Family Matters

For the last post of the year I decided to update a piece I published earlier this year – I also consider it to be the most important work I authored this year…it applies to all of us.  Over the years I’ve come to believe that there is only one sure fire litmus test for measuring leadership success, and to the chagrin of many reading this post, it has little to do with what happens on the job. Today’s post might push a few buttons and test the boundaries of your comfort zone, but if you stick with me, I promise you’ll be glad you did. I’m going to peel back the layers on your personal brand, question your priorities, and quite possibly put a big dent in your carefully crafted professional facade. We’re going to get very personal today – How’s your family life?

If the opening paragraph caused you to wince, then the text that follows is written just for you. If the next sentence seems a little preachy, it’s meant to be. The true test of any leader is not measured by what’s accomplished in their professional life, but rather by what’s accomplished at home. If you’re a well oiled machine at work, but your family is falling apart at the seams – who cares? Let me be blunt – you won’t earn anyone’s respect, at least not the respect of anyone who matters if your concern for career success overshadows your concern for the well-being of your family. If you’re struggling with the family balance thing my advice is simple: don’t attempt to balance your family – make them your priority.

Think About Your Legacy:

Create a legacy that transcends your career. Having the advantage of the hindsight my gray hair affords me, I can say with great certainty that who you are as a person is infinitely more important than the title you hold at work. There are few things in life as thought provoking as witnessing what by all outward appearances seems to be a successful executive, but as you begin to peel back the layers of their carefully crafted veneer, you quickly come to realize that they are little more than an empty, bitter, and frustrated person. They work their entire career chasing some illusive form of fulfillment only to fade into the sunset with nothing more than an empty lifetime of regrets as their reward.

I’ve simply lived too long to buy into the myth that success in the workplace will create happiness at home. While it makes for a nice sound bite to console those with a guilty conscience, IT IS A LIE. If your business is growing, but your spouse is crying and your children are neglected, it’s time to do a reality check on your priorities. If your secretary respects you, but your spouse doesn’t you have serious issues that need your immediate attention. If you would rather spend time with your online “friends” than with your children, it’s time to pull the ripcord on your internet connection.

Here’s the cold hard truth…if you cheat your family to invest into your career, you and your loved ones will pay a very heavy price. It is simply wrong to value your workplace commitments over your family commitments – moreover it’s not necessary. If your focus is on your family, your career won’t suffer, it will flourish. Get this wrong and not only will your family suffer, but so will you as you someday mourn the loss of what could have been, but cannot be recovered.

If you really want to get to know me, don’t waste time reading my bio or scrutinizing my professional successes and failures, get to know my wife and my children. My best work, the work that I’m most proud of, is the relationship I have with the love of my life whom I’ve been married to for almost three decades, and with my two grown children who now consistently teach me more about life than I taught them. While I’ve had more career success than I probably deserve, I’m just as flawed as anyone reading this post. What I can tell you is that I’ve always made my family a priority. I don’t regret a single second of time I’ve invested in my family, but I’ve lost track of all the regrets I have over time squandered on the job.

You see, everyone creates a legacy – the question is will it be one worth leaving? While a legacy is classically defined as something of significant and/or lasting value that survives its creator, the best legacy is one that can be lived before it is left behind.

The bottom line is this:

If you’re a superstar at work, but a slacker at home you’re not succeeding at anything other than being a disingenuous, ego-centric charlatan. If this describes you, you’re not a leader you are a poser. As a very wise person once said (my wife), “don’t waste your time investing in those who won’t be crying at your funeral.”

Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve espoused above, I’d love to hear your comments below…

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    December 31, 2010 at 3:24 am

    – "the myth that success in the workplace will create happiness at home."

    There are actually people who believe that?

    Anyway, thanks for this article. I couldn't agree more!



      December 31, 2010 at 9:32 am

      Hi Johan:

      Thanks for your comment. Regrettably, there are far too many people who suffer from this self-delusion which is most often caused by an out of control ego. Thanks again for stopping by and Happy New Year Johan.


    Dan Rockwell

    December 31, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Happy New Year Mike!

    My first year of online activity is closing. Meeting and learning from you is one of the years delights. Thanks for giving back to me personally and to the community at large. Our online and personal conversations always enrich me.

    Love this quote from your post. "If your focus is on your family, your career won’t suffer, it will flourish." I can think of friends that violated your insight and now years later they are scrambling to make sense of life.

    I'm looking forward to learning from you in 2011.

    Best regards,




      December 31, 2010 at 9:33 am

      Thanks Dan…I've enjoyed our conversations as well and look forward to more in the new year. Have a happy and safe New Year's celebration Dan.



    December 31, 2010 at 3:37 am


    This is so good. I'm having lunch with my father in law today to discuss his very point – legacy.

    My pastor has a saying that your first church is your family, and that everything in your life flows out of it. Of course this is why the Apsotle Paul writes that a leader should lead their home well as it's a reflection of how they will lead the church.

    Your hard, down the line writing here is just what we need – the honest truth that when we cntiually put work over family, we are cheating them and ourselves.

