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The "Double-Bind" of a Driven Executive

The Real Issue

While much has been written about workaholics and the high cost of executive burnout, companies tend to overlook the symptoms for one compelling reason: We like them.

Their single-minded dedication can often "make the cash register ring." These people 'get things done", they "make it rain". But while people with drive can be assets to the company, those who are driven can wreak havoc. When the inevitable happens, it's difficult and expensive to replace these high-achieving performers. Even the clients they've cultivated are jeopardized as a result of their departure.

Executive Coaching can help keep "rising stars" from becoming "falling stars." By helping people achieve balanced lives, they can now bring a whole, healthy person to your company every day.

In her early 40's, Sarah was a partner in a large multi-state law firm. She was held in high regard by her clients, and her competence and litigation expertise was above reproach.

To her coworkers, and especially the younger associates, another side of Sarah appeared. One that was demanding, cold, confrontational. Despite her professional success, there was a growing sentiment within the company that Sarah was headed for burnout.

The Coaching Intervention

During our first meeting, she came across as extremely bright, if a bit proper. Intellectually, Sarah knew that her life was "out of balance"—but didn't fully appreciate the emotional toll it was taking. She revealed that she was very family-oriented by nature, but saw her 3-year old daughter and 7-year-old son for only about half an hour each day. Several vacations had been planned, but she found reasons to cancel each at the last minute.

As a result, Sarah fell into a classic "double-bind"—resentful at work, guilty at home. Her performance and on-the-job relationships were starting to suffer, jeopardizing the very success she cherished.

After discussion, Sarah listed her most important goals in life: 1) Family, 2) Career, 3) Spirituality, and 4) Health. In the pursuit of her career, she soon saw that she had neglected her family, her health and her need for a more spiritual life. By focusing more of her time and energy on balancing her family, health, and spiritual needs, she came to realize, would probably help make her a better partner at the office and lawyer in the court room.

The Result

Sarah's first commitment was to clear all weekends of work—including bringing work home. Next, she would dedicate one day per work week to be with her children for two uninterrupted hours. Finally, Sarah committed to take the vacation she had promised her children, to a dude ranch in Wyoming.

It hasn't been easy for Sarah to change the behavior that brought her to "the top" at her law firm. But, in our last visit, it appeared that her new behaviors are making her more effective. By feeling more balanced, it's become easier for Sarah to delegate work and create time for herself and her family. Her client relationships remain superb, and for the first time she is enjoying support from other parts of the firm.


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