Family First, Always

December 22, 2016

By Ramiro Zuniga

It goes without saying that it is not easy being in a leadership position. There are so many things to deal with beyond simply doing the work. There are personnel issues. There are morale issues. There are political issues. So how does one deal with this?  Good question.

I have often offered the advice of finding a balance and keeping one’s priorities straight to many upcoming leaders.

It is very easy to become a workaholic, especially at the start of one’s career. It is during this stage of one’s career that we want to impress upper management. Employees at this stage want to show their loyalty and dedication. This is admirable.

I however, have always advised against this behavior, even though I am guilty of doing the same early in my career. Consider my advice to be coming from experience. I consciously devoted three years to this. In fact, I remember telling my wife that I would alter my work habits after 3 years, hoping it would pay off. Truth be told, I believe I would have been just as successful in my career without having done this. I can’t tell you how many birthday parties, family dinners, and the like, that I missed during this time. I have no regrets, however, I now believe that this was not necessary.

For years now, I have been sharing my mantra, “Family first, always.”

What does this mean? It means that family time should rarely be sacrificed for the sake of work. For the employee, it means that an employee take time off from work in order to take care of a sick child or spouse without fear of repercussion. For the employer, especially when deadlines are looming, it is a great time to realign resources in support of employees.

I have had employees tell me that this perspective has brought them so much relief. I have to believe that this results in happier, more productive employees.

This philosophy translates to leaders, as well as those without families. Of course, I recognize that the work and job are extremely important. After all, you can’t feed your family if you don’t have a paycheck. There will be times when overtime will be required in order to complete a project. However, family has to be a higher priority than a job.

Keeping family first is a great way to stay grounded and focused on what is truly important.

The problem with being a workaholic is that, without check, this behavior can carry out through an entire career. Let me point out that recognition of good work is never found in the number of hours worked. In fact, consistently working late may be a sign of not being organized in managing time.

Another practice that I have seen over the life of my career is employees skipping lunch. I always highly discourage this practice. Yes, skipping lunch every now and then may be required but it should not be common practice. Rarely will the fate of a project rely on someone not taking lunch. Most days, a project will not die if employees take a lunch break. When I see this, I often challenge employees with, “If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?” There are many studies showing that lunch is vital to mental and physical health. For me, I want employees that are present, healthy, and working at their best.

Although the examples that I have described are about supporting employees, the advice does apply to those in leadership positions. Every leader should know that priorities should always be kept. In doing so, leaders will find opportunities by which to stay grounded and better equipped to deal with the pressures that come with leadership.

Remember, it’s okay to love your job, but love your life more. You will be a better person and leader for it.

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