3 Keys to Improve Work-Life Balance for CEOs & Executives
Guest: Bill Brady, a seasoned entrepreneur, lawyer, and a coach at CEO Coaching International.
Quick Background: The Great Resignation has sparked a lot of conversation about how companies can help employees achieve better work-life balance. But shifting workplace dynamics have hit CEOs hard as well. According to several studies, executive-level burnout is on the rise. CEOs who let their businesses consume them aren’t just putting their health and sanity at risk, they’re also crippling the growth potential of their businesses.
In a study conducted by Harvard on how CEOs manage their time, researchers found that CEOs conducted business on 79 percent of weekends and worked an average of 62.5 hours a week. Compared to the average American worker, CEOs spend a majority of their time focused on their business, which can impact their work-life balance.
On today’s show, Bill Brady explains three keys to developing a company that can keep Making BIG Happen while the CEO is living life to the fullest. And in terms of Making BIG Happen, Bill sold his company at age 41 for more than $100 million.
Below, you’ll find Bill’s three work-life balance strategies for CEOs so they can better manage their time and improve both their personal and professional lives.
Keys to Work-Life Balance from Bill Brady
If you’re a CEO asking yourself, “is work-life balance achievable,” it’s time to start creating a work-life balance plan. Not only will obtaining a well-balanced work-life balance improve your personal life, but it will also improve the performance of your business.
Explore Bill Brady’s three tips for work-life balance below, so you can live a happier, healthier, and more successful life.
“In the beginning I had to do everything,” Bill says, remembering the early days of the orthodontic payment startup that he founded. “But as the company grew, I realized I couldn’t do that. It was important for me to be home for dinner and be with my kids. So out of necessity, I forced myself to learn how to delegate. And it was hard at first. But then it became the norm.”
Letting go is a skill that CEOs have to relearn at every stage of the company’s growth. The BIGGER your company gets, the less realistic it is that you can micromanage every detail while still attending to the top-level responsibilities that only a CEO can handle.
One key for Bill was hiring the absolute best business development exec he could find — which meant spending more than he’d planned to entice that person to move cross-country. But when it comes to talent whom you can trust to hold down the fort while you’re on vacation, you always get what you pay for. In most cases, that investment takes a load off your shoulders and builds a team where everyone is motivated to excel.
“I found that when people became empowered, they took on more responsibility and were willing to be accountable,” Bill says. “So it freed me up to keep my life sane and allowed me to focus on the real opportunities for the company, which at that time were developing professional relationships. I couldn’t have done that if I was mired in all the weeds.”
So, how do you delegate work as the leader of your organization? While letting go of the reins can be a challenge, there’s nothing that can replace some of life’s precious moments, such as your child’s first birthday or a nephew’s graduation. The last thing you want is to look back on life and question why you decided to work those extra hours instead of spending time with those you love.
Learning how to delegate tasks can help prevent that, and here’s how to start:
Step 1: Know what work can be delegated: Unfortunately, not every task can be given to someone else, especially as a CEO. As the leader of your business, there are certain responsibilities you’re in charge of, such as making business decisions and negotiating with stakeholders. However, there are numerous tasks that can be assigned to someone else, such as recurring tasks and work that someone may have expressed interest in to build their skills.
Step 2: Identify the strengths of others: There are many talented employees in your organization with their own set of strengths. When looking for work to delegate, consider each team member’s strengths and overall performance to see whether they can handle the responsibility of the work you’re passing on.
Step 3: Start training: Investing in training is a great way to have peace of mind that employees will be able to take on the work you’re delegating. While this can take a calibration period, having training in place can bring team members up to speed on certain tasks to ensure they complete them correctly.
Step 5: Focus on communication: One of the challenges CEOs might face is knowing how to communicate effectively. It can be hard letting go of certain responsibilities. However, when you do, it’s important to know how to communicate expectations to ensure it’s completed properly. To improve communication, set up one-on-one meetings, provide feedback, and regularly check-in.
Step 6: Give credit where it’s due: When delegating work, it’s essential to recognize the hard work your employees are taking on. Giving them credit and providing praise is a great way to honor their new skills and show appreciation for their commitment to professional growth and helping you.
These are just some of the many ways you can work on delegating tasks to achieve a healthier work-life balance.
An effective meeting rhythm is the heartbeat of any high-performing company. But Bill supplemented the essential buildup of daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual planning by going out of his way to make himself available to his employees.
“We were a top-down and bottom-up communication company,” Bill explains. “My door was always open. On Mondays from 9-12, my six direct reports would come to my office for 30 minutes, tell me everything they were doing and how I could help them. And then they would do the same thing with their direct reports. Every Tuesday, we had Lunch with Bill. Anyone who wanted to come into the conference room would have lunch and I would learn from anyone in the company at any level what was on their mind. Every Friday we had lunch for the whole company. All of those activities generated a lot of bottom-up information. And then, once a month, we would have an all-hands company meeting and I would present what happened last month and what we were planning to do going forward. And all the senior execs would make a presentation. So the employees felt like from the top down, they were getting information.”
