4 Ways for C-suite Executives to Improve Work-Life Balance

GettyImages-130407663-compressorWork-life balance is definitely an issue for CEOs. Consider Dan Glaser, CEO of Marsh & McLennan Cos. He told The Wall Street Journal that he regrets the time when he put work ahead of school events and sports games. “Your kids are only young once, and you can’t get that moment back. If I have any regrets it’s that one,” said Glaser.

Successfully leading a large company and still having quality family time may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Here are 4 ways for business leaders to improve their work-life balance.

1. Forget complete balance, think “work-life integration”. Few people can ever fully achieve a perfect work-life balance. It can be even harder for a CEO who is often expected to put the company ahead of personal time. Rod Drury, CEO of Xero, said in a Fortune.com post that expecting to find perfect balance simply “sets you up for failure.” Drury says executives need to strive for a work-life integration that brings both work and family life into “more harmony.” He says that while many people work long hours, they’re not always fully engaged. Drury says its important to maximize productivity during working hours, which can reduce time at the office.

“Work-life balance is working as little as you can to get the important stuff done and then taking all the other time and putting it against your family or your interests.”

Work-life integration also means simultaneously ranking priorities at the office and in the home. Earlier in his career, Kayak Software Corp. CEO Steve Hafner used to work 80-hour weeks. The father of four now works about 65 hours weekly, with a flexible schedule. “Work-life balance is working as little as you can to get the important stuff done and then taking all the other time and putting it against your family or your interests,” he said.

2. Avoid nights and weekends. While it’s often easier said than done, it’s important to set boundaries and avoid late nights and weekends. Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck says in an article at Fortune.com that he sets strong rules in his home that includes daily family dinner time with no technology at the table. Tuck also advocates the idea of being “productive wherever you are” to reduce the need to work at night. He also wakes up as early as 4:30 a.m. to squeeze in a couple extra hours of productivity.

“This way, I get a lot of things done before everybody else is awake and can enjoy a little more quality time before the kids head off to school,” says Tuck.

When a weekend is unavoidable, consider bringing the family along. Steve Joyce, CEO of Choice Hotels International, Inc., told the Journal that he takes his girlfriend and children along with him on work trips.

3. Delegate to advisors and staff. Many experts say one of the biggest barriers to achieving more work-life balance is that CEOs are afraid to delegate. Having advisors and staff, and being willing to trust them with tasks, can free up more of your schedule for family and personal time. Micromanaging is not only bad for morale and the work environment, it can curtail a leader’s personal time.

Drury says hiring professionals to handle duties and areas where you’re not as strong not only enables you to run the business better but allows you to take time off when you need it. “I’m constantly telling my team that things are their call and to make decisions I don’t need to see,” says Drury.

4. Schedule personal time. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson told Entrepreneur.com that even when an executive is busier than they can handle is exactly the time they need a break. He says when people struggle to balance their home life with career commitments, both can suffer. Branson says family time has to be made a priority and scheduled much like business appointments. “When you’re facing an avalanche of appointments, book time to spend with your family. Put it in your work diary,” says Branson.

Setting clear time limits and boundaries may seem difficult at first, but many high-profile leaders accomplish it. Ron Johnson, current CEO of Enjoy and former CEO of JC Penney told the Journal that he only schedules meetings between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. so that he can coach his children’s sports teams.

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Craig Guillot
Craig Guillot is a business writer based in New Orleans, La. His work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com and CNBC.com. You can read more about his work at www.craigdguillot.com.

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