One of the things that has been a surprising outcome of meeting with groups of leaders during 2020 is a definite change in the usual priorities. Once the urgency of protecting the business and preserving the company was in place, leaders started talking about other things. The often-robust conversations of a purely commercial nature became deeper, and more personal. Forced time away from work, more connexion with family, and a prevaling threat helped us all, to reassess our priorities. My 2020 hindsight, leadership lockdown lesson is the importance of putting ‘love’ first. Yes this is commercial leadership content and yes I’m talking about love. I’m even going to quote an Italian poet. Please bear with me.
“True love cannot be found where it does not exist, nor can it be denied where it does,” according to Torquato Tasso. I think it's very important to get right as business leaders. If we get this wrong, we can build a great business, have amazing commercial success, yet end up with broken health and broken relationships. We can do unintended damage and live with regrets, even in the midst of outward success. Yet if we can learn to constantly reassess our priorities, and be mindful of them, in the midst of the insanely busy commercial world, we can have our cake and eat it too. We can maintain sustainable relationships, live lead and love. The irony of trying to bring some balance, is that often we get better results and longer-term productivity.
I sometimes ask leaders to rank, three variables; wealth, health, and love. Most leaders, in their sane moments, put good health and love, above wealth. Although I did have an interesting conversation with someone who asked, “how much wealth are we talking about? The simple priority stack of health and love being more important than wealth, which would be held as universally true, with the possible exception of my friend previously mentioned. And yet the truth of it is, that many many leaders, tragically destroy their own health, and their relationships, in the pursuit of commercial success and wealth. Whilst we would all like to leave a financial legacy, a true legacy is so much more than just that. Not many of us on our deathbeds would say, “gee I wish I spent more time at work”.
I have a friend who is also a fellow facilitator from South America, who takes some of his business leaders and get some to write an obituary, their own obituary. That's a tough ask, but he makes it even harder by doing it in a graveyard. Not something participants will easily forget. Hopefully we don't have to go to those extremes to just sit and assess our priorities for a moment, and see how we can bring life into balance, to ensure that our health and our relationships do take priority over our well-meaning drive to succeed.
However, I do genuinely believe a work life balance is a misnomer. 24/7 lives have to be more of a blend but managed with firm boundaries and clear priorities. It is something we have to revisit all the time; or is it just me. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg said, “there's no such thing as work-life balance. There's work, and there's life, and there's no balance.” The answer is that we can construct our lives sustainably, with clear priorities and recognising that they change, dependent on seasons of life and the prevailing environment. Perhaps one of the good things that's come out of this year, and my 2020 hindsight is to remember to put “love first.”