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Business IS Personal, and You Still Have Business to Do

I imagine you’ve heard the famous line from the movie, The Godfather, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.” You might’ve used this phrase yourself and believed it!

I totally disagree.

Maybe in a large metropolitan area and working within a large organization, you can maintain distance between your personal and work worlds. You may be good at compartmentalizing between work and home, business and pleasure.

What you may not realize is—there’s a tremendous cost.

It’s Exhausting Trying to Keep Everything Separated

Over 20 years consulting with leadership teams, coaching individuals, and working with couples, the biggest challenge and life-threatening issue I regularly see, is people dividing up their lives.

When you try to separate your personal challenges from work and leave your business behind when you head home, it’s exhausting. You wind up censoring what you are thinking and feeling. You often manage your behavior for effect. This takes a large amount of energy.

It’s almost impossible to do when you live in a small town or own a small business. Where I live in Whitefish, Montana, I generally know the folks I work with as customers, clients, friends, colleagues, and family. There’s no getting away from it. And I work with my life partner, so going home isn’t a way to get very far from the challenges of our business. (You may think that it’s crazy to work with my partner, but I’m healthier and much more alive as a result!)

The real key to healthy work/life balance is a commitment to show up and be real and vulnerable in your work and your life.

You Still Have Business to Do

No, of course, you don’t need to process all your intimate issues at work, but you can let people know if and when you’re struggling. It frees up loads of energy.

It’s important to also realize that, while business is personal, you still have business to do!

Here’s a story to illustrate:

We were brought in to deal with a conflicted business team that had been divided by a lawsuit against a much-loved leader who had been fired. The person who filed the lawsuit, Mary, remained on the team. The mandate from above was that the team move on and NOT discuss the lawsuit.

There we were in the room. Sixteen team members including, Mary, and the new leader, Todd. Throughout the morning, various team members spoke about the problems with the team dynamics.

The first time someone spoke up, Mary replied, “We can’t talk about what that because it was part of the lawsuit.” This shut down the conversation.

A bit later, another person brought up what had happened and how they felt about it. Mary replied, “We can’t talk about that. It was part of the lawsuit.”

After the third attempt, I asked, “Mary, I am curious about why you want to hold the team hostage? You’ve worked so hard to stay on the team. How is this one line serving you?”

Mary’s face reflected discomfort.

Before Mary could respond, CrisMarie said, “Susan. I think you’re being a bit blunt. I don’t believe it is your job to confront Mary.”

I shot back, “Well, someone needs to.”

“Look, we were hired to resolve the conflict not make things worse,” insisted CrisMarie.

“We can’t do that if any subject the team brings up is off limits. I don’t care about the details of the lawsuit, but I don’t believe this team can move forward without some open discussion of how it was for people.” I said, passionately.

CrisMarie suggested, “Well, that’s the job of the leader.”

“That is one thing we agree on – the leader should be stepping in.” My exasperation was obvious.

What we did not fully anticipate was the impact of our passionate discussion in front of the team about what was happening. The team was blown away, surprised that we would have an open disagreement in front of them. They were inspired that we did.

We broke and had a brief conversation with Todd and Mary. Mary agreed to stop interrupting any open dialogue about the lawsuit and would try to engage in listening to the team. She shared her fears of the team personally hating her. Todd acknowledged he was feeling frustrated and was fearful of being too harsh with Mary. Both were quite vulnerable and curious about each other. They agreed to go back in to the team with a different intent – more open dialogue.

After the break, Todd and Mary shared their conversation with the group. The team dynamics started to shift. Mary asked if other team members felt like hostages. Indeed, they did. Mary listened to their open discussion. Until now, she hadn’t been aware of the impact she had been having.

Mary agreed to have the leader, the team, or if necessary, us, call her out going forward if she slipped. She also agreed, for the afternoon session, to have an open dialogue about the impact the lawsuit had on the team. No specific details about the lawsuit were openly revealed, though people did have some strong judgments and stories about what they thought had happened. As a result, a lot of feelings needed to surface and be acknowledged.

For that team, the day was transformational. For us, it was much like the rest of our life.

Your Heartbeats Matter

Stuff happens, feelings come up, judgments result. Unless there is some form of honest and real conversation about things, relationships become toxic and, frankly, deadly!

We spend too many of our heartbeats at work, hopefully doing what we love, or at least doing things with people we care about, to NOT make work personal. When things do get personal, it’s important to shift out of right/wrong thinking, rules and regulations, roles and titles, and look across the table and see the person.

To do that, you have to be willing to be vulnerable, show your cards, say what you are really thinking, feeling, and wanting – and risk being wrong, rejected, or misunderstood. I know that’s tough. And you need to get curious, really consider why this person sitting across from you is thinking or feeling so differently than you. Imagine why it might be important to them.

Embodying vulnerability and curiosity, and bringing them to each interaction, changes everything and makes real relating possible!

Business really does get the biggest return on the investment when people matter and fully show up! How we behave is personal, for us, and for others around us.

Here’s to showing up personally and getting real business done.


P.S. If you’d like help with your team, or yourself, reach out to me: susan@thriveinc.com.

CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.

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