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Personal Balance and Superior Productivity

Aug 18, 2007
Peter Drucker, arguably the most knowledgeable management expert on earth, made the following statement: "The single greatest challenge facing managers in the developed countries of the world is to raise the productivity of knowledge and service workers. This challenge, which will dominate the management agenda for several decades, will ultimately determine the competitive performance of companies."

In other words, Drucker is saying that knowledge, service and skill may not be enough - the key is how to transform these aptitudes and skills into production. In recent years management students have attributed a strong influence on superior performance to what may loosely be called 'personal balance'. The premise is those owners, managers and employees with personal balance in their lives are more productive. The implication is that if an individual has their personal life under a certain degree of 'control', it allows them to be optimally effective in the workplace. The flip side of the equation is the workplace allows employees to, in the vernacular, 'have a life'.

Accurately defining personal balance is about as easy as defining attitude or personality. In the Silicon Valley area where I live personal balance means successfully juggling home and work. As with any balancing act there are two sides of the equation. The simplest way to view this is a personal life and work life.

For example, on the personal side, if a manager or employee is a severe alcoholic then the alcohol will eventually effect work performance. Hangovers, the urge for a drink, memory loss, etc., will all contribute to a reduced performance. Given enough drink and enough time, brain function will be impaired. Drinking on the job will be a probable result if treatment is not sought. Most of us have seen the devastating effects of alcohol and intuitively know something is very wrong with the individual. Obviously the personal balance is out of whack and productivity diminished.

Another example... on the work side, some managers and employees can be classified as 'workaholics'. The implication is they come early, stay late and if given the keys may in fact be found at work anytime. Workaholics feel their self worth is defined by work. (How many of us describe ourselves as the work we do? "I am a lawyer, teacher, business consultant.") When work is badly skewed in one's life then the balance goes awry. When we look at workaholics we often find miserable personal lives - hence the individual's perception they are their work. Their personal life is miserable and they often do not want to go home. If the work allows them to afford a bigger house then it often comes at the expense of a broken home.

Alcoholism and workaholism are extremes but they help us get a sense of what is balance. Unless you are a workaholic or alcoholic it is easy to see and understand these extremes - don't work too much and don't drink too much. If only personal balance were that easy.

Unfortunately it is not. We are complex beings with complex sets of attitudes and behaviors. This diversity is the spice of life but it also makes living complex and at times a priorities juggling act. While we can say that too much alcohol and too much work are obvious negatives, we run into gray areas quickly once we get beyond the obvious.

Unfortunately there is no easy way - others may give their input but they cannot ultimately know 'what makes us tick'. And since we are complex individuals we cannot just copy what others do. It does not work. For instance, some people like to go to work, punch a clock, do a repetitive task, punch a clock and go home. Many employees - perhaps more than we think - feel this way. Others need a sense of satisfaction, challenge and accomplishment. The Yerkes psychological study showed that many people need an 'edge', something that stimulates and challenges.

The key is understanding your own dynamics and developing your own personal balance. For instance, some of my personal balance dynamics are: work early, work hard, go for what is challenging, create and innovate, accomplish difficult goals and learn at every possible moment. I like to quit mid to late afternoon, go home, be with my family and forget work as much as possible. Take at least one day a week off and go hiking, watch a movie, eat out, etc. These are my dynamics. When I noticed several months back that my balance was still out of whack I took a vacation.

Is my balance perfect? Of course not. Does it work for me? Usually. I remain highly productive with a satisfying personal life.

Will my formula work for you? Probably not. But like Drucker said if you are responsible for the competitive performance of your company you have to be interested in raising productivity. Once you have figured out your own personal balance you will notice a positive change. If you are managing others, encourage them to do the same.

The productivity and future of your company may well depend on it!
About the Author
Jack D. Deal is the owner of Deal Business Consulting. He can be contacted at jddeal@jddeal.com Related articles can be found at http://www.jddeal.com and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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