When Balance Backfires

Anne and Sheila ran two different divisions for the same bank, and they were the two top candidates to be promoted to run the region. Anne believed that her success, and the long-term success of the bank, depended on a healthy balance between efforts to satisfy existing clients and attract new ones. So in the week before a special event in Las Vegas targeting new clients, Anne divided her attention evenly between new prospects and her existing client relationships. She also made time for her family and her personal workout routine.

Sheila took a very different approach. She spent 80 hours focused exclusively on reaching out to her most promising prospective clients, encouraging them to come to Vegas. During the week of the event, while Anne made sure to spend time with her current customers, Sheila focused exclusively on wooing new clients in a marathon of one-on-one meetings. In the following week, when the bank executives weren’t watching her every move, and the stakes were lower, Sheila caught up with her current clients, her family and her workout routine.

Sheila easily outperformed Anne at the event, landing several large high-profile relationships without losing any current ones. Anne was flummoxed that her balance philosophy had let her down. Sheila was promoted to regional vice president.

Sheila understood that balance can backfire. The best workers know when to stop multi-tasking and instead hunker down and concentrate intensely on one key activity at a time.

In my forthcoming business book, I describe the three-step action plan to put out the Balance backfire at work.

  1. Conserve Your Energy. How to take stock of your most precious resource at work – your emotional energy – and preserve it for the times when you need short bursts of high-impact intensity.

  2. Embrace the Paradox. How to stop making mediocre compromises or false choices and start living with both polar ends of a continuum.

  3. Turn It Down. How and when to resist the allure of balance and have the courage to say no to the opportunities that do more harm than good.

My new book will reveal the unintended consequences of balance and eight more sacred cows at work. Ultimately, the book provides a hopeful message and specific solution steps that show readers how to benefit from the best of their good intentions without getting burned by the backfire.