Leaders inside companies tend to be driven, hard-working and dedicated people who have strong ideas on where they want their companies to go. Working long hours when it's needed is common, and sometimes other parts of their lives suffer. I've seen people start to burn out, but still feel they can't let up. Shonda Rhimes, television producer and chief writer of major American shows including Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, might say they have lost their "hum". She described her own experience in a poetic and passionate 18-minute TED talk:
Rhimes is a hugely successful self-confessed workaholic whose shows are translated into 67 languages and seen by 30 million people worldwide, At one point the effort of creating 70 hours of television per season, with three to four shows in simultaneous production, meant that she lost the joy in her life, or her "hum". Creating a rule of always saying yes whenever her children asked to play with them, whatever the demands of her job, changed that:
"…it's had a magical effect on me, on my children, on our family. But it's also had a stunning side effect, and it wasn't until recently that I fully understood it, that I understood that saying yes to playing with my children likely saved my career."
I've seen other successful businessmen and women push themselves so hard they lose their hum. Some people can detect when it's happening, but feel powerless to do anything about it because we get stuck in loops of continuing doing what's worked in the past, and just try to push through it. As a coach I've helped clients work through this, and you can do a simple coaching exercise on yourself to test if it's happening, and consider what to do.
Draw three non-overlapping circles and label them Career, Me, and Friends and Family:
Imagine you have been divided into a hundred equal parts, and write in each circle how much of you is devoted to that area. So for me just now it would probably be 40 for Career, 30 for Me, and 30 for Friends and Family. Work is drawing more of my time and energy than the other areas, but is still less than half, so I feel comfortable with the current balance.
Look at the numbers you have written down and consider:
How happy are you with the balance between the three areas?
Which numbers in the three circles would best reflect your priorities?
If there's an imbalance then what could you do to address it?
Rhimes found that just 15 minutes of play made a big difference to herself and her family. If things do look out of balance then what's the best way you could spend 15 minutes today to improve it?
My Own Hum
I can personally empathise with Rhimes story, and admire the step she took. It's been a very busy and successful time over the last month delivering workshops, coaching and consultancy in Germany, Romania, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. It's been great for my company, exciting to meet and help people in different organisations discover how to strengthen what they are doing, and the feedback from clients has been good. However, it's been tiring in parts, and writing this article has helped me realise that the real highlight is closer to home. It was recently the 15th birthday of my son, and I bought him running gear and we ran together for the first time ever. He has severe autism and there have been times I never thought we would be able to do this so to enjoy the fresh air and countryside with him was amazing. We walked and jogged over 7K! This was my best achievement of the last month.
About The Author
Alasdair Graham is the founder of Apex Discovery and a coach who helps leaders and businesses grow. If you found this blog post useful then please share it.
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