Skip to comments.Work Life Balance - Are We Outsourcing Leadership
Posted on 05/26/2005 8:12:32 AM PDT by qam1
Work Life / Balance - Two Generations, Two Perspectives - Father and son battle it out in this compelling article.
Sander A. Flaum: Leadership crisis ahead
The United States has never been in such an economically competitive situation since prior to the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to the labor imbalance caused by outsourcing so many services to India and China, I can get everything from my Internet customer service, Web design, and taxes done cheaper and more efficiently overseas than I can at home. Young people in India and China are not talking about work life balance, worrying about how to spend more time at home with the kids or to plant a garden. As Thomas L. Friedman points out in his new book The World Is Flat, based on 60 hours of interviews with up and comers in Indian business and industry, as well as a variety of other sources in the business press, young people from these countries are economically hungry and extremely competitive. They are getting the kind of training and developing the kind of work ethic that will soon take them to the next level, where they'll be not only the outsource of American-based companies but the primary in-source.
The insistence on work/life balance among young American workers is threatening to catapult American business into a full-blown domestic leadership crisis. This past January at Renaissance Weekend, I participated in some panel discussions alongside some twenty- and thirty-somethings. What issues were on the minds of these best and brightest young American workers? I didn't hear a word about legacy building, maintaining a competitive edge or the importance of ongoing innovation. Instead, I heard about the need for work life balance and how nice it is to sometimes work a 30-hour week and take a hike to clear the mind when a bit of stress comes up. In my experience, I think competitiveness and work/life balance are incompatiblethere is no way you can work six hours a day, be home to play with kids for two or three hours and drive a company to the top. Taking a company to the top takes much more commitment and drive than that.
I was somewhat encouraged by an April 2005 Fast Company piece by Linda Tischler on extreme jobstales of young American movers and shakers who work upwards of 90 hours a week at high pressure jobs that they love. But admittedly, these young people make up a very small percentage of the overall workforce.
An excerpt from Jack Welch's new book, Winning, as reprinted in Newsweek on April 4, 2005, sums up the advice I would give to young people regarding work/life balance: There's lip service about work/life balance, and then there's reality your boss's top priority is competitiveness. Of course he wants you to be happy, but only in as much as it helps the company win. In fact, if he is doing his job right, he is making your job so exciting that your personal life becomes a less compelling draw.
Jonathon: A New Paradigm for Leaders
My father's concerns raise important issues for my generation and the one behind me, but his assumptions regarding the causal relationship between work-life balance and its negative impact on competitiveness may not hold up. My father is making a classic "either/or" split between the ability to lead a company to greatness and having a balanced life outside of work. I think this "either/or" model sells us short and asks American workers to compromise in ways that are unreasonable.
My father's argument is framed by a particular bottom lineglobal competitiveness. This has been the bottom line for most of this nation's history and while it has worked to keep us on top economically and politically, there have been other costs. The Baby Boomer generation is the largest and arguably the most economically productive in this nation's history, but their legacy also includes weekend Dads, latch-key kids and TV dinners. This generation was indoctrinated in the either/or mentality my father continues to advocate. They were very much a product of Welch's making your job so exciting that your personal life becomes a less compelling draw, but let's consider this notion in more depth. The idea that negotiating a billion-dollar merger or designing a cutting edge new video game is a more compelling draw than reading Goodnight Moon and snuggling with your child at bedtime is an absurd comparison. These activities are on an entirely different scale. Work without adequate time for intimate connection with loved ones and a bit of personal time for us, in my opinion, has long-term degenerative effects that may not show up on a company profit/loss analysis but do show up in a society with considerably more at stake than economic hegemony.
To tell the truth, I am skeptical of leaders who are all work, all the time. Without some daily personal reserves of nourishment I think burnout and diminished creativity are inevitable. I believe we can create a new work-life paradigm based on both/and, rather than the either/or attitude we've inherited from my father's generation.
So, how can we do both/and equally well? I think the key is focus. There can be no wasted time. If we acknowledge that life outside work is critically important to us, we must do everything we can to make our time at work critically important as well. We need to optimize our use of technology to help manage our time effectively, concentrating on the important tasks and weeding out the minutiae. Every hour of work should be structured efficiently so that we can accomplish our goals and then return home to the personal time our bodies and minds naturally crave. Too often today, the reverse is true; workdays are spent unproductively and home life becomes a frenzied race to get dinner on the table and the kids to bed. Time is too precious to allow such a sorry state of affairs to continue. Work-life balance and American competitiveness are not incompatible in my opinion, although poor time management and remaining competitive are.
