By Michael Holland

I’m so tired of hearing people talking about balancing their workloads, balancing their lives between home and work, balancing commitment to goals, balancing the needs of employees with the needs of the business.

The reality is there is not a balance or equilibrium.  We have been trained to think this false belief of a perfect balance that can be obtained.

As leaders, our role is to trend well.  To move our teams forward towards the goals set forth.  There are tradeoffs to be made and every decision means there will be someone who won’t be fully happy with the outcome.  When we falsely assume that talking through the decision will create an idealistic space where compromises are understood and forever accepted we are fooling ourselves.

There is no win-win and no balance.  There are these tensions to be managed.

Tension of Work and Home – The heartstring that for most people is constantly taut.  When you ask that employee to work a extra hour this afternoon, they need to manage the tension they may feel and you need to see that tension.  When you tell that Vice President she needs to be in Kansas City for two days later this week, she knows full well the business needs at hand and she knows the personal needs at hand.  There is no balancing those two.  She must pull and push the two worlds in ways that allow the tension to be stretched without breaking.  This is a tension to be managed.

Tension of Conflict – The two employees who are having a conflict won’t suddenly come to a state of nirvana and fully accept the other’s position.  The seeds of their conflict will always be there because they are different people and probably different DiSC styles (What’s DiSC?).  There is a tension that they need to manage between themselves and you are the one, as there omnipotent leader, to teach them how to manage the tension.

Tension of Meetings – You need to get together with your team and with your peers and with your boss and with those project teams and with the cross-functional wiz-bang committee and you only have so many hours at work.  There are 51,056 books written in English regarding meetings.  To summarize these books for you . . . you are wasting too much time in meetings.

Yes, you need to get together with people to make decisions and communicate.  But every minute you’re in a meeting, you are not doing something else.  This is a tension that needs to be managed.

Tension of Leading Well – You are being paid to be a leader.  Therefore, your prime directive is to lead and I would propose that you strive to lead well.  The tension of leading well comes from within.  No matter what level of hierarchy you find yourself, there is a bucket of things you could be doing to lead better that you push away because of what ever rationale you’ve framed up in your head.  Great leaders are really no different than you and me; they’ve just decided to manage the tension they feel for doing the leadership stuff they know they can do and then actually doing some of it.

Sometimes your role is to solve problems.  More often your role is to see that there are tensions to be managed.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Which tension resonates most with you?  Why?  Which least?  Why?
  • How do you react to the proposition that there is no win-win and no balance?  Discuss your reaction during lunch with one of your peers.
  • Are there other tensions to be managed you would add to the list?