Although no one knows for sure where the phrase originated, its best-known use was by Sir Isaac Newton in a letter to his rival, Robert Hooke: “What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much….If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
Last month, we hosted a small dinner gathering with Jay Alix, one of the most respected experts on corporate turnarounds and restructurings in America. He is also one of our firm’s dearest friends and long-term supporters. Jay was particularly close with firm co-founder Frank Moran and considers Frank his greatest mentor.
The dinner included three retired Plante Moran leaders—Bill Hermann, Bill Matthews, and Ed Parks—and me. I also had a dinner later that week with Ken Kunkel and Tom Doescher, two other retired partners who had a significant role in building the firm. They are all people I’ve been privileged to work with and learn from over the years. I was struck by how gracious and humble they always are, as if they haven’t personally assisted in molding Plante Moran into the firm it is today. They were part of Frank Moran’s grand experiment—is it possible to build a sustainable business by putting people first?
Of course it is. We’re here to tell that tale, to live that culture, and to serve as examples to current and future staff. We protect our culture, enhance it, and perpetuate it—but we didn’t create it. We inherited it from Frank and others—those who worked tirelessly to create a thriving firm that cares about its clients, its staff, and the community. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t use lessons I’ve learned from one of these giants. At Plante Moran, we often tell stories to help share these lessons but also to honor those who helped make us the firm that we are. Like Newton, we stand on the shoulders of giants, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
How about you? Who have been your organization’s greatest builders and mentors? How do your memorialize and honor their efforts?
January can be a rough month. The excitement of the holidays is over, there are all those New Year’s resolutions to contend with, and the sun rarely seems to shine. Moreover, unless you work for the government, your next paid holiday is Memorial Day. It can be easy for the winter doldrums to set in.
I’d like to offer up a way to combat those doldrums—by striving to find and maintain the right work-life balance.
I realize this is easier said than done. We actually have a committee here at the firm charged with helping our staff find the right balance. We call it “WorkFlex.” One of its recent initiatives was to ask staff to take our balance audit—a quick, at-a-glance picture of how they achieve work-life balance. The goal is to inspire other staff who might be struggling to find that right balance. There were so many tips that we could’ve developed a book (or at least a good-sized pamphlet), but I’d like to share my 12 favorite here:
- Don’t analyze work-life balance on a day-to-day basis. Instead, look at it by week or by month. This gives you a much better picture of your overall balance and any adjustments you may need to make.
- End your day by planning your next day. This will help stay you stay focused and make the best use of the next morning.
- Don’t miss the “big things.” There’s always more work that can be done, but there are only so many moments in your kids’ lives to share.
- Schedule vacation as far in advance as possible and then protect that time. One of the best things about a vacation is looking forward to it. That alone helps you feel more balanced.
- Allow an extra day of vacation before coming back to work to go through e-mails, get back in work mode, etc.
- Use your calendar — don’t be afraid to block time out for important projects (work or personal).
- You’re going to have peaks in your schedule that are hard to control, but you’re also going to have valleys. Protect those valleys. There are times when it’s okay not to go 110 miles per hour.
- Avoid reading email until certain times of the day, as opposed to being distracted by each individual email.
- Set reasonable working boundaries. In today’s world, it’s too easy to be accessible 24/7.
- Leave gaps in your schedule for contingencies and unplanned items.
- Meet with your husband or wife weekly and discuss that week’s schedule. This way, you both know what work requirements you have, who will be taking care of the kids, and what family events are coming up.
- The best thing you can do for yourself is to set priorities and protect them, and the best thing you can do for others is to listen rather than judge.
Great advice, right? I’d like to add one more to the list. Balance is different for everyone, and it’s something we’re constantly striving toward. I think of it like a thermostat. Most of the time, it’s a little too warm or too cool; it’s rarely the perfect temperature. Similarly, we rarely feel perfectly balanced, but it’s up to us to do what we can to get as close to that ideal as possible.
So what do you think? Can the right work-life balance combat the doldrums? Are you planning any PTO for the month of January? Any work-life balance tips to add to this list?