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Work-life balance

Chasing The Dream | Work-Life Balance and The Business Owner

We have enlisted the prose of Ana Adams at TQSolutions (TQ) to guest blog here at PIER Marketing.

Are you a business owner (or any business leader in fact) struggling to find some balance between the challenges and opportunities of running a business, and the people and interests you have outside of work? Does it feel like everyone’s talking about work-life balance, but you can’t see how to make this happen? Identifying how to make a sustainable change can feel overwhelming when you're in the thick of it, so read on if you want some hot tips on how to make this change a reality.

The way people engage with work in Australia is changing. Increasingly we are embracing the gig-economy and job seekers see flexibility and work-life balance as table stakes rather than the exception. A trend that was reflected in a 2018 SEEK survey in which Australian job seekers identified ‘flexible working arrangements’ as the most appealing company perk for job seekers (identified by 57% of respondents).

But what about the business owner? The self-made entrepreneur who has grown their business through a strong work ethic, personal drive and unyielding commitment. The leader who has achieved success by always being available and striving to be across every detail to ensure that their business won’t fail.

At TQ, we are regularly approached by business owners and leaders who, after years of relentless dedication, are approaching burnout and determined to secure more personal balance in their lives without their business suffering as a result. We wanted to share some insight for how to set about it.

1. Start with yourself - Understand the ‘why’

It’s critical that you carve out some time at the beginning of this journey to consider what is really important to you:

  • What drives you at work and in your personal life and gives you positive energy?
  • Why did you start the business in the first place? Does that still apply?
  • What would it mean to you if you could achieve better work-life balance and how would you spend that time?
  • What is the risk if you don’t make the change for you, your loved ones and the people that rely on you for work?

It’s really important that you are honest with yourself through this process, making a change may be challenging at first and you will be tempted to revert to old ways of work when the going gets tough. Having some clear goals and benefits identified up front will help motivate you throughout the change process.

The Bridge Careers Drivers exercise is a simple yet effective tool that you can use to help prioritise what is really important to you.

2. Be honest, open to feedback and self-reflective

As the business leader the reality is that you have set the tone and established your current way of working. The honest truth is that what has made you successful in the past is not going to help you achieve the goal of carving out some balance in your life, in fact some of your ingrained behaviours may be contributing to the challenge.

Think about your own behaviours and how these could be contributing to your way of working:

  • How do you show that you trust your team? Set clear expectations? Challenge them to be the best that they can be?
  • Where do you spend your leadership time? Are you spending time on engaging your team and helping them be successful or are you stuck on the tools yourself?
  • Do you always provide answers or do you ask the right questions to encourage your team to find solutions and learn along the way?
  • Are you encouraging people to think at work or simply follow directions?
  • How are you setting the tone around work-life balance across your team?
  • Are you actively considering effort vs impact in the way that you and your team work?

If you are unsure about the answers to the above – ask for feedback or advice from those that you trust to be honest with you. An executive coach is a great option if you want someone independent to help you work through the process of building self-awareness and new ways of working. Invest in yourself and read books to identify ideas for new ways of working. ‘Traction’ by Gino Wickman or ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek are two great places to start, but a simple google search on ‘best books for small business owners’ will give you some other great ideas. If you are struggling to find time to read consider using audio book whilst exercising or in the car.

And remember – implementing sustainable change is a journey, make sure you keep getting feedback and advice along the way. As you try new approaches to working you are bound to make some mistakes, your trusted advisors can help you identify these early and self-correct as you learn and evolve your way of working.

3. Focus on the team

Make sure you have the right people in the right roles. It is important that you have a team that you can trust to look after the business whilst you are out/away:

  • Do you have a strong second in command (2IC)? Are the team really motivated and engaged?
  • Is there trust? How are you demonstrating your trust for the team?
  • Do you have single point sensitivities in your structure?
  • How well does the team communicate and collaborate with each other to find solutions?
  • Do you have a clear vision and consistent culture?

Part of empowering the team is ensuring that there is a clear vision that is compelling and meaningful to the team:

  • Work with your team to identify ‘where do we want to be in 5 years?’
  • What do we want to be known for?
  • How will we measure our success?
  • Why is this vision meaningful for the team?
  • What will it mean for us if we achieve that vision?
  • What are the behaviours that are needed to achieve that vision?

By identifying some clear team or company values (or ways of working) you can drive more consistency and clarity across the team. This in turn can help attract the right people and ensure they are aligned to your culture and that the team are making value aligned decisions when you are away from the office.

Check out this great Health Monitor tool by Atlassian to help you get started thinking about your team and your way of working together.

4. Be authentic and open

Be honest, authentic and optimistic with your team about the journey that you are on, why work-life balance is important to you and what support you need from them to make this happen. Remember that looking after yourself and your well-being will help you make better decisions, be more effective, engaging and supportive so it makes sense commercially as well as personally.

If done well, this authentic approach can be a great way to role-model healthy work habits and empower others to improve their well-being at work. It can also create trust, respect and open up lines of genuine communication with your team.

Here’s a great Forbes article on 5 Keys to Authentic Leadership to get your started

5. Don’t forget the small and simple steps

It can take some time to change your way of working and how this flows through to the team, so don’t forget to focus on the quick wins early in the piece to help you manage your energy levels and focus whilst you make a lasting change.

Make simple, small changes to the way you work:

  • Book regular holidays, be clear about who owns work whilst you are away so that you can really switch off.
  • Find time in the day when you can turn your phone off so that you can get mental down time and really engage with activities, friends or family. Tell your team and make sure you let them know you are doing this because you have faith in them.
  • Set up some time to work from home, consider whether this makes you more productive?
  • Consider how you structure your day. Think about when you are the most productive (such as the morning) and do the hardest jobs then.
  • Get outside and get moving. Are there any meetings with the team that could be done over an afternoon walk rather than in the office?

6. Automate the small things

There is wonderful technology available that can automate many of the day to day tasks that may be taking up your time. Embracing this technology can free you up to focus on more meaningful activities. Here’s a useful Ted Talk by Laura Vanderkam with some inspiration on how to gain control of your free time.

Here are some examples of technology which is readily available, cloud based, easy and cost effective to install:

  • Automated invoicing systems
  • Mobile payment technology
  • Virtual assistants who can manage your messages
  • Time sheeting
  • Project management systems 

7. Create space for fresh thinking and new ideas

Sometimes you come up with the best ideas when you are out of the office and have time and space to think:

  • Exercise and mindfulness can be great activities to do which stimulate innovate thought and problem solving.
  • So, get outside and get active, walk, run, ride or swim and see if it makes a difference.
  • Applications such as Headspace or Calm can be a great way to practice guided mindfulness for beginners and form great wellness habits, it only takes 10 minutes a day!

As a business owner, only you can take the first steps in the journey towards improved well-being and work-life balance. If you are currently feeling burned out and overwhelmed, it’s very likely that this is also negatively impacting on your family, friends and team at work. It can be hard to take the first step when feeling overwhelmed. A fresh perspective can be instrumental in finding a way forward, so why not reach out to me or the team at TQ. We can help you identify what success looks like for you and partner with you to build an actionable plan to make this a reality.

If you would like to discuss your marketing activity and strategy for 2020 and beyond, the team at PIER would be delighted to meet with you and offer a complimentary review of your marketing plan. Give the PIER team a shout - (03) 5975 3742 / hello@piermarketing.com.au.