When most people think of balance at work, they think of work/life balance. Learn about a new type of balance—work/work balance.
Leading a balanced life is a critical aspect of performing well as a leader. And there are two types of balance. We always think about work-life balance in terms of how much time we spend away from the office. But there’s another kind of balance that I encourage you to think about. I call it work/work balance. We need a balance of work that we love to do to balance out the work that we don’t enjoy doing. Because if those get out of balance, we’re gonna be miserable at work. And you probably spend more hours at the office than you do away from it with your friends and your family.
To achieve this work/work balance, you need to set boundaries. Because without boundaries, people are going to violate them all the time. You’re going to be upset, they’re going to be upset, and nobody’s going to know why. So we need to draw those lines. One of my maxims to remind me to set those boundaries is, “I’m going home, you’re doing my job.” This maxim reminds me of a situation where I had a boss who was a bit of a micromanager.
My boss came in one day, very well intended, and got in front of my desk. He said, “Hey Mike, I want you to start thinking about this and this and this and working on that.” I tried to stop him to say, “I have this,” but he kept going. He said, “And think about this and to do that and think about this project.” He kept going on and on.
I kept trying to interrupt, but I was unsuccessful in doing so. The reason I wanted to interrupt was because I had a whiteboard on my wall behind him, and on that whiteboard was every project he was ticking off. Along with the status of it. As he was talking, I was ticking down that list.
I wanted to tell him that I had it covered. But it became clear that I wasn’t going to get my point across so I picked up my briefcase, I put my laptop in it while he was still talking, and put my bag on my shoulder. He had a moment where he said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m going home, you’re doing my job.”
He looked at me a bit puzzled. I said, “Turn around and look at the whiteboard.” He turned around and he looked at the whiteboard. He said, “Okay, I get it.” And I said, “Look, I love working for you. I love getting to do these projects, but if you’re gonna come in here and micromanage me, I’m not going to be satisfied with that work environment, so let me do the work. Now this is on me—I haven’t updated you well on the projects and I’ll try to do a better job of that going forward.”
I had a very good relationship with this boss so it wasn’t really a career limiting move, but I drew a very firm boundary. I said for me to be satisfied with the work that I do, I need to have a certain amount of control and self-direction over that.
So as you think about your work, I’d like you to think about work that you love to do. What separates it? What is it that’s so special about it that you are really excited to go do it? Then think about work you don’t enjoy doing. How do you create a boundary between them? How do you draw a balance to make sure that you’re still getting enough of the work you love to do to balance out the stuff that you’re less satisfied with?
Think about a situation where you were able to clarify that boundary for somebody and get more of the work you enjoy doing. That story about drawing that boundary is good fodder for your maxim on creating work/work balance. If you’re able to then adhere to that maxim and communicate it to others, you’ll be much more satisfied with the work that you do.
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