Built to Achieve Balance

When I originally tasked myself with writing about each of Benchmark’s core values, my intention was to do so in quick succession. The irony is not lost on me that the piece on Balance has taken longer to get off the ground than I had hoped. It would be easy to say it is because I struggled with achieving a level of balance over the past 10 weeks. That is partly true. It is also due to making time for other things that demanded prioritization (holidays, board responsibilities, staff changes and challenges, succession planning and rollout, spouse’s campaign for political office, etc.). So while I have not felt out of balance, per se, I have found myself focusing on what I thought most needed my attention at any given moment and any given day. (And…I have not put “write those other 3 posts” in my Outlook task list!) Yep, you got me.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear the artist Jewel Kilcher speak and sing live. If you are not familiar with her life story, it is compelling. Her life and writing are informed by navigating a lifetime of trauma and tragedy and she exudes an optimism that is inspiring. She talked about finding balance in a way that relates more to the concept of harmony in music rather than the old image of a weighted scale. This seems to make more sense for our complex life situations.

We have a tendency to experience “life” happening all at the same time as opposed to being present at one event at a time. For example, I might be in a meeting with you right now, but in my head I’m thinking about my daughter’s need to get to swimming two evenings a week, teaching aikido twice a week, planning and facilitating leadership meetings monthly while supporting several other company-wide initiatives, keeping in touch with old friends and new – all while being a worthy husband and father and still supporting the performance of my staff. The result is cacophony rather than harmony.

The intention of Benchmark’s value of Balance is to ensure our team members experience fulfilling relationships – with each other, in their personal lives, with our trade partners, and with their specific work responsibilities and accountabilities. We create policies and practices to encourage harmony among all of these important arenas of life (like minimizing the number of projects we contract that are more than 90 minutes from our home office). We also need to encourage each of our staff to be mindful of all the different instruments they are orchestrating in their life and make sure they find the right mix to create a harmonious experience. There are sections of every piece of music that will have only strings, or maybe only the first violin, and other sections when all are playing together. We can experience more harmony day to day if we pay close attention to what needs to happen right now and plan right now for what needs to happen later.

Achieving balance may have more to do with defining it as an experience of harmony. Harmony exists among all the elements of life when we pay close attention when each element is “playing.” In the example above, focusing my attention on you in that meeting as the element that is “playing,” would create a much more fulfilling and successful interaction. It also means making the decision about what instruments need to take a pause, and to take a pause between playing different instruments. When we practice pausing and plan for pauses in our schedules, it becomes easier to focus on what is most important and can help create a much more harmonious experience in our performance.

-Christian Recknagel, VP of Leadership and Culture