    Yu're right – if you want to see how successful I am, look at how I treat my wife, and my child-to-be!



      December 31, 2010 at 9:39 am

      Hi Scott:

      Legacy is a concept that so many people fail to think about until they realize they don't have much time left to change it – sad but true. The best legacies are built moment-by-moment and day-by-day. Trying to re-engineer an entire life in a few short years down the home stretch is a tough row to hoe. Have fun with your father in law and congratulations to you and your wife on the upcoming birth. Happy New Year Scott.



    December 31, 2010 at 7:16 am

    I so much agree with you Mike! I wrote a similar topic once (http://www.ronedmondson.com/2009/08/great-leaders-lead-well-first-in-the-home.html) and got push back from some saying that the two are not related…leading in the world and in the home. I don't think we can separate the two. We may be able to in the short run, but not when our final stories are written.

    Thanks for leading well…I'm following.



      December 31, 2010 at 9:42 am

      Hi Ron:

      Thanks for commenting and for sharing the link. While you can certainly choose to function differently at work than you do at home, it is disingenuous behavior driven by pride, arrogance and ego – it will ruin your family. Moreover it will eventually harm your career. Thanks for all you do Ron. Happy New Year.


    Mike Henry Sr.

    December 31, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Mike, Thanks for the great post. In our culture, it's too easy to chase and acquire the decorations without any of the substance. Your quote above that we all leave a legacy is a great reminder. We will impact the people who are closest to us. It can't be helped. If that impact is shallow and negative, our legacy ends up shallow and negative too. The people at work and the professional achievements stand on our personal life. Great professional achievements are tarnished against a backdrop of personal failure.

    You've helped me a great deal in this area Mike. Thanks for the great reminder. Thanks for a wonderful 2010. I'm looking forward to 2011 and I appreciate your advice and friendship. Mike…



      December 31, 2010 at 9:45 am

      What a wonderfully worded comment. Solid words of wisdom Mike – I wish I had penned them. I wish you and your family a happy and safe New Year!


    Art Pett

    December 31, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Mike, you offer a powerful and important reminder of an issue that most of us intuitively get, but so many choose to push to the back-burner in pursuit of their own definition of success.

    I was blessed with parents that emphasized family first and my wife and I have worked hard to instill that value in our children. They get it. During the past few years, we've been hit with both proverbial barrels, losing my mother and dealing with life altering medical issues with my wife's parents. This past year, my son suffered a life threatening and now life altering medical issue. While participating in meaningful work and helping others is important to me, serving my family is what I dedicate my life to. It's not always easy, but it is critical to keep striving.

    Two thoughts from some wise people in my life:

    -"At some point in life, if we're fortunate, we realize that our purpose is less about success than it is about significance The best path to significance is by serving."

    From a dear friend and colleague: "Family is the only thing that matters. All the rest of this stuff is just politics and money."

    Thanks for this powerful and important reminder, Mike.





      December 31, 2010 at 9:49 am

      Hi Art:

      Thanks for the comment and I particularly love both of the quotes you shared. I'm always amazed at the number of people who fail to have the foresight to recognize the value of family relationships before they're damaged or broken. Thanks for sharing Art and happy New Year!


    Jay Posick

    December 31, 2010 at 9:05 am

    This strikes a cord with me as I'm at work in the kitchen and my wife and daughter are upstairs sharing hot chocolate and watching television. The afternoon will be all about family. Thanks for the wake up call.



      December 31, 2010 at 9:50 am

      Hi Jay –

      Thanks for stopping by. My advice – go enjoy some hot chocolate :). Happy New Year Jay.


    James Strock

    December 31, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Such a fine post, raising such important questions for all of us, Mike.

    Thank you for sharing it. Your closing quotation–'don't waste your time investing in those who won't be crying at your funeral'–is wonderfully bracing.

    One interesting aspect of what you're leading us to reflect on is that relationships are always in flux; if we think they're settled or static, then something's likely wrong. It's important and necessary to evaluate where they stand now and again–this time of year seems propitious. The good news is that we can always adjust and improve going forward.

    A related challenge your article brings to mind: the notion of a "balanced" life may not mean that at any given time one's time and other resources are committed in a balanced way. When you're doing a start-up or a book or a symphony or a painting or a legal brief or whatever, or are in a crisis at work, you may have to decide to do less in other areas. So, too, when you're raising a young child, tending to a family member in need of attention, you may have to do less in other areas.

    Attaining the perspective to navigate such rapids is not easy, and it's tempting to rationalize choices that may not reflect our highest values or judgment. Getting outside input, including from books or history, can be invaluable; others have faced or are facing similar issues of this nature. But, in the end, each of us stands alone to make the decision.

    One way I have thought about these issues is in terms of one's calling. Just as there are elements of work life, of vocation, that can bring out everything you have to give, so, too in personal life there are people and situations requiring what only you can do.

    Thanks for guiding all of us to focus on these important questions. I'm certainly going to give them a lot of thought today and this weekend, heading into the renewed "busyness" of the New Year just ahead…



      December 31, 2010 at 10:15 am

      Hi Jim:

      Thanks for the comment. I always find your writing style to best combination of powerful and challenging content wrapped in total eloquence. Thanks for adding value to this thought stream and Happy New Year Jim.


