Numerous elements influence everyone’s life and work. Through my research, interviews, and analysis, I have narrowed these elements down to several work and life-factors. Together, these work-life factors allow team members to be their best.
You can think of the life-factors interchangeably as one’s “self-factors,” the attributes and traits that help people operate as individuals— as human beings. The work-factors are fundamental tenets that facilitate a team member’s level of buy-in to the organization’s ambitions.
An individual’s interpretation of the work-life factors will change over their career and lifespan. They will rise, fall, and rise again. The cycle is endless. They will positively or negatively affect people. Or both. It will be different for you and anyone you might lead.
In navigating this undulation, you, as a leader, need to be vigilant. The entire organization might not be fully engaged or high-performing at the same time.
Let’s imagine one of your fully engaged and high-performing team members has decided to start a family. They’ve become nervous about the pending new addition. They’re going through several changes with some of their life-factors. Are you able to help them through the transition? When they return to work after their parental leave, do they need to be high-performing again, even engaged? Maybe it’s okay for them to be average for a few years. Various work-life factors constantly affect every team member’s disposition. No one will ever remain highly engaged over their entire career. It’s impossible.
Work and life do affect one another, whether simultaneously or independently, positively or negatively. There might be a short-term issue or a slow-building, long-term one. All of it will impact your leadership abilities, let alone your team’s success. As Arianna Huffington points out in her 2014 book, Thrive, “It’s not ‘What do I want to do?’, it’s ‘What kind of life do I want to have?’” Put differently, what kind of leader do you want to be?
Let’s imagine you’re a vice-president of communications. Consider the hypothetical story of Sakura, someone who has been on your team for the past three years and fully subscribes to the organization’s culture and its operating norms. Sakura is in her late 30s and has an extensive network that she has built up over her ten years at the company. She is an effective director of communications and has mentioned several times to you this year that she’s really clicking when it comes to operating with a sense of meaning. She feels valued and talks about how much trust there is across the team. Sakura certainly acts and performs like someone who is prospering at work and in life, an individual who is high-performing and confidently tending to her garden box.
Let’s consider someone else from your hypothetical team, Arjun. Arjun has been a manager on the team for five years and doesn’t believe the company operates with any higher purpose. He has told you repeatedly in your one-on-one meetings that he is also unclear about the organization’s strategy. Worse, he recently doesn’t feel like he fits in with the team. Arjun’s trust levels are declining, his confidence is waning, his well-being is in question, and he’s feeling rather lonely, both at work and outside of it. Arjun’s work-life factors are almost the opposite of Sakura’s.
How does Arjun’s frame of mind affect his performance? How does Sakura’s? What issues could both situations cause for the rest of the team? How do both situations potentially shape you as a leader?
Sakura’s and Arjun’s work-life situations are unlikely to remain in these permutations forever. Work and life both ebb and flow. As leaders, we must always prepare for a potential pressure change. The above situations could easily shift depending on how work or life affects either team member. These two examples illustrate the need for you to
- Pay attention to various work- and life-factors that affect team members regardless of their job title.
- Be mindful of events that can positively or negatively affect a team member.
- Be equipped with a few leadership tools to help them do something about the negative effects of work- and life-factors.
May I take this opportunity to introduce you warmly and formally to a better term than work-life balance and employee engagement?
“Bloom” is both a noun and a verb. If we focus on the word as a verb, to bloom is to mature into realizing one’s potential.
At the intersection of work and life, you should begin aspiring to reach a state of blooming. As a leader, you should begin applying the same thinking while leading your team members.
Work ought to become a place of development, an enriching place of possibility that also helps team members in life, forging a growing repertoire of talents. You as a leader have a responsibility to help nourish your team members’ life-factors, which will then benefit both the individual and the organization. Win-win.
However, that is only half the equation. As any garden box could tell you, a sunrise always follows a sunset. After the auburn colours of fall come the harsh whites of winter. Thus, you are also responsible for creating the circumstances at work in which team members can conduct themselves positively, regardless of potentially competing forces. You need to build an employee experience that not only allows people the chance to bloom but also draws on techniques to help people be their best.
It is time to help your people to bloom, to be their best. It’s a far better proposition than to balance or be perpetually engaged.
Excerpted from Work-Life Bloom: How to Nurture a Team That Flourishes by Dan Pontefract, published by Figure 1 Publishing, November 7, 2023