Career advice: Selling the idea of work/life balance

An old-school boss just can't see the value

Kenneth Corless
Accenture's Kenneth Corless

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader
Kenneth Corless
Title:
Executive director for business apps
Company: Accenture

Corless is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader, answering questions about work/life balance, career paths for a cloud-dominated future and recognizing a group's achievements. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com.

My boss is old school when it comes to issues like work/life balance. We have given him articles on the subject to try to convince him that accommodating our personal needs can be good for the business, but he wants a 9-to-5 staff, in the office every day. Any ideas on how to turn him around? I understand. Even the term "work/life balance" feels old school to me. In the always-on, always-connected, global time zone world that we in IT live in, I have replaced the term "work/life balance" with the term "work/life integration."

I have a couple of direct ideas. First, whatever you want to try, put it in the context of a limited pilot. Talk about goals and outcomes, particularly those that are measurable and have a fixed timeline with agreed-upon checkpoints and success criteria.

Second, put your boss on the spot. Ask him for suggestions on things that he would be comfortable trying and under what conditions. Then follow the execution plan outlined above.

Lastly, although you've tried to give him many articles, get him a copy of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. It has really pushed my thinking on this subject.

What would be a good career path for a cloud-dominated future? New technologies always bring a change to the skills necessary across the IT landscape, and the cloud will be no different. Clearly, many of the traditional career paths will still be quite valuable in "a cloud-dominated future." Careers built around deep technical expertise, ability to deliver, systems integration and bridging the business-IT divide have withstood the onslaught of change from past technologies waves and will likely survive the cloud.

Some narrow functions in IT (like hardware procurement) might disappear from most IT shops (of course, someone will still have to do it for the cloud providers!), but we have already seen new roles around managing the virtual infrastructure popping up in heavy cloud or virtualization shops.

My advice is to focus on something that you have a deep passion for. That drive will keep you at the top of the value heap, which is always a safe place to be in an ever-changing world.

My group has delivered for me and the business in amazing ways over the past year, considering that we've had a lower head count and budget. I want to show my appreciation in a way that would be meaningful to them, but obviously it can't cost a lot of money. Any suggestions? The obvious easy place to start: Say, "Thanks." Say it sincerely. And regularly. And sometimes publicly (do you blog?). It's easy to rationalize that they already know that you appreciate them and are proud of them. There's no downside in telling them.

Here are two other ideas that are simple and low-cost. 1) Invite them to your home for dinner. It doesn't have to be a fancy catered deal -- potluck or even pizza is fine, but the personal touch can be meaningful. 2) When the weather is nice, organize a group outing/picnic focused on traditional team-building exercises (ideas here).

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