Life Happens – Don’t Punish Your Team For Living It

DSCF2439_1Sometimes we all just have to lighten up and let it go.

This weekend here on the East Coast we had one of those gigantic, epic snowstorms that local news programs go crazy for. When the snows are 12, 18, 24 inches or more, there is nothing you can do about it. Complaining about it won’t change anything. Worrying about work not getting done, meetings being cancelled, and due dates at risk will just raise your anxiety, but won’t move the snow out of the road.

I can hear some of you now – work must get done. We can’t let the weather win. We must get back our lost productivity. A snow day shouldn’t be a free vacation day!

I have heard similar complaints not only about weather delays, but anytime life gets in the way of work. Someone actually uses their vacation days, takes bereavement time when they lose a parent or a friend, or need a few hours to take their child to the doctor.  And then there are the people who brag about how busy they are, and keep score by comparing how many hours they spend at the office.

Is this how you want to live your life? What about your team? People work hardest for those leaders that they like and respect. They like and respect those leaders that genuinely like and respect them in return. Bosses that push people relentlessly in a death march to the end will get time and effort in return, but only enough to stay out of trouble. Great leaders manage real people with real lives. Expecting the best work from your people, and giving them the space to manage their lives will allow them to bring their best to the workplace every work day. They will want to give their best because they know they are truly valued.

People talk a lot about work live balance. Most of the time this is discussed as it relates to time allocated to work and time allocated to “not work”. This doesn’t really work in our hyper-connected, 24 hour world. You can receive email 24 hours a day on multiple devices, work from anywhere there is an internet connection, or meet by conference call, work life balance is less about “reserving” time for your life, and more about living your life while working.

So what does this mean for a leader? Well, in the winter, snow happens. Plan for it and let people off the hook if they tell you there is a four feet high snow pile in front of their driveway. People have families – leave space for them to attend to the needs of their family when they need to, with the understanding that they will make time for work deadlines they you need them to. And, above all, lighten up. Let a little humor help buoy the team during the tough times. Your team are not robots – they are people. Make it clear what is expected of your team, hold them accountable for delivering on their responsibilities, and give them the space to succeed – no matter what life throws at us.

And the little guy in the picture? I don’t know his name, but he makes me smile. Sometimes that’s all we need, no matter how much snow there is outside.