Post pandemic, it might be challenging for some CEOs to replicate the purposeful mingling that Bill perfected. And no one wants another Zoom meeting or (un)happy hour on their schedule. But whether your workforce is checking in remotely or starting to return to the office, make your interactions with every employee count. High-EQ leadership that combines professional guidance with personal concern will go a long way towards keeping your people connected to your company and focused on achieving its BIG goals.
So, what does boosting communication look like for CEOs? Some work-life balance strategies to improve communication across all levels include:
- Gather feedback: As an executive, it’s important to be receptive to feedback, both good and bad. Your employees want to feel heard, and creating an environment that fosters dialogue between senior management and the rest of the company is crucial for cultivating a positive workplace. Often, employees want to hear more from their CEOs. Make a commitment to discuss company logistics, get to know your employees and their interests, and inspire your team.
- Be approachable: Prior to the pandemic, it was easy for leaders to prop their door open during certain business hours for team members to stop by and ask questions or raise concerns. Today, being approachable can be more of a challenge, especially for companies with remote workers. To navigate this, you can set virtual office hours, set ask-me-any sessions for the team, and host meaningful meetings.
- Be personable: While it’s important to be professional and set an example for your employees, it doesn’t mean you have to be work-oriented every hour in the office. Employees want to see their executives as people they can also connect with. Developing empathy can help improve trust and transparency, and allow those who work with you to better understand your motivations.
Creating a work-life balance plan that focuses on improving communication is a great way to better understand the styles and personalities of the people you work with and instill a sense of trust with them.
One of the most positive ripple effects from Bill’s communication strategy was that it created an inclusive culture where every employee felt heard and valued.
“It was a happy place to work,” Bill says. “Our employees were happy and we had a happy business. Our core values we developed were simple. And I think as a coach and talking to a lot of companies, core values are really important, but they tend to be really long, and if you ask an employee to recite them, they probably couldn’t. We had one: ‘Thrill our customers.’ And the subline to that was, ‘Smile through the phone.’ And as corny as that might sound, that really made a difference. As we grew, everyone who came in as a new employee — and they were coming in fast and furious for awhile — they knew that was our culture. We were a happy company. People who worked with us were happy, our employees had to be happy, and those core values really resonated.”
The culture Bill built was so powerful that he was able to take summers off! His happy company kept executing, and Bill checked in from time to time while he was traveling with his family or coaching his kids’ sports teams.
Your vision of ideal work-life balance might not be the same as Bill’s. But many CEOs forget that one of the biggest perks of being the boss is setting your own schedule. If you can’t carve out time to be the spouse, parent, friend, athlete, adventurer, volunteer, or connoisseur you want to be, it’s time to make a change — for your sake, and your business’.
So, how do you create an inclusive culture in your organization? Follow some of these tips:
- Create an inclusion council across multiple levels whose sole commitment is on inclusion. This council will be responsible for hiring a diverse workforce, addressing employee concerns, as well as other Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion initiatives. It’s also important to ensure members of the inclusion council are diverse and represent various ethnicities, genders, and nationalities.
- Listen to your staff and let their voices be heard. Just because you have a diverse workforce doesn’t mean it’s inclusive. Make sure you and the rest of senior management take feedback and make applicable changes.
- Celebrate employee differences by giving them the opportunity to showcase their traditions. This can be done by having designated prayer rooms, creating a shared calendar, and implementing diversity training in your workplace.
Taking the steps to create a more inclusive culture that recognizes employee differences can help boost job satisfaction and improve your work-life balance.
“What I’m finding is that many CEOs want a better lifestyle, a more balanced lifestyle,” Bill says. “They confide that their relationship isn’t great with their spouse or partner at home, or they want to spend more time with their kids. And how can they do that? And can they do that? Are they a micromanager? Do they trust their people? Can they find the right people for their team? Is it a culture where the employees are happy? Are they loyal? Do they feel empowered? Do the employees think that senior management or the CEO have their backs? That’s all culture. And I think that if your culture is a strong, positive, fulfilling culture, that makes a CEO’s life a lot simpler and better. It takes a lot of anxiety out of the workplace.”
1. You can’t do everything. CEOs who don’t delegate aren’t running a business, they’re letting the business run them.
2. Connect with employees. Demonstrate that you’re open to their feedback and willing to keep them in the loop whether the news is good or bad.
3. Be happy. Employees who feel valued will spread that goodwill throughout the company and to your customers.
With these work-life balance strategies, you’ll be able to improve the performance of both yourself and your company. At CEO Coaching International, we offer services like coaching for executives and coaching for strategic planning. We even offer resources, such as our four strategies to prevent CEO burnout that provides more tips for work-life balance.
Contact us today to see how our CEO coaches can help you improve your work-life balance and meet your personal and professional goals.
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About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.