How Top Performing Execs Achieve Work-Life Balance
Before the holiday break I had a call with Robert Cross, professor in the management department of University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce. First, a shout out to Ted Graham, Innovation leader at PwC, for making the intro.
For the last 20 years, Prof. Cross has been researching, teaching and consulting on applying social network (online and offline) analysis to business issues for insights and bottom-line results. He has worked with over 300 leading companies on this challenge, and written two books on the subject: Driving Results Through Social Networks and The Hidden Power of Social Networks.
It was a great call, we talked about all things networking, and after he suggested I read an HBR article he co-wrote called “A Smarter Way to Network“. I read it and found some great research on the types of networks top executives cultivate. But what I didn’t expect was insight on how to successfully achieve better work/life balance.
Getting Your Network Balance Right
His research shows that the executives who consistently rank in the top 20% of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks. A summary of his results on the types of people these executives connect with is below:
It is really interesting to see the importance of balance in an effective network for an executive. But what stood out for me was the last box (bottom right). Work/life balance is so hard to find as a startup exec., many say impossible. And we don’t equate being happy, to being a top performer.
However we all know the power of positive energy in the workplace. So it makes sense that associating with people in your network who are active advocates of non-work interests, can be a key to getting more balance.
The article then outlines four steps to building a better network:
Analyze – De-Layer – Diversify – Capitalize
I would like to focus on Diversify, because it applies most to the work/life balance issue.
Diversify Your Network Based on Shared Passions and Interests
Porter Gale is an author, speaker and advisor who wrote the wildly successful book “Your Network is Your Networth”. One of her most recognized best practices is to network on shared passions and interests, because it creates authentic relationships. At Nudge we believe this to be a critical element of modern networking.
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Another benefit of using shared interests to connect with people, is that it aligns with Cross’ findings that work/life balance support comes from people in your network. If I look at my top 3 interests outside of family and work, they would be:
- Sports: particularly tennis, basketball and skiing
- Music: all kinds
Two things immediately come to mind. I have a few of these interests covered by my immediate family and close friends, but certainly not all. I need to diversify and make sure I am connecting with people across all of these interests. The second thing is that today, I don’t proactively tag people in my network with shared interests, so I can reach out when an opportunity to engage comes up.
I wouldn’t have thought that my network could have such a big impact on helping me improve work/life balance, and that it also ties to my performance as an executive.
Who in your network can help you achieve better work/life balance?