Work to Generate Happiness and Success
This is the first of two blogs that I have been speaking about and thinking about for some time but have not had the opportunity to publish. Current events at global and at personal levels make these even more relevant today. I will discuss balance in work and life in this blog and the second part concerns the value of a management team.
We all wish to attain personal and professional happiness and professional success in our lives and careers. When I was young, getting a good job and making a decent wage was the primary key to success. That professional success was thought to equate to happiness. Many now question the premise because more money and a solid career did not result in a happy life by themselves. There are too many popular and professional analyses of these findings to review or even quickly summarize. Professional success and personal happiness appear highly correlated but many authors still struggle with the direction of causality. The topic needs more research!
I have no real suggestion to achieve happiness nor could I even define happiness fully. I would argue, however, that for many aspects of your students’ life and career that a balanced approach will increase the likelihood of success in both. While I have used this argument for students about to launch their careers, I suspect that it generalizes with slight modifications to faculty and others. Balance appears to be a vital aspect of professional development and in many aspects of our lives. As examples, I offer six:
- Balance of business skills and soft skills. As AUPHA emphasized during the 2019 Graduate Program and Practitioners Workshop, there is a need for both sets of skills in our future leaders. Clearly, the quantitative and analytical competencies emphasized in finance, economics, quantitative methods, strategic planning, and other courses speak to the value of business or “hard skills.” Especially for those seeking their first job, having a full basket of these skills give our students a leg up on that first job. Many of the required competencies address these skills. Moving forward in the student’s career, however, the “soft” or professional development competencies such as team development, planning/leading change, managing conflict, and communication skills become more crucial. Consequently, our students are more attractive in the market if they possess a balance of both sets of competencies for long-term success. As my kids would say, “nobody want to work for Sheldon Cooper.”
- Balanced investment portfolio. Lest you think that this applies mainly to educational content, one only needs to look at the advice financial analysts give for your portfolio. They generally advise to balance growth vs income equities; high, medium, and low risk; equities, bonds, and cash among other features that benefit from balance. Too much of any single aspect of your investment portfolio will generate lower returns in the long run.
- Balance in relationships. I realize that I am on soft ice with this due to only minimal knowledge of and guarded success but it appears from the relationship guides both being too assertive or being too passive in an interpersonal relationship may result in poor outcomes and unhappy relations. The key seems to be to find that best balance between asserting your preferences to a point but being open to the needs of others may spell success. Assert, but do not dominate.
- Balance in early professional career. For our graduates, finding the optimal mix of strict rules for performance with sympathy and empathy for employees seems to facilitate success. While the imposition of rules for performance demonstrate you are serious about your position and know what it takes to succeed, you must realize that your employees bring context and history to the work setting. You are unlikely to understand that context in full and benefit from granting some allowances based upon circumstances. Again, a balance in application of rules and standards can create a more positive environment.
- Balance as a leader. As our graduates rise within the leadership ranks, the value of a balanced approach may grow further. Leaders must continue to seek operational and clinical efficiencies and pursue legitimate business opportunities to succeed. These leaders must remember, however, that healthcare is a caring profession. They have an obligation to provide community support and often uncompensated social value through their leadership. The failure of either aspect of leadership can lead to poor outcomes and should generate professional dissonance. The moral imperative that Gary Filerman outlined in the 2018 Pattullo Lecture demonstrates the need to recognize social obligation. The epi pen and OxyContin challenges represent extreme versions of failure to consider social responsibility. Exiting a community or a service line due to financial loss, while less extreme, represent similar weaknesses.
- Work life balance. We read a lot today about stress and professional burnout. Many professionals in healthcare have not done a good job of balancing work time and private time. Your students need to spend many hours and fully engage at work but they need to have fun and develop meaningful relationships as well. We all know that too soon they will “mature” and wonder what happened. Just ask senior alumni or even faculty colleagues how many divorced or ended a committed relationship during a portion of their careers. Even if professionally successful, many did not pursue a good work life balance.
This last point has become the subject of significant discussion from a variety of segments of the working world. I particularly like the quote from Stephen Gillett "Invest in your work life balance. Time with friends and family is as important as times at work. Getting that out of balance is a path toward unhappiness." Mr. Gillett, the CEO of Chronicle, a Google CyberSecurity company, developed in their moonshot factory, is not the type of person you expect to support work life balance but he does.
Applying a balanced approach to many aspects of life appears to improve outcomes. Not that this is my idea,,as seen from a quote from author Betsy Jacobson that reinforces these points, “Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices." She essentially assumes that balance is important but extends the idea with a reasonable suggestion for maintaining that balance. As we manage our lives and advise our students with strategies to enhance their careers and life successes, failure to set and enforce boundaries seems to get in the way of appropriate balance.
On a private note, we as educators would have greater credibility if we lived more balanced lives. Perhaps we should seek balance in our lives before we mentor our students to seek balance in theirs.