Developing a winning team that comes to work every day driven by their desire to succeed and a passion for their job is a core goal of every leader in every industry. But leaders and team members are always people first, and how we live outside of office hours directly affects what happens during the work day.
That’s why former CEO and author Harry Kraemer was invited to speak at Felix’s recent Future of Work and Life 2.0 HR Symposium – to highlight the ways in which living a values-based life and finding balance in our day-to-day develops the leaders needed for an evolving future of work and life where our personal and professional lives are more closely intertwined. Here is how living your values and finding life balance can inspire your team and make you a better leader.
How We’re Preparing Today’s Leaders
How to Become a Values-based Leader
For former CEO, professor and author Harry Kraemer, developing effective leaders, teams and organizations come down to ensuring everyone is operating true to their own values with an understanding of why they are doing the work they’re doing while also living a life of balance.
But how can we each learn to live a balanced life based on our personal values?
Start By Evaluating Your 168
The basis for Harry’s latest book, Your 168: Finding Purpose and Satisfaction in a Values-Based Life, is the idea that we should be spending the 168 hours we each have in a week in ways that are intentional and thoughtful. If you think about everything you want to accomplish in these 168 hours, you will likely find there are more things that you want to do than can actually get done.
As Harry explains, for most of us, our 168 includes completing our work, spending time with family and friends, addressing our health by exercising and getting enough sleep, and having a bit of fun. Others may feel an additional moral obligation to be active in their communities and/or practice their spirituality.
Traditionally, we would have tried to tackle all these by trying to move through each as quickly as we could and multi-tasking, but as Harry points out, this idea of just trying to go faster is not sustainable and does not equal productivity. Rather, we should be slowing down and evaluating what can and should be done via self-reflection.
According to Harry, the main reason people are having a hard time balancing their life is because they haven’t looked deeply enough at just what it is that they are trying to balance. In Harry’s view, if you haven't figured out what you are trying to do, how could you possibly do it? This is why the first step Harry suggests people take is to engage in self-reflection.
Self-reflection means breaking away from all the distractions and taking time to turn inwards and ask yourself a series of key questions. For Harry, these questions include:
- What are my values?
- What truly matters to me?
- What is my purpose?
- What kind of leader do I want to be?
- What example do I want to set?
This exercise is especially useful for leaders because they are similarly running teams of people experiencing the same difficulties in balancing their priorities.
While self-reflection hasn’t conventionally been thought of as a key exercise in career- and skill-building, beliefs are changing. If you’re struggling to see the connection self-reflection has to building a successful leader, Harry paints a thoughtful picture: if a leader can understand how to lead themselves, it helps them in being able to lead others.
Ultimately, understanding and placing importance on your own values through self-reflection will likely translate to understanding and respecting the values of others, helping you as a leader to better anticipate and meet their needs. This further helps to build respect and trust amongst team members and leads to better leadership overall.
Incorporating self-reflection doesn’t have to be hard, either. For Harry, incorporating self-reflection into your day can look like taking 15 minutes at the end of your night to ask yourself: What did I say I was going to do today? What did I actually do? What am I proud of? What am I not proud of? How did I lead people? How did I follow people? If I lived today over again, what would I have done differently?
Based on what you learn in these exercises, Harry explains that you can then use that knowledge to apply it to your next day and figure out how you will operate differently. The key thing to remember is that self-reflection is a great tool that leads to key understandings as well as opportunities to improve ourselves in all areas of our lives, including as leaders. This can further inspire team members to do the same.
There are two specific benefits to self-reflection that Harry highlights in his keynote:
- Reduces the time you waste being surprised
Harry calls out a lot of people’s surprise when things don’t work out as a big waste of time. Whether in your personal or professional life, many of the things that do not go your way can be understood as a result of certain actions (or inactions) that you took yourself, and self-reflection is a great way to assess why things go or could go a certain way.
Indeed, life is a series of ups and downs, so being able to minimize that level of surprise and understand why you hit a time of particular hardship can save a lot of time and promote resilience, especially for leaders who already have a lot on their plates.
- Helps to manage life’s stresses and adds perspective
There’s no doubt that like most people, leaders face a lot of worry, fear, anxiety, pressure and stress. But self-reflection as a way to better understand yourself and your values allows for a level of trust and confidence in who you are. If you can trust that no matter what tomorrow may present to you, you will continue to do your best and do what is right according to your values, Harry believes you will reduce a lot of your own worries, fears, anxieties, pressures and overall stress.
Similarly, self-reflection can reduce pressure and stress by putting much of our world into perspective. There are a lot of added worries that do not have bearing on as much of our lives as we think they do, and leaders who place perspective on these aspects are much better at reducing their own and their team’s stress. As Harry accurately points out, life is a marathon, it’s best we pace ourselves.
Pursuing Life Balance
Where self-reflective leaders can make a huge difference in their own lives and, consequently, the lives of their employees is their pursuit of a life balance. As Harry explains, he prefers the idea of a “life balance” replacing the common phrase “work-life balance” because work-life balance insinuates we’re either working or living, when in fact, we are doing both. Leaders who consistently reinforce their need for a life balance by doing things such as leaving work at a reasonable hour and not sacrificing important personal and familial commitments reflect the fact that they value balance within their own lives and their team members’ lives, which in turn inspires their team members to do the same.
Balancing Our 6 Life Buckets
When it comes to pursuing life balance, Harry recognizes six universal life buckets that people tend to use to categorize their life.
- Career/Continuous Education
- People We Care About
- Social Responsibility/Being the Best Citizen
While we want to say we are dedicating the desired amount of time in our lives to each of these six life buckets, assessing where our time goes is necessary. According to Harry, individuals can evaluate these buckets by assigning a percentage of time they want to spend on each of them and then comparing it to the actual percentage of time spent over the last several months.
It will be rare to find someone who has an exact match across the board, and while Harry doesn't believe it’s possible to achieve a perfect life balance, we can still pursue it and be close to achieving balance. If we find there’s a large gap between our goal and what we’re actually doing, self-reflection is what we can use to decide what’s really important and where priorities need to shift. Because if you don’t know what is important to you, how do you know where your energy really needs to go?
For example, many complain their work takes up most of their time, and it’s out of their control. But Harry questions whether leaders have asked themselves how much of the work they’re doing really needs to be done. Harry estimates that in all his experience visiting large companies, at least 25-30% of what they do can be eliminated without affecting the customer or business. Oftentimes, people just do things because that’s how it’s been done, not questioning why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Again, this is where self-reflection becomes important, helping leaders to decide what to do less of or eliminate and what to make sure gets done and gets added to their 168. When determining priorities, remember: be disciplined, stay focused and do it consistently as you then start to establish credibility with yourself. Having credibility with yourself can then create credibility with others.
Achieving Life Balance Through Flexibility
Ultimately, for Harry, leadership is based on three key components: leadership, influence, and the ability to relate. If leaders can figure out how to relate to team members as individuals, they can influence them, if they can influence them, they can lead them.
Relating to people is where offering flexibility becomes important. We have to allow people the flexibility to live their lives while they work. As a leader, treating employees as people and not just professionals shows that you care, and that can have incredible impacts. Allowing team members to balance their lives while still getting the job done is truly a mark of a great and inspirational leader, and it all starts by setting yourself as the example.
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