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The Path to "Lifework"

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Lifework A new way of working – combining life and work into an integrated existence.


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Lifework Summit syndrome What is the cost of career progression? Many people in business reach a level of high professional achievement only to realise that they’ve made too many commitments and tradeoffs. Today there’s an epidemic among senior managers and leaders: ‘summit syndrome’. Secr ets of su cces s 2


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Lifework Summit syndrome sufferings The aspiration to be recognised as a multifaceted and purposeful human exists across the upper echelons of senior management. But in so many cases these high achievers hide their wider dreams and aspirations, and suffer in well-paid silence. 3


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Lifework Linear education Many from Generation X who have achieved professional goals, had a tertiary education. This linear educational path often then sets an individual onto a linear career path – law students become lawyers and accounting students become accountants. 4


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Lifework Linear career And once in an organisation, career paths often unfold in an equally linear way – first as an individual within a functional department, then team leader and finally middle or senior management in the same function. 5


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Lifework Narrow rankings Something else starts to happen on this linear track. As we progress we are ranked and compared to others according to a narrow range of performance criteria. We accrue artefacts of recognition: degree certificates and job titles. 6


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Lifework Linear development The best high achievers are often rewarded with recognition and promotion. They are singled out for special development, and they are shepherded towards high potential career tracks. 7


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Lifework Dreaming outside the lines Rarely does the path take into account wider life goals such as fulfilling private relationships and parenting, the pursuit of personal passions, health and wellbeing. People believe that if they achieve career success, then these other things will follow. 8


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Lifework The balance fallacy As many high achievers start to experience conflicts, they endeavour to make changes. A repertoire of tactics is adopted by high achievers who are aiming to achieve a ‘work-life balance’. 9


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Lifework The history of work-life dichotomy In the mid-1800s workers aimed to separate work and social life to maximise operational efficiency. In the 20th century, the boundaries of organisations became more permeable: firms looked towards outsourcing and consultancy. Today, organisations have started to employ interim management at even the most senior levels. 10


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Lifework Lifeworking – a new way Lifeworking is an alternative philosophy to purposeful living. It does not try to separate life and work into two distinct and seemingly incompatible spheres, but instead meshes both. There are three possible paths for high achievers. 11


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Lifework 1. Renegotiate the terms of engagement People can better integrate other life goals into their current organisation. This requires a track record of high performance, trusted relationships with senior management and peers, and willingness for the organisation to be output rather than input focused. 12


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Lifework 2. 1. Create or join an organisation Why not reject industrial-age work orthodoxy? Organisations, often small in size, reject a philosophy of scarcity in favour of embracing abundance, and are comfortable in providing individuals with a greater degree of autonomy over how they achieve performance goals. 13


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Lifework 3. 1. Become a free agent People can offer knowledge as a consultant or interim manager on their most valuable skills and capabilities. This approach delivers a key element of lifeworking – autonomy. But it requires deep insight into the individual’s skills and to learn how to network with other free agents. 14


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Lifework Barriers to entering lifework 1. Whatever the choice, individuals need to be the ones driving the shift towards lifework. High achievers need to first understand what success really means for them, and then systematically address the fears that stand in the way of change. 15


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Lifework 1. Barrier – defining purpose 1. People must create purposeful goals that go beyond promotion and generating value for a firm. It’s easy for individuals to lose a sense of purpose and lack direction on a linear career path. In order to adopt lifeworking, they need to step back and recall their most profound dreams. 16


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Lifework 2. Barrier – overcoming fear 1. The first set of fears can be personal and deep-rooted, such as financial security or an inability to re-enter a linear career path after leaving. The second set of fears related to social and professional environments: what of a family who values education and career success? What about possible reactions of bosses, peers and colleagues? 17


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Lifework Career adventures 1. Anyone who pursues the path of lifework needs to acknowledge that certain givens are no longer valid. Embarking on a non-linear career adventure often requires investment in time and money as new skills are developed: the further away from core expertise, the greater the investment. 18


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Lifework Success redefined 1. The lifeworking approach meshes life and work into an integrated existence, but most importantly it is a way of living in which the individual and not the organisation defines the meaning of success. 19


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Lifework Lifework 1. Authors: Jamie Anderson SEMBA2004 teaches on Executive Education programmes at the School. He is coauthor of The Fine Art of Success and co-founder of ConnectedVisions.eu. Ayelet Baron is an author, entrepreneur, speaker and co-founder of Creatingis. The full article was published in London Business School Review Volume 26, Issue 2 2015. Visit the website: www.london.edu/lbsr


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