Leadership Skills: Planning for Balance

Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around every once in awhile, you could miss it.

– John Hughes

BalanceLeaders tell me how hard they work. Some tell me how long it’s been since they took a vacation (sometimes it’s been years since they took a vacation). Some tell me that they work long days and work every day of the week. It seems that they are bragging. I’m hearing that they don’t know how to plan and manage their priorities. Balance means having time to do multiple things and having time to do them with quality. It also means that working all the time compromises the quality of the work. Human performance needs the balance of work, play, rest, and reflection.

Successful people have a clear vision and a passion for achieving that vision. Having an overall plan is essential. Saying that you have goals, and they are only in your mind, means that you only have dreams. An overall plan for a business (including nonprofit organizations or religious institutions) is referred to as a strategic plan. Basically, it’s where you want to be and how you will get there. It’s much more complex than that; however, we will just use that definition for this post as clarity of principle. Make a plan.

Plan – A written plan is a framework for making decisions, leading a team, and building an enterprise. Components of that plan are long-term objectives, short-term goals, and action plans. Time activate that plan by placing action items into a weekly calendar. That’s the “now.” Plan each “now” and plan the time between each “now.” Also, plan for planning time. Plan rest, fun, and thinking, in addition to the action items. If these items are not on the calendar, they will not happen. Balance comes through careful, intentional planning. Set yearly goals, weekly action plans (tasks) and Daily Valuable Deliverables TM (DVDs). Evaluate your work at the end of each day and at the end of each week. Evaluate the work of your team weekly with their weekly deliverables (action plan). This replaces the dysfunctional yearly employee review!

Commit – Plan your work and work your plan. That’s it. Commitment and discipline equal success.

Evaluate – Place evaluation time into your planning process. If you have a 5-year strategic plan, then schedule an evaluation every six months and migrate that plan over time; then you will always have a 5-year plan. Evaluate the work of your team members with their weekly report, timed for their weekly action plan deliverables.

Revise – We make our best plans. We learn things. Conditions change. Our plans were too optimistic or projections too weak. Revise the plan on an ongoing basis. Commitment to success means learning from our mistakes.

Recommit – This is the same as #2, except with the updated plan.

This pattern is for the personal discipline of the leader and the discipline of the team. When people tell me that they set goals and those goals don’t materialize, I reply that the system is not in place to achieve the goal.

Creating a system allows leadership to have balance in life, balance in managing multiple priorities, balance in separating work and personal life and, finally, balance in being a whole person (planning means caring for self as a spiritual, physical, and emotional being).

Balance does not mean that everything is equal. Striving for equality is like striving for perfection. Perfect is the enemy of good. Striving for equality dumbs down quality.


Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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Hugh Ballou (Author)