Need to Achieve Better Work-Life Balance? Measure by Influence, Not Time

You’ve heard me talk about the power of positive influence in the workplace, but lately I find myself inspired by examples of a leader’s influence at home. I remember what it was like to feel pulled in both directions while in a fulfilling job. At one end was a fierce desire to perform at work, while the other end was a constant and heartfelt pull to be with my wife and kids.

Finding time to spend with your family when you have a demanding job is no less difficult than managing a positive rapport with your employees day in and day out. Before the pandemic, families might have paid the price more often because they tend to be the more flexible of the two demands on a leader’s time. Yet COVID-19 has allowed many executives to reach a more pleasant compromise.

For instance, Peloton CEO John Foley and vice president Jill Foley have rediscovered dinnertime with their eight-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old son. It used to be that the Foleys would get home by 7:30 p.m. after the nanny had already fed and prepped the kids for bed. Now the Foleys say their daughter’s personality and maturity are blossoming due to the family’s increased interaction at the dinner table.

Six months prior to the pandemic, CNN Business surveyed executives to learn what it was like to manage their high-stress positions while balancing those demands with family life. Survey respondent and Oakland Athletics president Dave Kaval admitted that dinners were hard because of night games, but his family found other times to connect. Thankfully, his two teenage daughters had a delayed start at school, so breakfast became a casual, unstructured time when they could open up with him.

One of my strategies during my time at Prologis was to prioritize nights and weekends. It was challenging for me because I traveled 80 percent of the time. That meant when I was home, my family was my top priority. There weren’t many nights out with the guys or with my wife and our friends.

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It was also important that I did my best to plan my schedule around my kids’ schedule. When they were younger, it helped that I was an early riser and put in my extra work hours when they were either asleep or preoccupied with getting ready for school. That allowed me to focus on them before, during, and after dinner when they had more time.

Another way of spending quality time with my kids as they got older was to get involved with their college visits. My daughter wasn’t sure what type of school she wanted, so we visited twenty-one universities together over five road trips. Later, my son was leaning toward Penn State before his visits began, so we chose to visit seven schools over three different trips.

Since then and well beyond my Prologis years, we’ve found other reasons to be pilot and copilot on long road trips. I have easily traveled more than 10,000 miles with each of them, and I cherish that time with my kids. There were a lot of laughs, heartwarming talks, and bad food. The Rakowiches are road warriors!

Pandemic or no pandemic, it’s a challenge to maintain a positive influence at work and home. But speaking from experience, it’s worth it. These days, and depending on your kids’ ages, it can be incredibly difficult to juggle schedules with remote working and varied school schedules. Look for those times of the day and days of the week to protect and be around each other. No plan, no technology—just an open road or, if it’s easier, an open mind.

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