Finding Balance in Your Career

For those of you who can actually find the time to sit back and read the newspapers, not just the Sports and Employment Section, you might have read Daniel’s Petre’s Father Time (Macmillan – 1998).

Petre’s theme is simple and one which rings true in the sport context.

“Take a successful senior male executive with all the trappings – status, power, money and control. He becomes a father and suddenly an aspect of his life becomes chaotic. He gets home at arsenic hour when the baby is crying, the toddler has a dirty nappy and the preschooler is falling asleep at her dinner.

“This is a place where his status and power mean nothing. He feels incompetent and retreats to his work, finding excuses to stay later and later. On weekends he finds it easier to work than to do stuff with his kids.”

The result, says Petre, is that generations of children are growing up fatherless. The live to work ethic versus the work to live philosophy also comes under scrutiny. A balanced life is one, which uses time at work efficiently while also providing dedicated time for family and personal pursuits.

While Petre focuses specifically on the relationship between father and son, the prevailing corporate culture demands an executive’s total commitment, and the argument is equally applicable to men and women.

Sport administrators are faced with a set of unusual circumstances. They are expected to work their usual week, attend evening and weekend meetings and show up at the game(s) or events as often as possible. Recognition of the extent to which salaried sport administrators give up their leisure and family time, equal to that of their honorary colleagues, needs to be more widely acknowledged.

When Sportspeople Recruitment reviews candidates for sport management positions, and in particular when we’re seeking the candidate’s view on the hours required to fulfill a job, the “work as required” philosophy is more often than not the mantra in sport. There appears to be an unwritten rule in sport that it’s OK to work whenever you’re needed and it’s acceptable to be needed in the evenings, on the weekends, before work or whenever required.

This work obsession is clearly wrong. Sport administrators get roped into committing their lives to the success of the organisation. More often than not they are moulding themselves on the performance of previous or current managers or simply on how they think they should act. Sure, a commitment to the organisation is important and an integral part of working with any organisation, but there has to be some balance to the commitment.

Evaluating your productivity in your workplace is a good starting point. Maximise Productivity in the time you have available in the office, setting clear objectives at least weekly. Avoid carrying over priorities from week to week.

Focus on the big issues – too often sport administrators get bogged down on the menial tasks at the expense of the big issues. Work smarter, not longer.

Establish some rules in the workplace about out of hour’s commitments. The nature of our industry means there will be an impact on your family and personal time, but keep it in balance. Have the courage to question the need for you to attend all those meetings and events. The strength of an organisation can be evaluated on its capacity to work as a collective rather than having a dependency on one unit for its success. It’s no coincidence the best managers also exhibit strong time management and delegation skills.

When you have a family or personal commitment, diarise it, just as you would any other important business meeting. Resist the pressure to change it. While attending your children’s big events (Athletics and Swimming carnivals etc.) is a good start, try to have a presence at other times where the focus is not just on performance or results.

Find some time for the most important person in your life – you! There’s nothing wrong with taking some time off to do things for you. Maybe come into the office later once in a while, find some time to exercise and make it part of your weekly activity. Being more relaxed can lead to improvements in both productivity and creativity in the workplace.

Invest time in your organisation to develop a work culture which not only respects and values the family, it prioritises family issues appropriately against work goals. These aren’t easy things to do, particularly within the context of Australian Sport with its macho idealistic groundings. You’ll need to challenge your peers and examine what is really important in your life. You’ll find detractors more often than supporters, arguing managers need to be strong, focused, committed and leaders by example – qualities which I would argue are more likely to be evident in managers who lead a balanced life rather than those single dimensional managers.

Above all else, start the talk. You’ll be surprised how many people will understand exactly what you’re saying and how pleased they are you’ve finally said it.

RM – Sportspeople Recruitment
First Published 2017

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