This week, Emma Ranson Bellamy helps a team leader confront her MD about some ‘real’ issues.
The Japanese word Karoushi, was coined to mean ‘sudden death at work’; as an incredibly successful nation it is incredulous that their work/life balance has tipped the scales so far towards the work ethic that they’ve had to add a new word to the dictionary just to describe what can happen when work becomes the dominating partner.
Last time, I asked you what you’d say to your employer if they were your partner and what you’d hold back? The word courageous comes from the Latin word coeur which means from the heart. Courageous conversations come from the heart and are at the centre of work-life balance. The conversations you have with yourself, primarily about what you can, can’t, will and won’t do for your employer. The conversations you have with your employees and your co-workers, those you have with people that you rely on and whom rely on you.
I recently met with an old friend, Peta, who told me of a situation which was unfolding in her company. A new MD had been appointed and was ‘getting to grips’ with the key staff. For the last three years Peta has taken her team on an away-day, once a quarter to an expensive hotel. Her team are consistently successful and her divisional staff turnover is the lowest in the group. The new MD as part of his fact find has asked her to justify the cost in terms of return on investment.
The members of her team are not co-located so this regular meeting is an opportunity for all the minds to focus on the job in hand and is therefore thought of as a really useful forum for brainstorming and ideas generation.
She felt that her only option was to spend hours filing a report on her team’s successes, unique approach and requirements based on percentage increases of the business compared to other performance divisions. She figured that it would take three or four people several hours each to come up with the information to justify their expenditure.
We explored another option - the ‘courageous’ conversation. How did she feel about it? Which of her key values were in tension? Why was it causing her so much stress? What was the real reason for the MD’s request and how could she assuage any fears he had about the team away-day?
Communication or lack of it is one of the key reasons an individuals work-life balance can fall off the scales. Peta’s situation is no exception. It not only impacts her but her team, subordinates, the MD, and anyone else who is involved in the general detritus of snippets of conversation about the issue at large. This whole situation is costing hundreds of hours of work and energy which could potentially impact group and individual morale as well as the bottom line profit. And all because my ex-colleague will not have a courageous conversation, be honest and speak from the heart with another human being.