Is the Life you’re leading Worth the Price you’re Paying to Live it?

This article was published in the Business Newsday May 3 2012

Do you think that you perform better when you feel healthier and happier? I am almost certain that your answer would be “Yes!” So my next question would be “Do you regularly invest in your own health and happiness and does your business invest in your people’s health and happiness?” Very few when faced with this question can mouth a truthful “Yes.”

Take a step back as you read this and examine your own life. Is this what you saw for yourself? The picture isn’t very pretty is it? Are you working long hours and feeling as if you have not got the luxury of stopping right now? Do you arrive home at night with very little energy left in you? Do you (with good intention) say to yourself that “this” HAS to change, that you can’t continue like “this” for much longer but yet you do AND continue as if unable to stop yourself from the maniacal ride.

What is it going to take for you to reconsider that perhaps HOW you’re working and how you have your team working ISN’T working?

CEO of accounting firm KPMG, Eugene O’Kelly lived exactly like this. “My calendar was perpetually extended out over the next eighteen months. I was always moving at a hundred miles per hour. I worked all the time. I worked weekends. I worked late into many nights. I missed virtually every school function for my younger daughter. My annual travel schedule averaged conservatively, 150,000 miles. Over the course of my last decade with the firm, I did manage to squeeze in workday lunches with my wife. Twice.”

In 2004 at the age of fifty-four, O’Kelly was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. During the final months of his life, he wrote a book entitled Chasing Daylight, about the life he’d lived. “What if I hadn’t work so hard?” he wondered. “What if, aside from doing my job and doing it well, I had actually used the bully pulpit of my position to be a role model for balance? Had I done so intentionally who’s to say that, besides having more time with my family, I wouldn’t also have been even more focused at work? More creative? More productive? ….But I didn’t. Not in the many years I was pushing. It took inoperable late stage brain cancer to get me to examine things from this angle.” O’Kelly died shortly after writing those words.

So I ask you again – a little more seriously: “what is it going to take for you to reconsider that perhaps HOW you’re working and how you have your team working ISN’T working?”

I remember hearing some friends discuss ‘duty travel’ – i.e. travel for work – their bosses got to leave several days earlier than they did for the same conference. They got to rest and recuperate before the start of the event while the employees attending the same conference flew in the night before with an early seven am start of the proceedings.

Many executives can usually tell you which time of the week is best to fly, which hotels you should stay at, and how to schedule meetings so that you fit two in the same day though in separate cities.  Yet many executives are overweight. They rarely take time to exercise while on the road, they skip meals , never get a full nights rest and spend hardly any time just relaxing and recuperating.

Consider these facts from a the Well-Being Journal Blog Post by John Harris, VP and Chief Well-Being Officer for Healthways, Inc. called – Is your Boss Making you Fat?  “While we don’t yet understand exactly how this works, it seems to go something like this.  People who have emotional or social burdens, such as a frustrating work environment, lack of time to spend with their friends, care-giving responsibilities for a close relative, financial problems, or marital strife simply have less time, energy, interest, and propensity to follow the behaviors that result in a healthy weight.  So, a less than supportive boss may not make you fat directly, but it is a factor in an employee’s ability, or lack of ability, to take good care of him or herself.”

Think about that…if you are not supporting your own self in following behaviors that result in a healthier lifestyle how can you even begin to think about this for your staff? Without you even speaking they will usually follow what you do except in the case where bosses clearly communicate that they are MORE important than staff are and as such are entitled to a much better way of life as in my friend’s bosses above!

In their book Be Excellent at Everything, Tony Schwartz with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy PhD described a talk given by a company CEO. He opened his remarks with a story about how he’d returned a few nights earlier from an extended overseas business trip and landed back home at 4 a.m. “It was dark outside, and I could have gone home to get some sleep, take a shower, and change clothes,” he explained exuberantly, “but I realized that this was an incredible opportunity to go straight to the office and get a couple of hours of work done, with no interruptions, before anyone else arrived. And that’s exactly what I did.”

The thing is we cannot change what we do not notice. For this CEO this might by fine for him. For someone else – this way of operating just will not work. Too often we almost seem to let our egos drive us with an insatiable desire to create mini clones of ourselves. What is the point? What will happen when we collaborate if we are leading robots – expecting them to follow our “not always good” lead?

Find out what it takes for you to be healthier and happier. You’ve already said you perform better when you’ve aced both. Then help employees find out how they could be healthier and happier too. You’ve already said that their performance will improve when they’ve aced both.

And now I look you in the eyes and ask once again…just in case you haven’t yet realized the gravity of the question: “what is it going to take for you to reconsider that perhaps HOW you’re working and how you have your team working ISN’T working?”