Monday, July 17, 2017
It was a long overdue vacation after having put in almost three years of relentless effort towards the digital transformation of the company, the fruits were visible. It was a much deserved vacation, as his manager told him packing him off for a couple of weeks. He was anxious as he planned his sojourn, worried a bit, what if things fell apart or an exception brought down the system or impacted the business. He feebly voiced his concerns to his team, who reassured him of full support during his leave of absence.
His family was delighted and off they went to their long pending and promised vacation; on his part he packed his work gear hoping to stay in touch with the team and his customers, ready to intervene should anything require his attention. Days passed by uneventfully as he frequently checked his email and messages – they revealed nothing untoward. Unable to control his anxiety, he called his trusted lieutenant; he was surprised to hear that there indeed had been some issues, which the team resolved but did not disturb him.
In another part of the world a slightly different situation played itself out; the CXO was going off for his scheduled bi-annual vacation, something he never missed. Every six months he took off with family, at times to locations that had no modern amenities like internet access or cellphone network. His coordinates were always known and in case of an emergency, he could be contacted; the occasion never occurred as nothing was seen as so critical that required his intervention or could not wait until his return.
Credit to him, he had built an able and professional team that did not require their leader to keep the company running. Without exception they were empowered to take decisions which they did and sought validation at a later date upon his return. Until this time, when his Assistant frantically contacted him breaking the golden rule only to be greeted by a crisp response on why she bothered to disturb his R&R (Rest & Recreation/Rest & Relaxation, a military term now used by the corporate world for senior executive leaves).
In both cases the company continued to function with insignificant disruption by events that unfolded during the respective absences. It would be false to say that they were not missed, but the organizations had the resilience to continue to operate. The differences quite stark between the two corporate high achievers, the first could not disconnect from his work and the second could create a clean break. As a matter of record, they were both equally loved and respected by their team, peers, bosses and their customers.
Was the first leader insecure or did not trust the team to manage the operations effectively ? Did he feel the lack of control during his absence cut out from the day to day hullabaloo and fighting crisis like situations ? Had he got addicted to the adrenaline rush and importance was making his life miserable ? It was a matter of prioritization between work and life; he had lived through his career focused only on getting results in his professional life, which he did get with movement up the corporate ladder quicker than others.
The latter case was about confidence, conviction, delegation, and a firm belief that that the best course is to work hard with clearly demarcated lines between work and family. His rise through the ranks was equally fast and the future looked bright with more to come; he had consciously worked to balance his corporate commitments with the time spent with his family. He was unwilling to compromise this while proving the cynics wrong that such an attitude will adversely impact career growth and opportunities.
Enterprises demonstrate and have resilience far higher than individuals believe in their belief of self-importance to their role, responsibility and impact to the company. People come and go, planned and abruptly, at times fired, and in all cases they do leave a gap; the company self-heals and moves on irrespective of hierarchy, location, position of power, there are others who fill in. With time some leave their mark – to be remembered for the legacy they leave behind – positive or negative, the others fade into oblivion.
It is up to every individual to decide how we react to incidences, what we portray ourselves as, dependencies we build at workplace, work in a team and manage one in our professional lives. We also determine how we present ourselves to our families, friends and society; our identity unfolds in many ways though we are largely known by our professional identities. The work-life balance is no longer an enigma, it is a moving target which keeps shifting; there is no right or wrong or benchmark to follow, it’s a mirage !