Many member companies of the Center for Higher Ambition have expressed that they feel that their associates are more than an engine of production — they are people, individuals with distinct talents, perspective, experience, expertise, and interests. And they believe that it is best for both the company and the individuals when they can “bring the whole person to work.” At Essendant (formerly United Stationers), for example, they decentralized their charitable activities to better involve front line workers in everything from decision making to execution.
We were struck by a recent online piece at Strategy+Business by Susan Cramm that captured this approach well: stop looking for work-life balance and strive instead for work-life harmony. Cramm was writing about a new book by Wharton’s Stewart Friedman, Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. Friedman that argues that, “Those who lead satisfying, successful lives do so by, ‘taking their unique gifts and passions and making them useful to other people,'” not just at work or in the community — but in every realm of their lives. That sounds like a Higher Ambition mindset to us.
Friedman believes that life is “the intersection and interaction of the four domains”: work/school, home/family, community/society, and the private realm of mind, body, and spirit. And while he agrees that it’s impossible to have it all—all of the time, anyway—it is possible “to be conscious of what and who matter most” and to identify four-way wins, “actions that result in life’s being better in all four domains.” By focusing on work-life integration, not balance, we can create harmony, rather than conflict.
An important insight from this work is the need to clarify expectations “with the people who mean the most to you and your future.” That could be your spouse, children, boss, or pastor. Whomever this is for you,, Friedman advises you do something radical: talk to them about this. Having a short, regular conversation about what is important to each of you and how you can best support each other can make a world of difference.
We urge you to read the full post.