It seems to be common ideology nowadays that being the leader of a company and being a parent are mutually exclusive roles, and that just isn’t true. Although it can be difficult to strike a balance and be great at both, it is not impossible. All it takes is a little bit of strategizing and commitment. As the father of two young sons, 1 and 4 years old, and the CEO of a national sandwich chain, I’ve come across a few tips that have helped me balance the two roles:
1. Set your nonnegotiables and stick to them.
For example, I have set the rules that (1) I will never miss one of my children’s sporting events; (2) I will drop my kids off at school twice a week; and (3) I will wake up early enough to make and eat breakfast with my kids every day. On the days I am dropping them off at school, I come into the office late so that I can have that bonding time with my children in the car.
Setting these nonnegotiable items helps you to structure your schedule and make time to fulfill your role as a parent. Choose a few set things and make sure you fully commit to them, regardless of what work issue may come up. Once you start to let things slide, the entire purpose of setting these nonnegotiables has been lost.
2. Be cognizant that work can usually wait.
One thing I’ve learned in the years that I’ve been a CEO, is that work can usually wait. Letting work consume your life and infringe on the joys you get as a parent is unhealthy and a hindrance to producing great work. It’s important to take that time to breathe and focus on being a parent to your children. When I get home, I put away my phone until my kids go to bed and return emails and phone calls later on in the evening.
If something is a true emergency, my team knows how to get hold of me through channels other than email. The small window of time I get to spend with my kids at dinner and bedtime is incredibly valuable, and it’s perfectly fine to take off your work hat to put on your parent hat.
3. Privileges must be companywide.
If you expect your team to understand your priorities, whatever applies to you has to apply across the office. For example, our chief marketing officer works twice a week from home so that he can spend time with his kids. This applies to all Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop staff members: Their schedule can absolutely work around their roles as parents, as long as the bottom line is met and work is completed to our standards.
I let my team know that if any of them need to take time away from the office to be a parent, as I do, then they should take the time off. This policy not only creates a culture of support and understanding, but is consistent with our family-centered brand. Policies like these tend to help in retaining talent and creating an environment that fosters quality work.
4. Create small blocks of time that allow you to get away.
I will often spend my lunch break to see my boys at home; they are my absolute best friends. This practice gives me a brief block in the middle of the day where I can disconnect from work and focus on being a dad. Other ways professionals can do this include setting aside a time to call or video-chat with their children; whether that occurs every day or once a week, the objective is to establish a set time-frame and stick to it.
Work can get busy, but it’s not impossible to find those few minutes in the day where you can be a parent -- calling home, for instance, while you're en route to the restroom, getting your next cup of coffee or in your car -- and not driving! -- on the way to a meeting, to name just a few.
5. Don’t forget about your support system.
I am lucky enough to have an amazing wife who is incredible and supportive. She understands that work can get crazy at times and does all she can to lighten my load at home so I can focus on being a dad when I’m there. Now, while not everyone is fortunate enough to have that kind of support system in their house, that does not mean you can’t find it elsewhere. Consider working out a system with a neighbor, friend or colleague. It’s all about finding the support system that works best for you.
While juggling leadership and parenthood can be a daunting task, it is certainly achievable. All it takes is making a commitment to both roles. Finding the small ways to manage both can have an enormous impact not only on the quality of your life, but the quality of your children’s.