A Question of Balance…
Written by Robin Willison
Robin Willison, Independent Non-Executive Director and Windsor Leadership Facilitator
When we talk about balance in our lives, it’s often in a quite binary (and even simplistic) way - like work/life balance - and we sometimes have an image of something like a vintage pair of scales in our heads, or someone on a tightrope with two counterweights at each end of a long pole!
In practice, things are more complex and nuanced than that, particularly with the changes in our working practices both during and post-COVID. So, at the start of another new year when we may be thinking about the question of balance in our lives, I’d like to suggest a different metaphor that may help to spark a fresh set of reflections.
Instead of a set of scales or a tightrope walker, try thinking of the balancing of a wheel - the thing the tyre shop always wants to add on and you normally say ‘No’ to, as you’re not really sure why you need it!
Balancing a wheel
Using the image of a wheel isn’t a new idea - there are plenty of examples online - but it does allow us to consider a range of life and work ‘spokes’ rather than just a binary choice. Try imagining one of those spokes getting overlong and pushing the wheel out of alignment; the ride suddenly gets bumpy and that can happen in all our lives.
There are seasons when work, or other events or responsibilities can dominate, or even take over. That can be managed for a time, but we need to take care that we don’t just accept the discomfort over a longer period; we need to rebalance the wheel and adjust our priorities.
The metaphor also provides a sense of momentum and journey but perhaps most importantly, begs the really significant question of ‘what’s my hub’ because if that’s not at the centre and strong, then the whole thing can break down.
Reflecting on what’s really important
At the heart of the Windsor Leadership approach is the opportunity to reflect on what’s really important to us, as individuals and as leaders. What’s our purpose, our ‘North Star’? It also turns us outwards to focus on the impact we may have on the other ‘stakeholders’ in our lives - our families and friends, the organisations we work for, our communities and wider society.
This purpose or ‘North Star’ can be a goal or vision of where we want to get to, who we want to be, or perhaps a set of values and beliefs that guide how we conduct our behaviours and shape the way we see the world. It’s often a combination of all of these and it’s the type of things that we want to be remembered for, the imprint we leave on the lives of those around us.
I wonder if you’ve ever tried writing these things down? I was encouraged to once, when I started a new job and my deputy asked me about my business values (he was clearly switched on to this stuff!) I shared 3 things off the top of my head and he suggested I share them with the national salesforce I was about to lead; I went for it and was surprised just how powerful an impact it had and, funnily enough, one of them was about work-life balance.
We should never underestimate the impact we can have on others as we intentionally lead to support them in achieving balance; it can be significant, even life-changing and also help transform the performance of the organisations we work for.
One last thing before I pose some questions for reflection, and hopefully this doesn’t push the metaphor too far - a spoke isn’t designed to be a hub! It’s just not strong enough and although it may seem to work for a while it’s not made to take that kind of pressure.
The next quarter’s business figures or the strategic platform upgrade, may flood your mind at any one moment; these things are important and sometimes really important, but they need to be kept in perspective, in their right place, as spokes. I’m sure you can conjure up some of your own examples, from experience or even from what’s happening right now.
In summary, I’d like to provide a few questions to help with your reflections. Perhaps write down the first things that come to mind. I’d encourage you to revisit them on a regular basis and not just at the start of a new year - the tyre shop is probably right that we need to check the balance in our wheels even more regularly than changing the tyres themselves!
Questions for reflection
- What’s my ‘hub’ or North Star?
- How might that be developing or changing, if at all? Apparently, Polaris hasn’t always been the North Star.
- How can I ‘kick the tyres’ on these answers? Who could I share them with for their input and ongoing support?
- When will I put time in my diary to do this? Remember that a good intention (or New Year’s Resolution) remains only that until it gets in the diary.
- What ‘spokes’ in my life have a tendency to get out of balance or even gravitate towards becoming the hub?
- Are there any early warning signs I might identify when this starts to happen, and how will I build in regular checks? Someone who’s close to you may also have some useful perspectives on this.
Wishing you a happy, prosperous and regularly balance-checked New Year!
Robin works across a portfolio of Board roles as an Independent Non-Executive Director or Trustee and is a lay member of the leadership team at his local church. He does still have some spare time and loves spending that with his wife, Anna supporting their 9 grandchildren across various activities!
The views expressed in Blogs, Articles, Podcasts and Videos posted on Windsor Leadership’s website and social media channels, remain the opinions of the individuals and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Windsor Leadership. Windsor Leadership does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information shared. We hope however that the views prove to be useful in reflecting on the challenges of leading today.