Work Life Effectiveness interview series: Rob Hornby
What does Work Life Effectiveness (“WLE”) mean to you?
For me, it means a constant struggle to make sure I have a life outside of work that I won’t regret in ten years time.
What is one strategy that helps you establish, maintain, and achieve WLE in your workday?
First, I need to be honest that I go through periods when I don’t achieve any kind of balance. I don’t want to pretend that I am some kind of role model in this area, but I do take it seriously.
My best strategy is to find a pattern of work, exercise, family, and vacations that works as a whole. I need to consciously reestablish this every time I have a major change in work commitments. But the trick is to force a new pattern when the old one has broken down. This is why I have tried spinning, tai chi, taekwondo, pilates, cycling to work, and the gym all in the last two years and for relatively short periods!
What do you find the most challenging about being effective in both your work & family lives?
My biggest problems come when several things—that would be manageable in themselves—converge to create an impossible situation. I have had real difficulty extricating myself from these periods in the past. No amount of stress management techniques helps when 100% of your capacity meets only 50% of your obligations. In these situations, you need help and should ask for it.
Is there an AlixPartners program that you have found helpful in maintaining a good balance?
The Managing Director Leadership Program. Fred Crawford’s candor and wise counsel was invaluable.
At what point in your career did you realize that WLE actually improves your performance in the workplace?
I have told everyone else this for as long as I can remember, so I have probably always known!
How has your approach on WLE evolved over the years?
I have noticed that some of what seemed so desperately urgent and important at the time actually wasn’t. I have become better at working out in advance what the real priorities are.
I have also come to terms with being finite. There is only one of me, and once I have given everything, I no longer feel guilty about what I cannot do.
How do you ensure your teams are achieving WLE?
I have a few guidelines:
- Some things are more important than work (like a family crisis or major health issues). I always make sure that my team understands that these matters take priority. I also try to take away responsibility from the person they are affecting to resolve the gap they leave.
- Take advantage of any natural ebb and flow. We all work hard between projects, but it is easier to recharge during these periods than when client work is in full flow.
- Be flexible. I don’t want someone to feel guilty about attending an important school meeting at 4 p.m. when they routinely answer emails at 10 p.m.
- There is never a good time for a holiday, and exceptions are very rare in my view. So take them when you booked them.
- Ask for help. It doesn’t make sense to struggle privately and then have a crisis.
If you had to give one piece of advice related to WLE to your younger self, what would it be?
Someone did actually tell me this earlier in my career: “The firm will take everything you are prepared to give it. You are the only person who can protect your own wellbeing.”
I like to think that many people in AlixPartners do care about each others’ wellbeing, but the essence of this advice remains true.
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Work Life Effectiveness interview series: John Creighton