In 2002, I joined the Army to create a better life for my family. Almost 13 years later, four tours in Iraq, and two in Korea, I was still fulfilling my role as the provider for my family. My wife was devoted to her career but also to maintaining our home. She was very understanding of my work responsibilities, but I often felt guilty. I felt guilty because what I wanted conflicted with the typical male stereotypes. My job was to provide, and I believed volunteering for overseas assignments at increased pay would make her life better.
Until recently, I fought to maintain a balance, not realizing the balance I sought was a mythical creature. If I worked too much and missed date nights, I felt guilty. When I was not at work leading Soldiers, I felt guilty. At one point, I kept ridiculous hours that negatively impacted myself and my team. There was rarely, if ever, a balance. In fact, it was more work-life out of balance.
Like too many men, my definition of being a man was based upon outdated male gender stereotypes. It was very hard for me to purge these beliefs from my mind. Thankfully, my wife made it clear there was more to manhood than going to work and bringing home a fat paycheck. In order to create our extraordinary life it is necessary for men to transform their mindset. We must understand why achieving the ideal work-life balance alludes us.
1. You just don't talk about it.
Only woman are talking about it. No, I am not being facetious! In a 2013 survey by Citi, 80% of woman surveyed said they never heard successful males discuss work-life balance. More research shows male executives are concerned about negative stereotypes and often take circuitous routes to achieve work-life balance. In the March 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review male and female executives said it's a woman's problem. As long as men remain silent the work-life balance debate will remain "a woman issue." How can we achieve what we are unwilling to ask for?
2. You're leaning in the wrong direction.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has championed the "Lean In" movement. For her efforts, she should be commended. However, we need to "Lean In" and support ourselves. We need to "Lean In" and divest the corporate culture from outdated male gender stereotypes. They paint the man as the typical hunter-gatherer whose sole responsibility is to provide for his family. These stereotypes prevent men from proudly taking paternity leave, leaving the office early to support their kids recitals, soccer games, and be available to stay at home with sick kids.
The Lean-In Together movement is an excellent example! Men and woman can collaborate and create THEIR extraordinary lives!
3. It's not YOUR problem it is OUR problem.
Men are products of the culture at large. Subsequently, men have traditionally defined their roles as breadwinners and used that mindset to assuage their guilt about working long hours. The male- dominated corporate structure has assimilated this stereotype for years. While male and female executives clearly believe work-life balance is a woman's issue the mindset is shifting. As more and more businesswomen "Lean In" we can work together to reverse male and female gender stereotypes.
4. You're not using your POWER.
In 2014, less than five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were woman. The C-Suite is dominated by male executives as the facts clearly demonstrate. Recently, several very high profile male CEO's have stepped down. While their actions are certainly understandable didn't they upset the balance (in the wrong direction) again? As leaders, we need to use our influence to affect change on a massive scale. Not only should we affect policy change but we also need to set the example. Set the example by dropping the kids off at school instead of coming into work early every day. By planning vacations, working from home when necessary, and proudly "Leaning In" to make sure males and females in the workplace can achieve their goals.
5. You won't speak up.
Culture develops over time and becomes ingrained over many years. It becomes the status-quo and defying it exceeds our comfort level. When Sheryl Sandberg decided to lean in she spoke up and made her intentions clear. She was going to challenge the norms and mores of corporate America. By speaking up and leaning in Sandberg helped revolutionize the mindset surrounding woman in corporate America. If you don't speak up, you won't be heard!
6. Balance is a unicorn.
Like unicorns, you never see someone with a work-life balance. You will always miss a game, a recital, their first steps, or their first words. If you resign to spend more time with your kids you're out of balance once again. Instead of creating a work-life balance work to create synergy. Start making everything work together to create the life that works for you. Allow yourself to create your ideal lifestyle career. The career that supports the life you want to live.
Previously we compartmentalized our lives. We worked eight hours a day came home, spent time with the family, and did it again the next day. Wash, rinse, and repeat. As the technology continues to advance, those boundaries have increasingly eroded. As boundaries become, increasingly blurred work-life balance becomes more and more of a moving target that remains slightly out of reach. Work-life is talked about never achieved. You can "Lean In" and create synergies in your life. Begin vocalizing your intent to use technology to develop synergies that benefit you and your employer.