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Crisis PR: Lockdowns. Feeling unmoored? Struggling with work/life balance? This crisis requires personal analysis.

If you had, pre-pandemic, cleverly separated work and home, then it’s no surprise you feel unsettled. Everything, from your thinking and habits, to the size and layout of your home, is unsuited to a lockdown.

Perhaps it takes a change of approach? And remember, others are listening to what you say, but more importantly, are watching what you do.

I always struggled with the concept of work/life balance anyway. When I eventually analysed why, it carried an implicit criticism that I shouldn’t think about my family when at work, nor work when at home.

Mid-pandemic, the concept, after weeks stuck working-at-home, seems even more inappropriate.

So, another approach is to give 100% of my effort to work and to home. And measure it, not by minutes, but by the quality of all my relationships. I’m still on a journey with this, but it’s way better for me than battling with work/life balance.

I’m with author Susan Scott (Fierce Conversations), who wrote that relationships are simply built on a series of conversations. She believes in making each conversation count.

Scott argues that every conversation, negative or positive, leaves a long tail – a memory that defines the relationship. We will all remember instances where a relationship has been broken for a long time by one bad conversation. Conversely, we all warmly remember relationships where, even after years, we can pick up from where we left off.

Scott’s principle is that a conversation should have our full attention for every second. It involves the art of listening, including the clever use of silence – overcoming the urge to interrupt. I’ve read that the average Australian can tolerate about four seconds of silence with a friend before feeling an urge to speak – to fill the void. Ever tested that?

It also involves concurrent self-examination. It involves, sometimes, managing the ebb and flow of tension. It includes knowing how to raise the ‘big issue, never discussed’ rather than avoiding it.

And, yes, it also involves making sure your opinion is also heard.
Some ‘how-to’ writers spruik that listening is the single most important art for a leader. To me, that cheapens the other skills of leadership. Listening is critical, but it’s a fraction of the art of building strong relationships.

So, while Steve Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) famously authored the phrase, ‘Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood’, he also imprinted the concept of ‘win/win’ into business culture.

In a lockdown, however, is building relationships enough? Probably not. A hobby is probably important. So is discipline, and time-segmenting.

But does it give us the potential to emerge from this testing situation with a new set of skills, and stronger relationships?

Author Mark Jay

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