Balance What?

larry grypp

Larry Grypp, President of the Goering Center

Work-life balance. We hear that everywhere. Sometimes as an aspiration, sometimes an admonition, sometimes a lament.

Clay Mathile, the legendary CEO of Iams and founder of leadership institute Aileron, spoke last fall at a Goering Center luncheon and was asked by an audience member how one can maintain work-life balance in a world where the boundaries between the two seem all but erased, if not even penalized.

“At any one time, you don’t,” he replied, perhaps as a surprise to most of the audience. His point was that life -- whether business or personal -- is inherently imbalanced. To seek a moderated, balanced life amid all that turmoil is to miss the greater opportunity to simply be intentional and fully committed in the moment to what is needed.

And you can’t plan for that.

While we can accept there are a wide swath of opinions on this, the reality remains that technology, the pace and globalization of business, and even the changing nature of what constitutes family or personal time has placed new pressures on our ability to keep family and business in their respective boxes.

Interestingly, there is something about the nature of family businesses that might allow us to relax a bit on this felt tension, and even use it to an advantage.

The family enterprise is most often threaded through the daily routines of the family itself. For some first-generation businesses, they were often founded after the dinner dishes were cleared from the table. Creating and growing the business was one of those natural rhythms of the family culture. As well, introducing family members into the business was often done at a very personal, parental level -- and in some cases seen as just as much a part of focused, intentional parenting as would be going fishing or camping.

In many ways, nothing quite forges trust and the anchoring of family values than when the heart of the family’s fortune and future are so obviously at stake. To have such harmony between what the business means to the family and what the family means to the business may be the greatest balance of all.