“It’s just business” - A phrase we have often been told in our daily work lives. But I am going to stir up some controversy here. Personal and business are inherently connected in my world -- and I think that’s a healthy and good thing. Let me tell you why.
What We’ve Been Told
First, I want to acknowledge that this approach is the opposite of what many advisors, colleagues and the media often tell us. They say “don’t take it personally” when business difficulties come our way, or even when good things happen. We’re led to believe that this outlook is a necessity if you want to survive the cutthroat business world and keep your sanity intact.
This is the advice I received for many years, especially when I lost my job and went through the process of starting and building Mekky Media. Those were challenging times I truly will never forget. Even my husband counseled me to separate the business from my personal feelings, as a means of protecting myself from the stress and from getting hurt.
A Better Way
But here’s the thing: If you care deeply about your work and what you’re building, I believe business and personal are intertwined, and it’s simply not possible to divide the two with one hard line. After all, we’re human and can’t be expected to take our feelings out of something that matters to us just because it’s work.
And that’s not a bad thing, in my opinion. In fact, I think it can be healthy for our business or career, as well as for our personal lives. It means we are fully invested in everything we’re doing and are more likely to find motivation and fulfillment, whether we’re presenting to a client, making dinner, mentoring an employee, watching a son or daughter’s game, writing a proposal, or taking time to binge our favorite show. It all matters!
Don’t get me wrong, of course family and self-care should take priority whenever you have to choose between the two. I know that I can’t be my best at work if I’m not giving the other side of my life the attention it deserves. Finding this balance takes practice. It’s something I’ve written a lot about. But it IS possible and, I believe, necessary. Once you have tools and tactics for achieving balance in your life, it’s easier to approach both sides in a personal way.
Achieving Personal/Business Balance
What does this mean? First, it means being vulnerable and knowing that you will, at times, be hurt when things don’t go as planned. When you have success, you’ll also feel it on a deeper, more personal level, which can be so rewarding.
Taking a more personal approach also means making sure your business or career is a reflection of you and the things you believe in. For example, I established Mekky Media’s core values using my own priorities as a guide. And our strategies for clients stem from those values. I have poured myself into this business, so I couldn’t separate it from my life and feelings even if I wanted to! I recommend that any business owner adhere to this idea if they want to be truly fulfilled in their work and achieve the results they desire.
That’s not to say that you should always be “soft” when running a business. There are times when it’s necessary to toughen up, make hard decisions or accept hard truths, even if it’s emotionally challenging. For example, I’ve had to say goodbye to valued team members or colleagues and have been tempted to take their departures in a personal way. But everyone makes decisions for their own reasons, and we often can’t understand or control an outcome. That’s when we have to let go and move on and not let our feelings stand in the way of moving forward. In those cases, I choose to believe what’s meant to be will happen, and something better must be waiting.
I believe in conscious leadership, in managing the whole person, showing empathy, and investing in work relationships. This includes the people who work for me, the clients with whom we partner and other colleagues. Of course, we don’t want everyone to bring all their personal lives and issues into the office all the time, but we do have to recognize that we don’t live our lives in silos. So, it’s important to me that we pay attention to each other’s well-being and help each other cope, especially right now when we’re all facing the unique challenges and worries of a global pandemic.
I think the Mekky Media staff knows this is a priority for me. In fact, we start our staff meetings with everyone sharing a personal highlight first from their weekend, and sometimes that turns into honesty about a personal struggle. I do this because I know that work is not just work. Our personal lives overflow into our office time, and it can be incredibly helpful when the people we spend the most time with understand where we’re coming from day to day. This tradition of sharing has, I think, helped us bond as a team (even while working virtually) and has increased our passion and work product at the end of the day.
So don’t tell me “it’s just business” and to leave my emotions at the door! I will be a happier leader, my team members will feel supported, our work will be higher quality, and the company will be more successful if we recognize and maintain the inevitable connection between personal and business.