How to Serve the Next Generation: Model & Teach Sustainable Success
By Woodrie Burich

e seem to be aching for a way out of the rat race we’ve created—and the next generation is demanding it.

Research shows Millennials place an extremely high value on work-life balance—some studies even assert that it tops all job factors (including salary). This focus on work-life balance comes as a stark contrast to the well-known high work demands and long hours many managers and corporate leaders have logged over the past few decades. It makes one wonder, how we will merge these two worlds and their contrasting needs?

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Perhaps COVID, and our response to it, will actually help shed some light on a solution. In just a short time, COVID has taught us much in this area. We’ve learned that business resilience is built on individual resilience. Personal life is not separate from work life; rather, these two worlds are intermixed. And not just by a little—they are much more broadly intertwined than we ever imagined. Thus, it makes sense that the solutions themselves will also need to be more broadly encompassing.

As we consider broad solutions, what initial steps can we as leaders take to immediately support stronger work-life balance for our staff? How do we strengthen hiring and deploy work policies that help us find and retain highly engaged and motivated team members? In a time of continued unknowns, how do our organizations rise stronger and lead at the forefront of our industry through creative innovation? We start by supporting our team members and teaching a new success model—a sustainable one.

Three Ways to Implement Sustainable Success Strategies

Model It:

Consider for a moment your relationship with the concept of “Sustainable Success.” While there are a variety of definitions associated with this term, the meaning and measurement of it is largely personal. For simplicity purposes, let’s use this simple definition: a full-range and broad feeling of well-being across the major aspects of one’s life (i.e., personal well-being, family/friends, work, and community).

When you reflect on your own Sustainable Success metrics, have you found it to be attainable? Are you currently embodying it, or has it remained elusive? At first glance, this seems a simple enough question. I have often found people respond to such a question with one of two immediate type responses: “I don’t need balance, I chose to live in Alaska for that,” or a quick and sometimes harried response of, “I’m so busy, I don’t know what Sustainable Success would even look like.” Both responses, though, are surface level only. The surface level response is the easy response, and it stops the inquiry process. I invite you to dive a bit deeper with this. As you consider the answers, consider the implications they have had on your work experience, your relationships (work and personal), and even your broader community. What is Sustainable Success for you? Do you know when you achieve it, or is it a moving target? As you reflect on your career, were there certain moments you felt more stable, secure, and supported? How did this tie to your feeling of success? If you were starting over in your career, what mindsets or tools would have been helpful as you navigated stressors? When there were conflicting agendas, what choices did you make, and would you make them again? The deeper you go into this inquiry, the deeper your answers will be. Take your time and see if there are any actions or choices you might adjust for the future.

Gone are the days of checking the wellness box by providing everyone a gym membership or fancy cafeteria as the key perk. The Great Resignation is showing us that organizations need to retain hard working and creative talent by truly investing in them as individuals.
Why This Is Effective: If you practice what you preach, you’ll not only learn effective strategies that you can teach but you’ll also learn where the “hiccups” are. When we reflect firsthand on the biggest challenges to finding balance, we are better able to support those around us. Sustainable Success is a very personal thing because true success is a personal definition. It’s not externally defined, yet we know it when we see it—because the results show themselves through personal leadership and positive impact. Authenticity cannot be faked, just like Sustainable Success cannot be attained through chasing an external goal. It is an internal journey that relies on internal fulfillment, the fruit of which is externally seen. If we are going to teach this, we must first learn to live it ourselves.
Reward Self Care and Integrate Sustainable Team Practices:
Compensation models are commonly built on commissions and reward systems. What ways do you reward and compensate your teams for supporting one another during challenging times? Do you acknowledge team members who take their breaks and celebrate a commitment to “strategic downtime”? Research shows us that committing to downtime and breaks not only improves personal well-being, it also improves creativity (the lifeblood of innovation and complex problem solving). If we can track hours worked, emails checked, and other metrics, then why not incorporate some benefits for unplugging, restoring, and recommitting to oneself and one’s community? What works within your environment? How can you create a system that honors the individual, while still honoring the work demands that need to be met?

Why This Is Effective: Gone are the days of checking the wellness box by providing everyone a gym membership or fancy cafeteria as the key perk. The Great Resignation is showing us that organizations need to retain hard working and creative talent by truly investing in them as individuals. One way to do this is by rewarding people in a way that supports them both personally and professionally. Invest in honoring the needs of your team members. Engagement, innovation, and creative problem solving will follow.

Integrate Trainings and Support Strategies:
The world of Learning and Development (L&D) is changing. Virtual accessibility, real-time and on-demand courses, integrated learning—we are finding new ways to support teams with their flows of work. In addition, articles from Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and many others point to the rise of coaching as an integral component for developing strong learning cultures. All of these new developments in the L&D space point to a common thread: simple skill building is not enough. To truly support people, we have to integrate learning in a way that addresses the whole being. How are you addressing these L&D changes within your organization? Is leadership aware of the research and benefits of supporting individuals in a much broader way? What ways are you supporting your teams in creating Sustainable Success?

Why This Is Effective: Training takes time. Mindset shifts require reflection. Be patient. Remember that speed is the enemy of quality. Corporate cultures and the fast-paced work environments we have created are built on a certain type of mindset, which prioritizes pace and narrowly focuses on a single outcome. This mentality hurts individuals, damages relationships, undermines teamwork, and negatively impacts our companies and communities in countless ways. It doesn’t have to be this way, yet until more people around us start to recognize this and live and work in a more sustainable way, it can feel lonely, uncomfortable, and even downright scary to try something new. Finding and supporting your team members through trainings, coaching, and group learning programs is a signal that you not only fiscally support Sustainable Success (which validates the value), but you are also providing techniques and strategies for your people to grow both personally and professionally (big win).

Woodrie Burich is a national speaker, executive coach, and owner of the Integration Group, which empowers professionals to create sustainable and thriving work lives that enable them to enjoy more, stress less, and connect with their communities in positive and meaningful ways.