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Posted by on Oct 9, 2014

A New Role for Mentoring: Work-Life Integration Coaching

Be honest. When you hear the term work-life balance, what is your instant reaction? Personally, it makes me laugh (sarcastically) because it seems absolutely unachievable. Despite my daily effort year after year to balance the scale, as the life side of my equation grows more complex and the work side of my equation consistently intensifies, one side inevitably wins at the expense of the other.

For most, the daily wins and losses for work and life likely average out over time, but the constant battle to achieve a zero sum game leaves us exhausted and overwhelmed.

Stop keeping score. Integrate instead.
As someone who straddles the line between two generations, GenX and Millennial, I feel the GenX tug to dig deeper and work harder in order to strike that perfect balance, but I also completely understand the tactics Millennial are using to scrap the division between work and life and seek greater integration between the two. What does integration mean in the work-life sense? Rather than compartmentalizing work and life and tracking the number of hours we dedicate to each, Millennials focus on:

  • Getting the job done, not being slaves to the clock: The term 9 to 5 is foreign to Millennials. They prefer to have clear expectations about project goals and objectives, and individually manage their time to get the job done. Work can be accomplished outside of the office and during non-traditional workday hours.
  • Multitasking: Yes, there are times when devices need to be set aside, but Millennials are adept at seamlessly bouncing in and out of work and social networking time throughout the day. We all have individual routines for staying productive; maybe drawing such firm lines between work and social isn’t so productive after all.
  • Cultivating relationships: Millennials know that work is a lot more enjoyable and productive when they have friendly relationships with co-workers. It breeds accountability, engagement, and they are more likely to stick around to devote their talents to achieving organizational goals.
  • Seeking their passion: The saying goes that you never work a day in your life when you do what you love. Some learn this early in life, but most of us have gone down a professional path that may not directly feed our passions. We have to find things within our jobs that spark our individual passions. Millennials are innately better at focusing their energy and attention on the things that feed their passion, and the other generations need to feel less guilty and more empowered to seek ways to feed their passion.

Perhaps the so-called “Me” generation (who are, in reality, the opposite of lazy and self-absorbed) is closer to having this problem figured out, or is at least onto something worth trying. And, thanks to leadership experts like Stewart Friedman and his research on Total Leadership and Leading the Life you Want, other generations can learn ways to integrate work and life that fit their personal values.

Mentors as work-life integration coaches
As I’ve been thinking of ways to integrate my work and life demands, I quickly realized that I need help. What if I could find a work-life integration “coach” to help me identify the intersections between my work and non-work lives, and uncover ways to ignite and feed my personal passions?

Let’s face it, if you’ve been in the workforce for 15, 25, 35 years, or more, you undoubtedly have a lot of habits that will need to be revisited in order to integrate work and life. Then it hit me. As we continue to seek ways for the multi-generational workforce to better understand one another and work more collaboratively towards goals, one opportunity to promote work life integration is through mentoring.

In the traditional sense, mentors serve as sources of information, impart experience, and act as sounding boards for emerging leaders. One way to modernize mentoring relationships is to see the mentor/mentee relationship as reciprocal and holistic. While mentors may have more wisdom to share when it comes to navigating organizational politics or ways to be more influential when communicating with others, mentees likely have new tools to help mentors achieve better work-life integration.

Also, mentors and mentees shouldn’t limit their conversations to strictly business. Our work with mentoring clients routinely shows us the best mentoring happens when the mentor and mentee have a friendly relationship and feel comfortable discussing the life factors that color their career goals.

How can you adopt a “me” attitude and bring your work and life into shared focus? I’ll take all the mentoring I can get…

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