Many say that time is money. And that money is time. And money is also described as a lot of other things. But money “ain’t ever” described as cancer.
Someone dear to me was recently diagnosed with Stage I Melanoma cancer. Since the cancer was discovered early, it appears that with a succesful surgery she will be essentially “cancer free.” She will simply just go for periodic test moving forward. “Simply.” Hmm. This person is my wife.
The jolt of hearing “cancer” and the thought of perhaps losing her helped me to once again crystallize my priorities and think about a lot of things. It also helped me to examine where I am spending my time.
So, if I go with the “time is money” idea, and assuming that I have clarity on what is important to me (i.e. my family, friends, etc.), then the question becomes this: “Am I spending my “money” on the things that are truly important to me?”
This question has been running through my head at several levels recently. Although it doesn’t consume my thoughts, it certainly has my attention in almost every aspect of my life. Recently, pondering this question about priorities and how we spend our time has brought to mind a work-related subject about several of my executive coaching clients with whom I have served in the past.
When speaking of their values and priorities, one client was quick (as are most people) to say that his family was the number one priority. Sounds simple, right? Given this proclamation, I was surprised that when the phone rang during our conversation he looked at Caller ID and said “It’s my wife…I’ll call her back later” and hit the mute button for the ringer. In subsequent meetings, I found it amusing that this same person would often put our meeting on hold when he received a call….from their boss.
In practice, which was a higher priority for him…work or family?
Another client once explained that their employees were like family and it was this closeness that created the desired culture and related “success” of the organization. Imagine my surprise to discover that while open conversation and free thought/questions were publicly encouraged, in practice, those that asked questions were “shunned” and “talked about” behind their back.
People at this organization were micro-managed by the “leaders.” True conversations were only held in private meetings and with whispered undertones in fear of being manipulated, shunned, or ridiculed. And consequently, employees only voiced support for organization and its policies whether those feelings were true or not.
The results was an environment of underlying suspicion and fear that poisoned authenticity, integrity, and honesty.
When the recent tight economy started to impact the organization financially, the “costs” related to employees was the first things to go. Employee’s training and development plans, along with health benefits were the first to get cut. These were quickly followed by a downsizing of staff. And as one might imagine in this type of self-centered leadership environment, the senior “leadership” gave themselves raises by paying out higher salaries and giving themselves bonuses.
If this was indeed a “family,” it was a dysfunctional one, at best.
Another client came to me for executive coaching to help find and achieve “work/life balance.” Similar to the “Work/Life Balance?” entry from fellow L2L contributor Scott Archibald, this client felt that technology was blurring the lines between their personal and their professional life.
So when asked the question “Which was a priority, your work or your family?” The answer came back quickly as “my family, of course!“
This subjective answer came from his sense of responsibility toward his stated priorities, not from his observable behaviors. His actual behaviors spoke a different story. In practice, vacations were spent with a cell phone and laptop and rarely was this “family” person ever disconnected from the office. The true behaviors illustrated that he is usually disconnected from his family.
Given the detachment from family — Can someone truly find balance if they aren’t fully present?
It’s easy to say that family is my number one priority, but the proof is in the pudding. I’ve lost count of the number of organizations who claim “People are our Most Important Asset” but treat their people as an expense or commodity.
While these statements suggest a priority of where time and money should be focused, unfortunately in practice these resources are spent elsewhere.
But to be clear, time is not money. Time cannot be saved or spent or transferred. Time can only be lived. Time is far more valuable than money, or anything else. Money is simply an idea that means “something of transferable value”. So when I line up my values and priorities, I simply use “money” as an easy term to convey my highest priorities.
So, this brings me back to the question of my own priorities and where I am spending my “money.” While I’ve been running in a deficit capacity for some time, I’ve been trying to making up for it the past few years. I recently moved to be closer to family and I’m spending my “money” by taking the time out with my kids to fish, hike, camp and to try and answer the thousands of questions that a 6, 8, and 10 year old can come up with.
I’ve also been trying to do that “extra something” (fixing a special dinner, having a “date night”) with my wife and by seeking to be fully present when we are together (no BlackBerry or other devices). I’ve also been trying to make amends and reconnect with friends (BTW>> Isn’t social media wonderful to help find people and initiate those lost connections!?)
Professionally, I continue to be of service to my clients as they grow and morph into high-performing executives and organizations who are truly committed and focused on people.
I’d love to spend more time expanding on this…perhaps in future blogs. At the moment though, I am planning a vacation for the family. After my wife’s upcoming appointment with the oncologist to confirm that she is cancer-free since her surgery – we are going camping with the kids. As far as I am concerned, the time we all spend together is the best investment possible.
Personally and professionally speaking, what are your top priorities? Where you are spending your “money?” What changes are needed to bring your words and actions into alignment? My hope is that it doesn’t take an “organizational crisis” or illness for you to do this evaluation in both your personal AND professional life.
Dr. David DeHaven is Executive Coach & Business Strategist at D3 Coaching.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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