Tag Archives: personal development

Rethink Life Balance with Boundaries

I received this article in the Center for Creative Leadership newsletter and find it a very practical perspective towards work/life balance.

Balance is a Faulty Metaphor

Balance is a Faulty Metaphor

If Work/Life is a hot topic (or pressure point) for employees in your organization, resolve to change the conversation in 2015.

“Stop talking about balance,” says CCL’s Marian Ruderman. “Balance is a faulty metaphor, using a trade-off mentality to describe work and non-work time.”

“Our research suggests that boundaries are more important than balance — and give us a more dynamic, realistic and personalized image to work with,” Ruderman continues.

Many of us don’t feel balanced, and the idea of balance just isn’t helpful. We stress and struggle to live up to an image of doing it all and in just the right amounts. If we think about boundaries instead, more options open up — for individuals and for organizations.

People have different styles in how they manage the boundaries between work and non-work. CCL, in collaboration with Ellen Ernst Kossek, Ph.D., of Perdue University has developed a model of boundaries that combines behavioral preferences, with identity and a sense of control. This research has identified five work/life types, or behavioral preferences. Out of 4,418 people who completed CCL’s WorkLife Indicator, here’s what we’ve found about the way people prefer to behave in terms of boundaries.

  • 42% are Separators, preferring to keep work and personal tasks and commitments separated with a clear boundary between the two. They tend to work during “business hours” and from a work location. Work stuff stays at work and home stuff stays at home. This is the more traditional style of working that has become challenged by a global business environment and technology that goes everywhere. An example of this style is the person who rarely, if ever, takes work with them on weekends or vacations. This person would also never schedule a family activity during work time.
  • 24% are Integrators, blending work with personal tasks and commitments throughout the day. Their work life interrupts home life and vice versa. They move from business calls to running personal errands to taking care of someone; managing tasks anytime from anywhere. An example of this style is someone who takes a long lunch break to exercise, but then offsets it by working from home that night.
  • 24% are Cyclers, switching back and forth between periods of integrating family and work followed by periods of intentionally separating them. An example of this style is a person who travels often or who has seasonal or project-driven work. Others may cycle around school schedules, custody agreements or other personal circumstances.
  • 7% are Work Firsters, putting their work schedule first and protecting work time. They let work activities interrupt family time, but do not let family matters interrupt work. An example of this style is a parent who answers emails and makes work calls at sports events, family dinners and vacations — but rarely makes personal calls at work.
  • 3% are Family Firsters, putting their family schedule first. They allow work to be interrupted by family needs, but protect their family time from work interruptions. An example of this style is a parent who rearranges work to care for a sick child or elderly relative — but rarely gives up family time for work.

Ideally, jobs and life circumstances match a person’s preferred way to set boundaries. The work/life juggle may still be hectic, but it will be more satisfying and productive. That’s because the more control a person has over where, how and when they work and how they manage other responsibilities, the easier it is for them to fit the different pieces of life together. Boundary control is another factor we measure with the WorkLife Indicator, and our database of 4,418 shows:

  • 52% have High Boundary Control. They decide when to focus on work, when to focus on family, or when to blend the two. For example; they may decide to stay late at the office to finish a large project. Or, they might decide to attend a school event on a weekday morning and arrive at the office mid-day. Individuals with high boundary control feel they have the authority and ability to make these decisions and to manage any resulting trade-offs.
  • 12% have Mid-level Boundary Control. They sometimes decide when to focus on work, when to focus on family or when to blend the two, but there are times when they feel they have no choice. For example, they can sometimes focus their attention and time on family matters during work hours, but there are times they would like to use another approach but cannot. They may want to separate or integrate more than they are able to. As a result, they often try to limit the amount of times they “cash in this chip.”
  • 36% have Low Boundary Control. They do not decide when they focus on work, when they focus on family or when they blend the two. In most cases, these limitations are established by the type of job they have, their personal circumstances or both.


Are you a High Achiever?

High achievers are ambitious, goal-focused, self-disciplined individuals, who are driven by a strong personal desire to accomplish meaningful, important goals.

According to David McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory  , there are three main motivators that determine who we are: the needs for achievement, affiliation and power. With high achievers, the dominant driver is the need for achievement.

There are several ways to spot the high achievers on your team:

  • They take charge easily and display natural leadership qualities – often helping fellow team members achieve their goals.
  • They have strong long-term focus   and self-discipline  . High achievers like to set a goal, and then work persistently towards it until it has been completed.
  • High achievers frequently have an internal locus of control  . They believe that they, and they alone, are responsible for where they’ll end up in life.
  • They like to be the “go to” person in their team, company or industry, and are willing to put in the effort needed to develop their expertise   – often pursuing professional development on their own.
  • High achievers typically have a positive mind-set. They see challenging projects as opportunities, not threats. Their positive outlook helps them overcome setbacks and stick with a task until it’s complete.

In short, they’re great! However, managing this type of person can sometimes be challenging.

For example, high achievers can be perfectionists  . In some cases, their desire to complete a task to perfection can actually limit productivity. They may also find it difficult to ask for assistance when they need it, and they are often reluctant todelegate   tasks (believing that no one can do them as well as they can).

Some high achievers worry that others will feel intimidated by their success, or will have unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve. Other high achievers can worry that they can’t live up to their reputation forever, and can start to avoid projects whose success is uncertain. As a result, these people can come to favor the routine and familiar over challenge and personal growth, which can result in their career growth reaching a plateau.

Other high achievers may be intensely competitive – some competitive spirit can drive a team to greater heights, but too much competition can cause stress and harm group morale.

(To read the full article about High-Achievers, visit MindTools here )