I remember nearly four years ago leading one of my first department meetings. I was new to the organization, a FinTech start-up with a big open environment, endless snacks, and full of bright and ambitious young workers.
My team expected much from me. My work experience alone matched the average age of my staff. I was there to build and run an operation while coaching and developing the team to grow at the pace of the company. With my experience, education and a rather full toolbox, I was ready to add to the story of this growing enterprise.
My team was staying late in the office, often with no need and yet the work was complete for the day. Early in their business careers, before deeper responsibilities, I wanted each member of my team to find that balance of time in the office and time for self, away from the office. I have learned the lesson to recharge and assure I can bring my best self to work the next day. This lesson was one I was eager to share with my new team.
So at that department meeting, we discussed business topics as expected and as we were finishing up I said, “Go walk your dog”.
My message … go home, go out, get away from the office. I will see you tomorrow, ready to crush. Your dog needs to go for a walk, grab the leash and go.
As a leader, we need to focus on the day at hand and the business results we are charged with achieving. Yet, we need to take care of tomorrow too and assure we have a healthy team ready to slay the dragon around the corner and down the road.
I don’t know if “balance” is the right word anymore in the so-called work / live balance conversation. Each of us has to find that right mix of time spent in our professional pursuits and all the other necessary human needs … time for self, family, and community of friends and interests. In other words, time to walk the dog real or imagined.
My team got the message and soon, I am going to walk the dog became our thing and people often said they were leaving for the day, work complete, to walk the dog. Balance and boundaries are a challenge these days, yet the team was finding its way.
Startup years are much like dog years. My four years seem much longer with everything we have accomplished. The team today maintains an effective balance of work and go walk the dog. This balance keeps us strong and ready for tomorrow’s challenges.
As for me, the metaphor has faded away and my reality is even better. With my work complete I leave the office knowing my new dog waits at home ready to go for an actual walk. A full day now complete.
To all reading, make sure you too find time to walk the dog, imaged or real, and find your best expression of a balanced life of work and personal time.