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Watch Your Mouth!

Redefining work-life balance

5 April 2016

Elena Astilleros

As Agile coaches and ScrumMasters, we get to redefine the language of the workplace. For instance, let’s take the concept of “work-life balance.” Clearly, no one means to say that life happens only outside of working hours. However, let’s really look at the phrase: work-life balance. On one side of the scale is work and on the other is life. How much enthusiasm could that bring to the idea of work? I imagine the work-life scale as toil and drudgery on one side and springtime, ice cream, and smiling baby faces on the other.

I don’t know what your scale looks like, but oppose anything to life, and I bet it will have a hard time keeping its luster.

As good Agilists, we get to invite and model win-win conversations. We get to be the ones to remind our teams that work is life. Let me repeat that: Work is life. Our teams are the place to bring our A games. The time spent working together as a team forms a backbone of support for our lives and interests, not just monetarily. Well-executed solutions let us shine. Everyone on the team who applies what they are good at and creates something that wasn’t there before enhances all areas of our lives.

I experienced a win-win solution when I worked with a team to create a scholarship application system. We were dedicated to delivering everything that was needed for the project — our applicants needed their scholarship money to go to college. The hours were intense. My relationship with my children was crumbling. I took this issue to the team: How do I create a quality childhood for my boys while still delivering what was needed on this project? We came up with a solution. A conference room was converted to a game room and every day after school, the boys came to work with me. Team members took breaks with the boys and helped them with their homework, taught them job skills, and even helped teach them boxing and baseball.

This experience was amazing! We got to create a scholarship system that was the best in the world (it was picked up by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the future Gates scholarships), and quality time with the boys was not only preserved but also enhanced by this community of caring colleagues. This happened only through our clarity that what we saw was out of balance and because of our team commitment to one another. Team members still send messages asking about the boys.

Being the stand for a sustainable workplace, we get to lead the conversation about what is available on our teams. When we hear our teams bring up their frustration with their work-life balance, it is a perfect opportunity to bust out our coaching chops and invite them into a new conversation. What if we could coach our teams to take full responsibility for the contribution they are making within their work hours? What if our teams understood that they were together to share their talents and skills and create something way bigger than they could on their own?

As Agilists, we get to be the constant reminder that the lives of our team members matter, that what they do in their day job matters, and that the number of people who benefit from their job well done is much larger than their immediate team, department, or clients. We get to remind our teams that they are, indeed, the elite on the planet — intelligent, thoughtful, impactful members of our teams are truly the global one percent.

To extend this invitation, we must rigorously reinvent ourselves. Our teams will only go as far as we do. We get to bring our 100 percent to the team and continuously deliver and evolve the value we bring to our customers. Sometimes this doesn’t look pretty, and many times we’ve got to give up control to get to our own next level.

As coaches, let’s develop a set of acceptance criteria for what a life worth living looks like for our team members. Team balance will look different on each team, but they can lead on how they want their work to balance out, whether in work-relationship, work-health, work-community, work-family, work-education, or work-spirituality balance. We get to boldly lead our teams to the next level of what they can create and how much they can balance. We must stand in certainty that their scale can always increase, because that’s truly the best way our team members can have it all.

It all starts with a little language shifting.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.2 (6 ratings)


Kamisetti Sateesh, CSM, 4/12/2016 4:10:12 AM
Great post Elena

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