Many years ago, I was asked to work with a veteran executive at a company he had been with for over 15 years. In the previous year, his behavior had changed. He had gone from being an effective leader with all the right attributes to being highly disliked exhibiting an autocratic and impatient style. “He needs to revisit his leadership style” I was told. Once I started working with him, it became quickly apparent that his personal life was a mess and his 25+ marriage was at an impasse. His issue was not lack of leaderships skills, but that those skills where hijacked by a personal trauma whose impact he had failed to recognize.
The harsh reality of being human is that we are holistic by design. It is the same body and brain at home that we take to work. This is true of athletes who start to underperform once their personal lives start to slide. And vice versa. Children and spouses can tell within seconds whether or not you had a good day at work or how stressed work is just by observing how distracted (not present) you are.
A great exercise to manage this is the one that I first used with that executive. I met with him and his wife, asked them to write down individually all the positive changes they would make to their individual lives should they get a divorce. Their lists where then shared with each other. I simply asked if they would be willing to make those changes for each other whilst still married. The same exercise can be done at work regarding who you work for, with and the kind of work you do. If you left them, what would your ideal work look like? If it is impossible to make your current environment at least 2/3 of your ideal environment, you are going to underperform and compromise the character attributes that make you a good person and leader. Like the executive, you are going to change for the negative in many cases without even knowing it. This week, make this list for both your personal and professional lives. Consider what changes you can make. Not only will you start to feel and perform better, but your family life will too.