This past weekend I worked an extra 15 hours for my day job. Was it because I had nothing better to do after exhausting myself Monday – Friday? No. Was it because I absolutely just love staring at a computer screen typing away for longer than needed? No. Then why did I do it? Why did I volunteer to take on this insane amount of extra hours and sacrifice spending time with friends and family (and my comfy bed) to get work done for no extra pay (the drama of being salaried, amiright?).
It was because of these reasons:
1. Sometimes we have to make short term sacrifices for “the greater good” and the long run. If working an extra 15 hours one week means the next few weeks my blood pressure is kept down AND I can get my program back on track, then pour the coffee and find my me lounge slippers. Sometimes we have to sacrifice short term pleasure and ease for the long run in our #careersuccess goals and to make a great impression.
Continuously having to sacrifice home life and your mental health should never be an expectation of your company or leadership (and if it is- RUN) however, we have to acknowledge that in the real world of being an adult with a job the term “work life balance” is an unattainable myth. The truth is, you will never have a balance in your work and home life, there will be times where you have to make sacrifices (missing a networking dinner, working through your kids soccer game, or turning down a project, etc) in order to fill up the cup of success in the other aspects of your life, and CEO, that is ok and that will happen to you. What you must find the balance in is how many times you are willing to sacrifice personal time for work, all while ensuring that your sacrificing and hard work pays off (like, literally, pays off on your paycheck) later on. We also have to be sure to keep those receipts, get letters of performance and recommendation to those who you’ve worked hard for and taken extra work on, keep documentation of praise and thanks given by leaders to you- back up your badassery with receipts and proof and bring it to the negotiation table when you’re ready to ask for more.
2. It was because it wasn’t demanded of me by managers, but was asked of me by my leaders. Those in leadership positions, take note- demanding strenuous hours and tasks from your teams will not build a positive relationship, but it will build their resume as they walk out the door, but asking for their help and working with them to create a plan that is long term sustainable is so important and creates a stronger bond and relationship. Also offering comp time and a free lunch doesn’t hurt. Stop demanding more from your employees who are already giving it all, and start asking them to share their talents and how you can help them shine.
While my leaders did not outright ask me “can you work an extra 15 hours this week?” they asked me “what can we do to help get these new items done by deadline?”. They weren’t telling me “what are you going to do to get this done” but instead created a team dynamic and wanting to work with me to create a positive and winning solution. When a strenuous situation arises at work, the worst thing a leader can do is to build a wall and start shouting demands from the top of it, the best thing a leader can do is to stand on level ground with their team and ask “what can we do together to fix this?”.
3. Lastly, I knew delegating out these tasks just wouldn’t be good for me, or the program. My leaders offered to have me delegate these tasks to some available resources, but, after we started formulating a game plan on what to delegate to whom, we realized it would take too much time (about the same amount had I just done the tasks myself) and shut it down because we knew that the key to proper delegation is not to hand off tasks you don’t have time for to whoever is next available, it is to hand off the RIGHT tasks in the RIGHT timeframe to the RIGHT people. With crunch-time happening on our project and knowing how my team prefers to work and their expectations of deliverables (not to mention how hard it was to formulate effective working relationships with them already), I knew that delegating out these highly important tasks would end up backfiring in the end.
Leaders and career movers- take note on these above points the next time you’re in crunch time and see your schedule filling up, or your team’s gas tanks emptying- they will make such an important difference in the delivery and execution of their work. The common thread through all of the reasons why I chose to work those extra 15 hours? The fact that throughout the entire process my leaders and I were working as a team, as colleagues, and in support of the same common goal.
Collaborative and supportive leadership is the key to getting your top performers to keep performing and to strive for more.