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Achieving the elusive work/life balance

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

As a group CEO of Italy’s UniCredit Bank, Roberto Nicastro is fairly young, at fortysomething, to hold such a position.

In recent years, Nicastro helped the bank embark on an aggressive international expansion. He built new systems, navigated sensitive situations and found novel solutions. But he also realized that, although it looked as though he had everything under control, he actually felt as though he were riding a roller coaster and might be sacrificing his life to the company.

Nicastro wanted to develop himself as a person. He imagined a future of good health into old age, deeply fulfilling relationships and a legacy.

Such a desire may seem like a pipe dream, but it’s worth stepping back and finding out what such a personal journey would entail:

First, identify your ideal self. This is the person you want to be. It’s not somebody else’s vision for you, but your own hopes for yourself.

Second, confront your true self,
including your strengths and weaknesses. Part of this exercise is checking whether your strengths are becoming liabilities. To Nicastro’s credit, he admitted that in a couple of personnel cases, his speed, intensity and impatience were aggravating the situation. He was rolling over people.

Next, run through this exercise:

1. Imagine that you have the capacity to do any job well, that you have credentials and that you’re free of financial obligations and other responsibilities for a year.

2. List up to 10 jobs you’d love to try.
Consider a wide range of work—say, in sports, music, medicine, politics or agriculture.

3. Pick three of them that seem most exciting or rewarding. Describe each in writing, including what you’d most enjoy.

4. Sometimes a fantasy job is the one you most want to do. Sometimes it’s not so much the job as the working conditions, such as being outdoors or working with certain materials or in a particular industry. As you read your descriptions, do certain themes stand out? How are these jobs similar? Do you see results common to each? Write it down.

5. Sleep on it, then make a plan.

— Adapted from Resonant Leadership, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, Harvard Business School Press.

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