect “special time” with yourself. Science has found that people who have fun are more creative and productive, make better decisions, and get along better with colleagues. Daymond John, investor on the ABC reality series “Shark Tank,” spends weekends at his lakeside cabin in Dutchess County catching largemouth bass.

4. Find a faith that works for you- I speak of a faith–whatever your belief system–that comes from a deep spiritual connection with a power greater than yours. Billionaire Bill Gates told Rolling Stone that his family goes to Catholic Church, even though he admitted having his own doubts about God.

5. Take up meditation- Oprah Winfrey practices Transcendental Meditation. She sits in stillness for 20 minutes, twice a day. She says, “only from that space can you create your best work and your best life.” Setting aside this little ritual everyday during your spare time will make the rest of your week seem manageable. You’ll notice a difference and a weight come off your shoulders.

6. Give back to the community- A study conducted by Australia’s Fidelity Charitable Gift Trust found that 89 percent of entrepreneurs donate to charity. Entrepreneurs with a heart of service understand that the cycle of business, and life, should be about giving back and spreading the wealth to causes they believe in. Meet 7 entrepreneurs who love giving back.

7. Get together with mentors outside of work to learn something new- This takes humility, so check your ego at the door, and seek out sage advice from wise connections to improve a part of you that’s lacking, or to get some fresh perspective on something that is keeping you stuck. General Motor CEO Mary Barra is influenced by a network of them. She writes how mentors correctly advised her to take an HR role even though she was an engineer. “Different people see different aspects of us as we progress in our careers and handle the opportunities and challenges along the way,” said Barra in a LinkedIn post.

8. Go out on a date. Make it weekly for it to really count- Entrepreneur John Michael Morgan, best selling author of Brand Against The Machine, lets his wife have the floor to speak on the importance of dating. She writes in her husband’s blog, “schedule a date night right now and use that alone time to create or re-evaluate your vision. What do you want your lives to look like in the next 5, 10, 20-plus years?”

9. Don’t forget to spend quality time with your family- Make sure you’re always available for your loved ones, and never put the business over them. Even billionaire entrepreneurs have a home life. Shark Tank co-host Mark Cuban told a South by Southwest audience:”On the weekends we have [a nanny] in the morning, so Tiff and I go work out Saturday mornings. Then the rest of the weekend it’s just us. It’s us putting them to bed. It’s us at dinner. We try to be as normal as possible.”


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Series on Work-Life Balance: Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook, a mother of two, and an outspoken advocate for women leaders. Here’s one more reason she rocks: she doesn’t pretend it’s easy. “So there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance,” said Sandberg in an interview for the Makers series from PBS and AOL, The Huffington Post’s parent company.

The Facebook COO acknowledged the difficulties of being a working mother trying to juggle family responsibilities with a high power job. She also shared practical things women — and, importantly, men — can do to help women succeed in their careers and make a challenging situation work a bit better.

Women should choose a spouse who will support their ambitions, not only by offering words of encouragement, but by doing half of the work at home, from changing half of the diapers to doing half of the laundry, Sandberg advised.
Women face two key challenges men do not, Sandberg argued: they experience guilt for working full time, and the more they succeed, the less they’re liked.

“I feel guilty when my son says, ‘Mommy, put down the BlackBerry, talk to me’ and that happens far too much. I think all women feel guilty. I think what’s interesting is I don’t know many men who feel guilty,” Sandberg said. “I don’t know a lot of men who feel guilty for working full time, it’s expected that they’ll work full time…I wonder if there were more shared responsibility if more men would feel guilty too and women would feel less of it.”

Sandberg noted that for years she’s left work at 5:30 PM so she could be home for dinner with her children, but has only recently started saying so publicly. Her hope, she said, is that discussing it openly will encourage others to feel comfortable doing the same.

Helping women to reach their full potential requires the world to become more accepting of powerful and successful women, Sandberg argued, adding that women face a trade-off between success and likability that men do not. “A woman, if you’re most intelligent or most likely to succeed, that’s an embarrassing thing or something that’s not considered attractive, and that’s something we need to change,” said Sandberg.

The Facebook COO was herself voted “most likely to succeed” in high school. She forced the yearbook editor to bury the title and pick someone else for the award, she said. Sandberg added, “I want to tell any young girl out there who’s a geek, I was a really serious geek in high school. It works out. Study harder.”


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Series on Work-Life Balance: Lothian and Borders Police

There has been a concentrated effort on the development of Work-Life Balance in the LBP or Lothian and Borders Police that employs approximately 2,600 police officers and 1,100 support staff. Its headquarters are in the centre of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city. Its mission, central to policy development and operational goals, is “to prevent crime, keep the peace, protect and reassure the community, uphold the law firmly and fairly, and pursue and identify those who break the law.”

