In her book Radical Candor, Kim Scott defines two employee types that we all generally fall into. The first one, “the rockstar,” is the steady-as-she-goes worker who provides the constant forward motion a successful business needs. They’re the bedrock of the workforce. The second, which she calls “the superstar,” is a high-velocity employee blazing the trail for the rest to follow. Most of us fit into one camp or the other but, as Scott observes, many employees move back and forth between them over time.
Scott uses these archetypes to aid in better employee coaching (the topic of her book), but the professional fluidity she discusses has helped solidify what I haven’t put clearly to words in the past: sometimes work is the center of my universe, other times it’s just a job. It feels sacrilegious to write that as an entrepreneur, frankly, but I’m certain other founders feel the same way, and I know my employees do too.
I’m passionate about our company’s mission of helping companies build healthier, happier workplaces, but the very notion that my team and I sacrifice every ion of energy working on it betrays our own values. We have to live what we preach, and the routine practice of identifying work’s place in our lives helps us build our own healthier, happier workplace.
So, how does a company like ours get more out of life than just work?
Get work out of the way.
We’re a remote workplace. That alone means we spend less time traveling to and from work, and more time at home. In my case, I eat two out of three meals with my family each day – the one meal I don’t get to eat with them is lunch, which my kids do at school.
Another benefit to remote work is the time efficiency with work itself. Not every work day is eight hours, which means if we find ourselves with a couple extra hours, we’re not holed up at the office staring at a screen. Likewise, the days we work longer don’t preclude us from dinner with our partner or bedtime routines with our kids.
On the topic of workload, how much is enough? My coach, Traci Barrett, gave me a succinct management tip for keeping high-performers (superstars) busy: “Always keep their plate full, and they’ll tell you when they’ve had enough.” For team members who fit the rockstar persona, I’ve found them to be more protective of their time. You won’t find them lingering at 5:31 in the afternoon looking for the next challenge so the onus is on us to ensure their time is used wisely and in as predictable a manner as possible.
Get to know one another.
How much should employers get to know their employees beyond work? I believe as much as possible. That doesn’t mean prying, forcing fake friendships, or trying to be omnipresent in every one’s life, but there’s no way to wholly know a person based only on their contributions at work. Getting to know what’s going on in someone’s life beyond business helps us dial up their velocity at work or tune it out for a few months while something more important has their focus.
Lisa, our COO, is an open book in this regard. She’s a tireless family member, furniture restorer, and entrepreneur. Because Lisa keeps me in the loop on the significant going-ons in her life, it’s easier for us to tweak her work when life gets stressful or, frankly, when it’s more fulfilling than work .
Our job as employers, in my opinion, is to mentor employees on their professional path while they discover whatever life has in store for them. That often means reminding one another that work simply isn’t as important as whatever is going on outside of it.
Life is finite. Work isn’t.
In our recent Kin newsletter I challenged our readers to examine how they respond to the question “So, what do you do?” How we answer speaks volumes about our sense of purpose and identity. Many of us, especially in the U.S., define ourselves outwardly by the work we do, yet we’re all deeper than that. I’ve never seen an obituary reading: “So long Stacy, you were a great lawyer.”
A workplace might be the most efficient means of putting our talents to work, but it’s the hard, unanticipated experiences outside of work that develop those talents in the first place. Depriving ourselves or our employees of the opportunity to learn those lessons short circuits a fulfilling journey through life. As employees, our work suffers. As employers, our turnover rates increase.
Work, in case you hadn’t noticed, is always on, like a river. Life rarely gives you the same look twice. You miss it, it’s gone. It’s incumbent upon us all to engage both with intent, but remember: you’ve got fifty years of a career happening while fifty years of life comes and goes too. Work, learn, and live like it.