Work life balance can be hard to achieve, especially for executives running major businesses. In the book, "The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers," author and venture capitalist Ben Horowitz says one of the biggest challenges executives face is managing their own psychology and mental health. Leaders have a lot on their plates, but without a clear focus on keeping their own work life balance in check, it can be hard to effectively lead their staff through difficult times.
The Stress That's on Leadership
Forbes notes that business leaders face tremendous stress — and research shows that CEOs can be depressed at twice the rate of the average public. In part, this may be because authority can lead to depression. Much of Horowitz's advice acknowledges what Quartz has called the entrepreneurial "dark night of the soul."
"People always ask me, "What's the secret to being a successful CEO?" Sadly, there is no secret, but if there is one skill that stands out, it's the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no moves," Horowitz writes. "It's the moments where you feel like hiding or dying that you can make the biggest difference as CEO."
Some would say that during difficult times CEOs need to take care of their workforce or optimize business performance. But it's critical they attend to their own mental health. HR leaders should ask, "What do my leaders need in order to thrive during difficult times?"
3 Ways to Help the Leaders at Your Organization
As part of a series on must-read books for HR leaders, we're taking a look at three strategies recommended by Horowitz that can help HR leaders support their C-suite.
1. Encourage leaders to ask for help
Horowitz notes that many CEOs and business leaders keep issues to themselves. They may be trying to manage stress at the organization, protect their teams or even hide from their own embarrassment at what's occurring. "Nobody takes losses harder than the person most responsible," says Horowitz. When executives open up and communicate transparently with their teams, it's easier to move forward. The team's best minds can be focused on solving the problem and the leader can call on the organization's brain trust to help move past the obstacles at hand. Encourage your organizations' leadership to communicate with the workforce in an honest and transparent way.
2. Focus on how leaders cope
There are a number of important variables to track during difficult times at your organization. However, HR leaders may not stop to ask how their colleagues are handling the situation. Horowitz notes that one of the critical factors of successful leadership is not taking it personally. "Every CEO makes mistakes," he says. "Evaluating yourself and giving yourself an F isn't going to help," he says. Take the time to set up a conversation and assess the mindset of your leaders. If they're becoming mired in challenging situations, consider different solutions that might help them cope better. Options include working with an executive coach, attending therapy, getting more support on non-essential tasks or simply setting up regular check-ins with an HR colleague.
3. Prioritize a healthy work life balance
When there's a crisis at work, executives can be drawn in and spend all their time in the office. Be a voice for reason that encourages executives to spend time with family and friends, disconnect at a reasonable time and pursue stress management practices. Mindfulness can help leaders be more effective and you can assist in making these practices available in the workplace.
Work life balance can be crucial to strong mental health and successful leadership — especially through business difficulties. For HR leaders, it's a worthy investment to help your organization's leaders cultivate mindfulness, work with their teams to resolve conflict and keep a healthy emotional balance.
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