Donald Ramsay, the personnel services manager at LBP, explains that development of work-life balance programs to make workplace policies more user-friendly is now an important area of people management for a number of reasons. First, greater work is now requested from serving officers and support staff. Flexibility is also expected by new applicants, including women and minority groups, whom LBP is targeting in their recruitment drives. Secondly, the combined effects of more employment legislation and the high media profile of discrimination cases make it more important to avoid potential discrimination. Lastly, it is recognized that work-life balance policies should be applied consistently and that management style is highly significant in ensuring consistency.

Louise Parker joined LBP in 1997 as a full-time clerical assistant. After three years she began to think seriously about travelling. In March 2000, she requested a year off to travel; by June 2000 she was flying to Australia to explore Southeast Asia on her own. In taking what Mariana Forsyth, HR advisor, calls “the purest form of work-life balance” while someone else filled her job on a fixed-term contract, Parker returned to LBP 54 weeks later a completely different person. Her experience played a large part in changing her perspectives and developing her skills so she can bring added qualities to work. Learning about different cultures, challenging stereotypes, improving communication skills and developing self-confidence are all cited by Parker as part of her personal learning journey. While on her travels, Parker felt comfort knowing that there was a job to return to. During her career break, though, she received no employee benefits; in effect, a career break suspends an employment contract until resumption of the job.

Nearly a year after her return, Parker admits to still feeling that she is settling back into work, a process she has found “really difficult…I felt a lot of pressure on myself when I first came back as I had to relearn policies and basically how things work.” At the same time, however, she says she is absolutely committed to her job and strongly feels that she should give something back. Further, now promoted to a divisional personnel officer and studying part-time for a postgraduate diploma, she reports on having “a different and better perspective on how to deal with people.” Several colleagues and Ramsay testify to the positive change in Parker due to her wider life experience. Ramsay firmly believes that Parker is a success story that has benefited the Department and Force.

With regard to the more general organizational effects of work-life balance, Ramsay asserts that there is now “a much greater awareness of work-life balance throughout the force; staff realize we will try to accommodate flexible working.”


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Series on Work-Life Balance: Scottish Court Service

In this write up on Work-Life Balance read how the Scottish Court Service a government organization, has incorporated work-life balance measures to create a congenial work environment.

The Scottish Court Service (SCS) comprises 52 court sites and employs approximately 1,000 civil servants.

According to SCS Human Resource Director Alan Swift, SCS has always been enlightened in its human resource policies. However, it was not until 1998 and ’99 that SCS started to get serious about work-life balance. Discussions with the Public and Commercial Services Union over paternity leave, the loss of some key staff (in particular women, who comprise 57 percent of the workforce), competition for recruiting quality staff, and an internal exploration about what it meant to work for the service all contributed to the new focus on work-life balance policies and practice. The most important of these factors was the loss of female staff, who said they were leaving because they were unable to reconcile their work and family commitments.

Today, SCS offers a variety of such arrangements, which, according to Chief Executive John Ewing, “help people to give their best at work” and improve staff retention. The new arrangements also signal to current and potential employees that they are valued and treated well in the organization.

The SCS developed the work-life balance policies and procedures using a participative approach including the involvement of all staff. The birth of his third child five years ago was a life-changing event for Joe Smith, then an executive officer at Dumbarton Sheriff Court. Smith’s daughter, Rebecca, was born with a complex heart disease and not expected to live. However, against the odds and after 13 operations which started when she was three days old, Rebecca is now in the first year of elementary school. She has spent about 18 months of her life in the hospital and faces a heart-lung transplant operation at some point in the future.

“From the word go, the managers at SCS supported us,” explains Smith. While Smith and his wife were coping with their daughter’s fragility for the first 18 months of her life, Smith tried to manage work. For a time after he was promoted to the Stirling Sheriff Court, he was driving 84 miles a day from home to work and Rebecca’s hospital. Realizing this situation was not sustainable—and even dangerous—Joe contacted Swift. Smith’s wife, then a court officer in Dunbarton Sheriff Court, was immediately granted extended special leave, and Smith special leave. Smith also accessed the SCS Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for private counselling on managing his daughter’s problems. This service is public-sector (general taxpayer) funded, so it is free to SCS employees though it is privately run on a contract basis. The aim is to help employees deal with any issues that affect their performance and/or attendance at work. As Smith explains, he “began to see the benefits and let them help…it was almost like instant relief, trusting in the policies and the people.” So important was this help that he said he should have done it sooner.

Now in Glasgow Sheriff Court and promoted to higher executive officer, Smith cannot praise the handling of his circumstances highly enough: “All the managers have supported me, and it’s two-way.” Smith speaks highly of the support he, his wife and family received from SCS. Their exceptional circumstances speak to the value of work-life balance arrangements in this organization. Ewing also testifies to the benefits of work-life balance initiatives: “in a pressurized work environment, work-life balance programs signal the value of staff, they can also reduce stress and allow staff to keep contributing at work.”

The SCS currently has a committee, which includes employees who have primary responsibility for caring for dependents, that is focusing on the dimensions of care issues other than childcare (for example, elder care). It is also considering surveying employees about their opinions of SCS’ work-life balance policies during the next staff opinion survey.


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