Intelligent Leaders Juggle All The Time
Bryan Dyson, former CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises, spoke about the differences between glass and rubber balls in a “juggling” metaphor about life. He said:
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them—work, family, health, friends and spirit—and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls—family health, friends and spirit—are all made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
Many years ago, I had a professional juggler teach me how to juggle and he was able to accomplish this task very quickly. It had little to do with my dexterity and everything to do with his training skills. First of all, we began with scarves because they take longer to descend. He then demonstrated the goal—focal point where you let go of the first scarf—slightly left of centre and then the second slightly right of centre. He articulated that a clear goal in business is essential to success. He said you have to know what it is that you wish to accomplish and place it there. He had me practice the circular motion of my hands in a relaxed and consistent pattern, then he let me try the scarves. He had me focus on the “toss” and not on the “catch.” He said, “if the throw is done correctly toward a specific target, then the catch will simply fall into your hand.” Oftentimes, in business, we get so focussed on the bottom line (money in the pocket) rather than seeing a good product going out the door. Focus on the product to the client and the money will follow.
Eventually, we graduated to balls over a bed so that I didn’t have to waste time chasing them after each failure. He re-stated over and over again how “failure leads to success.” Then we rehearsed frequently, consistently and with a relaxed posture. “As the pattern emerges,” he said, “then you are ready to try variations.” This metaphor is so related to business and business change as well as the larger picture of your whole self and the family as Bryan Dyson pointed out.
In our work patterns, we need to set priorities. “Put first things first.” However, we also need to juggle and balance all aspects of life. The importance of family, health, friends and faith are essential.
To sustain balance, integrity and quality products at work, we must first sustain a balance in quality life and purpose in our home. These values need to be focussed and consistent in all aspects of our lives.
Anyone can learn to juggle. Break down the seemingly complex patterns into simple tasks. Juggling is a system of tosses and catches. If the toss is clearly placed to a specific target, then the catch is simple without looking down. When these tasks are accomplished, it appears graceful, fluid and automatic. As in life, if we set carefully thought out patterns, with clear goals, everything becomes more automatic with balance and integrity. Pattern your behaviours “once right the first time.”
There will be all kinds of distractions, pressures and demands made of you that will take you off track. However, once you have established the right patterns because they are ‘right,’ it will be much easier to re-group and get back on track. Note too that Dyson emphasizes family, friends, health and spirit that are more fragile.
Rick Warren, in his book “Purpose Driven Life,” drives home the point that we need to keep our eyes on the goal and have all decisions and distractions revolve around the goal. As in juggling, see the target and focus on the target and the balls will naturally fall into your hands below.
Stephen Covey states that we need to “Begin With The End In Mind.” If we can see our goals clearly, then we have a significantly better chance of achieving them.
Set patterns that protect these goals—family, health, friends and spirit—you can always find another job.