Balance Featured

10:55am EDT March 28, 2003
I attended an event recently where a panel of corporate CEOs addressed issues revolving mostly around chief executives building lasting reputations for themselves and their companies.

The audience, assembled in a program by the Pittsburgh Technology Council's CEO Network, was made up mostly of their peers.

Work-life balance was one issue, and all of the panelists agreed that achieving it is a difficult proposition. One of the CEOs acknowledged that the demands of his job contributed to the crumbling of his marriage. Another emphasized the value of having the right spouse, one who understands the pressures top executives face.

The CEO of a technology company said one of his firm's core values is life-work balance, and that it helps employees achieve it by offering flexible work schedules and the option to work at home. Another spends "quality time" with his three children, disguised as fun for them but a way for him to find out what's going on in their lives.

The bosses on the panel likely would encourage everyone in their companies to balance their lives and apportion adequate time for their families and personal enrichment. Yet, by the nature of their personalities and the demands of their positions, some CEOs themselves find it hard to be anything but workaholics.

If a CEO is to set an example for everyone else in the organization, working 70-hour weeks hardly seems like work-life balance.

A lot of us, let alone CEOs, can't stand up at 5 o'clock, punch the clock and walk out of the office. There's always that last fire to put out, another e-mail to answer, one more call to make.

Most people I know work a lot of hours at their jobs, their personal interests, volunteering, taking care of their families. Balance for them is some time with the kids or their spouse, a round of golf at a public course or a quiet afternoon reading a book.

If you expect to be home every night at 5 o'clock for supper, a CEO slot probably isn't for you.

Harry Truman, a CEO admired by many, recommended that anyone looking for a friend in Washington should get a dog. CEOs who want more balance in their lives might have to look for another job.

The rest of us might be content to just walk the dog.