The emerging leaders of my generation will be the ones who know that time, not money, is the commodity of choice. The creative optimization of time will allow us to produce exceptional work while sustaining ourselves with full lives outside the workplace.
This article brought to you by: By Sander A. Flaum and Jonathon A. Flaum
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Sander did not live in a world where there were active evil forces out to get his child.
I think Sander is probably a workaholic. He would be a terrible boss to work for.
Jonathon makes a compelling point: we need to focus on what's important.
The hard part is figuring out what actually is important.
I've had a boss like Sander, they a'int pleasant.
I guess he never heard of that old "Nobody on their deathbed wishes they spend more time at the office" cliche
Color me skeptical also. It is my experience those 90-hour work weeks are less productive that in the long run than regular 50-hour work weeks.
Color me skeptical also. It is my experience that those 90-hour work weeks are less productive in the long run than regular 50-hour work weeks.
There is something key missing from those missives. One thing I have found regarding the hard working folks in Asian countries (the recipients of outsourcing) is that it is common for porfessional well educated people of both sexes to work very hard until (typically parentally manipulated if not outright arranged) marriage. Also, dating in the Western sense is not common. Young people will dedicate themselves wholly to work while single and live very simple lives in places that most here in the West could not tolerate - e.g. cramped flats in older buildings in lesser-than-ideal neighborhoods. Upon marriage - and here is the KEY difference - very traditional roles are generally the rule. Most moms are stay-at-home ones and those who are not hire very inexpensive maids and nannies to look after their homes. It is intellectually dishonest to tell Americans to compete with folks in Asia if one is not 100% committed to supporting more traditional family structures and to the once common single income scnenario. Women's lib has caused irreparable damage. Now, in truth, we could only go so far, since we don't have and never will have, no matter how porous the borders are allowed to be, the vast pool of cheap labor from which to draw maids and housemen. Therefore, beyond promotion of the single income, one stay-at-home parent, one 70 hour / week salaryman scenario, we simply cannot be expected to be overhead cost competitive with places like India, Thailand or the PRC. Herein lies the essential fault in the globalists "flat Earth" mentality. One cannot rightfully compare apples (semi feudal societies with no middle class) to oranges (Western Whiggish societies with a still prominent middle class and very bourgeois outlook). So, what to do? Clearly, the Jack Welch mentality has been proven flawed. While the Buchanan mentality is also flawed, somewhere in between probably lies the sweet spot.
The really stupid thing most corporations and their managers desire is CONTROL. They want to control your private life, your opinions, and your activities. They want you to be a properly attired, manicured, and obedient drone.
The technological revolution of our century should be the one that puts people back in their homes, with their kids. In the last five years, every job I had could have been done almost 100% from home. High speed internet with VPN access gave me access to 100% of my job duties. I might have had to go in for a meeting now and then, but most of those could have been accomplished with Webex. I say "could have been done" because the managers I worked for wanted to see a body sitting in a chair.
Before the industrial revolution, people worked at home with their families at their side. Kids learned trades and employable skills from their parents. Education was done primarily at home.
The technology is there to permit that to happen again. Why send kids to schools to be managed like so much cattle. Why spend hours commuting to sit in a cubicle in an office to do work you could just as effectively do from home?
The key is old, dead-wood management thinking. They want control, not productivity. There is plenty of time for creativity, personal development, and work. Managers and business owners just need to grasp the potential and realize the can manage people without having to see their butts parked in a cube farm for 10 hours a day.
I suppose we'll have this wonderful, expanding capability around for another 40 years, until like Moses of old, the old generation of managers finally dies off and people who know how to use it can run corporations.
Fast Company was good during the dotcom boom....they used to get 500 ad pages an issue.....but now they are a socialist rag. I laugh at most of their articles about how much the employer should be doing for you. The readers then wonder why they get passed over for promotion when they were out on some "personal wellness days"
I hate to say it, but it sounds like some of the managers you've had are managers in name only. Let me guess, they were former geeks who were promoted due soley to technical ability - LOL!
I've had guys working for me living out in the woods and in the high country. I've found that it was people like cross functional team leaders who seemed to be uncomfortable with not having such folks live at meetings. But I've always supported work at home (for those who WANT it - not all do - the old bandwidth and tools issue ...). Truth is, work at home lowers my overhead.
Probably a micromanager, too. Those are worse to work for.
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