There has been a theme in my conversations with leaders this past week…several executives talked about being content with where they are at in their careers. Their priorities have shifted. Goals they set years ago are suddenly not as important as they thought they were and they were wondering if this is a bad thing? Shouldn’t they want more? Isn’t it expected that they should keep striving to climb the corporate ladder? Is this good for their work/life balance – openly admitting they are happy with their current role and, for now, are not interested in staying on the fast track?
One very accomplished female executive has been on the fast track for almost 20 years. She has accomplished much, worked all over the world, upgraded her education and very quickly climbed the corporate ladder. She is a highly sought after and credible leader in the organization. She now has a young family and her priorities and goals have changed. Once work was her first priority and personal relationships took second place…now there is a shift for her. The professional side of her and the personal side of her are suddenly in a battle for supremacy. She has always been a ‘builder’ in her career. She has thrived on the energy that comes from building something from nothing. She recently accepted a role that is more about ‘maintenance’ and yet has a great deal of flexibility that meets her personal need to be there for her family. She is content in her role yet she knows it is not as challenging a role as she would ideally like. Staying on the fast track would increase the challenge, increase the pressure to perform and increase the hours of work. Professionally she loves all three of these components, yet personally she knows she would be sacrificing a lot. She believes that her company expects her to continue her pursuit to the top; after all, she has a reputation, and the company has invested a lot in her! Her struggle is this…if she decides to step off the fast track and ‘hang out on the platform’ for a while, will she still be seen as a valuable leader? Or, will she be washed up? Will she be passed over for future opportunities? Will her rail care be fatally stalled? She loves the company and thrives on constantly challenging herself, however her family life is important too. Is it possible to satisfy her current personal needs without sacrificing future professional opportunities?
We all know of companies who say they value work/life balance. Do they really? What is the level of authenticity in that statement? How do companies demonstrate that family values are important to them? If executives decide to take a detour off the fast track does the company support them and welcome them back with open arms when they are ready to hop back on the train…or are they branded with no chance to catch the train at the next stop?