At The Ballet

The ballet season is about to begin at the Kennedy Center. The marvel of the ballet is that dancers are telling stories through music and motion. Not a word is spoken. With precision and movement the drama unfolds. We attended a breathtaking performance of the Bolshoi Ballet several years ago -- The Sleeping Beauty. We were certain that we didn't take a breath for the first half of the performance. It was captivating.

Through my practice of yoga, I've developed a great appreciation for ballet dancers. Their art takes skill and practice and focus. I know that yoga poses, especially poses involving balancing on one foot, take practice and focus. I often have difficulty balancing in class when my instructor talks us through the tree pose. I have to tune out the sound of her voice, detach mentally from the room, look inward, and focus on my balance. I'm alone in my own space. I am focused. I imagine that is how a ballerina performs -- in a focused, inward state in her own space.

Finding balance is a challenge. Consider Marissa Mayer's decision to end telecommuting at Yahoo! It caused a great amount of discussion. One of her justifications for her decision is that the employees needed to be together in the office in order to collaborate with each other. She has a very valid point. Interaction stirs creativity. It's one of reasons Barbara and I meet weekly -- to stir new ideas and get reality checks on old ones.

On the other hand is the point of view that once a new idea is formed, a new product, program, whatever, employees need quite time to develop or implement the idea. They need time and their own space to focus and produce results. If they are in an environment where a great deal of activity is taking place, they may struggle with focus, the same way I struggle with my tree pose in class. There need to be balance -- time to collaborate and create -- and time to focus and produce.

Finding balance in modern life is critical and challenging. We live in such a plugged-in world. We are always connected, always doing. We need to take time to just be. Several years ago heard David Ulrich talk about leadership and good leaders. He talked about a particular "leader" who held a responsible job with a large company. This individual bragged about the long hours he worked. He wore 24/7 as a badge of honor. Ulrich's point was: it isn't. He observed the individual slowly losing effectiveness in his role and in his organization. He lacked balance.

As a leader, consider:

• What will you do to find balance in your life?
• What will you do to assure there is balance in the lives of your colleagues?
• What will you do to assure there is balance in the lives of the employees?
• Will you recognize burnout in yourself and others?
• How will you address it?
• How will you assure that the organization's culture honors balance?

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