With more than 30 years experience earning serious results for some of America’s best known corporations, including Ameritech, Convergys, AT&T, IBM, Pitney Bowes and SuperValu, Keith Wyche has risen to become a successful CEO and one of the highest-ranking African-American executives in the U.S. Keith understands the rules for success, rules he now shares as an author, speaker, and thought leader.
Attend any professional conference, business meeting or industry luncheon and one topic always comes up…..work life balance. Most often the discussion will focus on the lack of time available for family, friends, hobbies, etc due to the extreme demands of today’s workplace. Having been a corporate athlete for thirty years, I can testify that today’s Workplace is much more demanding than ever before. Not only are we being asked to work longer hours, technology has almost “handcuffed” us to the job 24/7! Think about it? Emails are non-stop, voicemails can arrive at any hour, Smart-phones function as “life support” devices that sit on our nightstands buzzing at all hours of the night! Recently, a colleague’s wife shared that she told her husband that their bedroom wasn’t big enough for her and his Blackberry….one of them had to go!
So what are we to do? In such a competitive workplace the difference between a promotion and a pink slip can be the perception of who is more “dedicated” to the company? Who is willing to work late? Who will spend their weekends in the office to finish the project? If you don’t do it, someone else will, and get the upper hand. Worse yet, your personal brand may take a hit?
The reality is, there really is no such thing as work life balance….especially, if you expect it to always be a 50/50 split. Rather, I believe that what is more manageable is what I call “managed imbalance”. Basically, managed imbalance is the acknowledgement that there are times that the demands of the job will take precedence, and other times the needs of your personal life will be the priority. Health reasons may dictate that you make time for fitness or eating a proper lunch (not a vending machine hot dog at your desk). Family demands will require you to spend time with an aging parent, a sick child, or attending an event important to your significant other.
Conversely, there will be times that the job will be the priority: the corporate project, the quarterly budget, or the big board presentation. By the way, the higher you are in an organization, the more demanding it will be as to your time. The skill comes in knowing when and how to manage the imbalance! When it needs to be 60/40 in favor of the job, or 70/30 in favor of your personal situation? While this answer will vary by person, I am convinced that all work and no play, is a recipe for unhappiness.
Recently, I found myself extremely frustrated at work. Not the normal, ” business as usual” frustration, but the kind that quickly led to a negative state of mind. You could see it in my face, my tone of voice, even in my stride. This sense of frustration was multiplied by the fact that it was not one or two big things gnawing at me, rather, a series of little annoyances. To make matters worse, many of them were things out of my control ( i.e. Inflation, the economy, weather).
However, as I walked around my office I noticed that as the leader, everyone took their cue from me! It was as if, the atmosphere of the office rested on the disposition of the leader, namely, me! If I looked and acted defeated, my associates would pick up on that and begin to panic. If I made negative comments about the business results or the latest industry article, they would become negative as well. This reminded me that as a leader I need to always be aware of not only my IQ (Intelligence Quotient), but my EQ (Emotional Quotient) as well.
Simply put, I had to accept the fact that other’s are impacted by my behavior. And I could choose to be a thermostat, that “sets” the temperature regardless of the outside climate, or a thermometer, that only “reacts”to the changing climate. If you set your home or office thermostat on 70 degrees, it will keep the atmosphere at a constant 70 degrees regardless of the outside climate. Conversely, if we act like thermometers, we will be as hot or cold as our surroundings, and equally unpredictable!
Today, take ownership of your thoughts, moods and behaviors. You want to be perceived as a thermostat……not a thermometer!
I am amazed at how quickly things seem to change. What’s “in” today, can be old news tomorrow. Ironically, most people are change resistant. We find a certain degree of comfort in routine, in knowing that what is today, will be tomorrow. This is true in our careers, our relationships and our businesses. The truth of the matter is, we are all in a state of constant change. People change, relationships change, jobs change, and industries change. So the question is, how do we best deal with change?
In the 80′s a company called Wang was the leading manufacturer of word processing equipment. They saw the advent of the PC and word processing software, but determined that no software package could replace their machine. Have you seen anyone with a Wang business card lately? No, the company is only a memory. As a child, I would often spend hours playing arcade pinball games in the mall. A roll of quarters and I was the “pinball wizard” for an afternoon. Around the time I was leaving high school, this game system call Atari was being sold in stores. Kids could take it home, plug into a TV and play whenever they wanted from the comfort of their bedroom. Arcade game manufacturers didn’t think that kids would ever want to spend hours at home, playing games on a TV or computer!
These businesses, and in some cases industries vanished, due to not adapting to change. Well, you are the CEO of a company called Y.O.U. Everyday change is happening around you. New technologies are being introduced, new ideas are being shared, new roles are being created. How are you reacting? New roles require new skills. Higher level positions require new ways of thinking, new ways of leveraging ideas, technology and human capital.
You may have been successful up until now. Your past skills or degree may have gotten you this far. But as Marshall Goldsmith warns, “what got you here, won’t get you there”. Look for ways to embrace change! Dedicate time each day to read meaningful information (Wall Street Journal, Industry Publications, etc.). Enhance your skills by taking a class online. Attempt to read at least four new business or self help books a year. Will this take time? Yes! Will it require dedication? Absolutely! Today’s leading edge companies invest heavily in R&D……Research and Development! This allows them to proactively embrace change. As CEO of a company called Y.O.U. how much are you investing in R&D?
Change is coming. Embrace it…..or else!
Recently, I spoke to a group of professionals who found themselves in the middle of their careers. Many had ten or more years of professional working experience, but hadn’t realized the career growth they anticipated. A few were committed to still chasing their dreams. Sadly, many others had resigned themselves to the idea that this was as good as it gets.
My reaction was simple: it’s never too late to become who you were born to be! Too often we focus on the past. Past opportunities that got away, past individuals we didn’t connect with, past ambitions we’ve let remain dormant. Well, there is no better time than NOW!
Now is the time to re-commit to your dream! Now is the time to revise your career goals! Now is the time to join that organization, take that class, get that degree, write that book, start that business! Yesterday is behind you, and tomorrow is not promised. All you have is NOW! Make the most of it.
As an executive coach I speak to people all the time about their career plans and aspirations. I am always encouraged that most individuals I speak with are serious about their careers. They have goals to earn more money, buy a better home or automobile, and generally provide a better quality of life for them and their families.
Many times the discussion turns to how others have been more “lucky” at getting that promotion, raise or opportunity than they did. To these individuals, they mistakenly assume that “luck” is the only factor that determines success and who has a bright future. But in my experience, people create their own “luck” by being ready when that promotion or opportunity presents itself.
The reality is, to get that job, promotion or raise, you must be a continuous learner. With such a fast paced, high tech world, you have to keep your skills current to remain relevant. You may have to learn a new skill, take a new course to expand your knowledge base, or earn that degree to better position you for success. The future is coming fast and furious. It will bring with it promotions, raises, and opportunities…..but only for those who create their own luck, by being ready!
Keith Wyche’s first book, Good Is Not Enough, helps aspiring executives achieve C-Suite status. His follow-up, Corner Office Rules, provides them with the ten key guiding principles necessary to sustain that level. This book reveals many of the critical unspoken truths of corporate life. Its contents are the closest that I’ve seen to a corporate GPS.
Curtiss Jacobs, global strategy and operations executive, American International Group, Inc.
“Keith was dynamic, compelling, and on point with his presentation, causing several moments where the audiences clapping required him to pause, before jumping back into the message. At the end he brought the audience to its’ feet. Keith was clearly the right choice to close out our conference, and to re-energize the leaders.”