    Mark Oakes

    December 31, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Great post, Mike!

    I agree 100%. An unbalanced preoccupation with work is an atificial victory. The superficial victories that may accrue never makes up for failure on the homefront.

    Upon reflection, I've asked myself why its easier to 'win' at work versus leading on the less organized family front. A couple of reasons stand out.

    First, it'sblatent laziness. It's emotionally 'safer' for a leader to win acclaim in the world's eyes without having to be vulnerable at home. Follow the prescribed path, toss in a little good fortune and presto, you're a success. Being a leader at home requires a different set of learnable competencies.

    Another reason is we grew up in a society with a warped sense of 'what's important'. We've been brainwashed into adopting leadership measuring sticks that are simply wrong. As Einstein said, "reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistant one". When it comes to work-life balance, this is certainly the case.

    As for me and my house, I'm glad others have helped me recognize what real sucess looks like and that I have the opportunity to 'finish well'.



      December 31, 2010 at 11:47 am

      Love the Einstein quote Mark.. Thanks for pointing out the truth as well. Your thoughts are always to the point, clear and candid. I'm proud to call you friend. Happy New Year Mark.


    Dorothy Dalton

    December 31, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Excellent advice Mke and a message that many executives fail to hoist on board. Good to have it re- enforced.



      December 31, 2010 at 11:48 am

      Hi Dorothy:

      Thanks for the comment – we concur. Happy New Year Dorothy.



    December 31, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Wow, lots of post on this one. Well said Mike and hard hitting. As a minister I have watched pastors and friends fail here. Men have a tendency to be better at work than home, it is tragic and like you said the family suffers. Thanks for the honesty. You are the best!



      December 31, 2010 at 11:49 am

      Hi Tom:

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences. I appreciate all you do Tom. Happy New Year Sir!


    Scott McKain

    December 31, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Mike — Your insights are always powerful, but never more so than today.

    My wife and I made a commitment to one another many years ago that our relationship would come first. And, while we certainly had challenges in our marriage as any couple would, when she passed away after we had been married almost twenty-five years, there was nothing in my life I was more grateful for than our decision. We had seen, done, and lived through such incredible experiences together that it provided us a relationship success that could never be equaled by anything in the professional world.

    We never know what life — or even the coming new year — may bring. Your terrific post is a great reminder that leaders must do what really, really matters. Thanks…



      December 31, 2010 at 11:52 am

      Hi Scott:

      So many people never realize what they have until they lose it – even in your loss you were blessed with not having those regrets. Memories are beautiful things to be cherished forever. I would suspect our mutual advice to those reading this text is to make memories while you can. Thanks for sharing your story Scott. Happy New Year.



    December 31, 2010 at 12:19 pm


    Once again Mike I am struck by the wisdom of what you share in your post. The authenticity of your writing is remarkable.
    What struck me the most is this sentence: "If you really want to get to know me, don’t waste time reading my bio or scrutinizing my professional successes and failures, get to know my wife and my children.' This drove home the 'legacy' facet being highlighted in this post. If I am being truthful I have spent too many hours in the office. Your post reminds me of what really is important to consider and act on as you live your life.
    So thanks for this reminder at years end. May I take to heart these good words of advice in 2011 and the years ahead.
    All the best to you and your family Mike. Have a joy filled 2011.



      December 31, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks for the comment and the kind words Dave. Rest assured you're not alone – we've all spent way too many hours in the office. I wish you and family a blessed 2011 as well. Happy New Year Dave.



    December 31, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Happy New all,

    This is certainly my case.
    Unfortunately to take legal and financial advice, I compare to prevent malpractice.
    Please remember that we are seeking always for help.
    I read that "don't ask an unconscious patient to participate as an active partner in the treatment"
    I don’t regret my work because I try to save other from some bad scenario.
    Hope found my way to make the desired change and became really effective business.
    Thanks, Sami


    Elliot Ross

    December 31, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    The original, and the comments are brilliant.

    And I believe that bit, by bit, inch by inch we are changing.

    The generation we call the 'silent' generation and the early Boomer cohort exemplified the 'sold my soul to the company store' gospel. To this day executives from these generations exhort that work life balance can't exist. If I recall correctly, Jack Welch wrote that you can only have one priority, you need to pick which it will be.

    I am sure most of us reading this remember mandatory 6PM meetings, or 12 hours of work handed out a 3 PM Friday and due Monday at 9.

    The later Boomer cohort & Gen-X have fought with varying degrees of success at changing this mentality, but in many cases it has been demonstrated that if you want the "high potential" track, family takes a back seat.

    Now, the late Gen-X cohort & Gen-Y are demonstrating that they don't care about this "high potential" track. They are demonstrating that meaningful work, social responsibility, and accountability are more important than raw titles and the next salary level. (Look at Shai Agassi, – born 1968- a former President at software giant SAP, who now is concerned with climate change & alternative energy)

    As time puts more of these Gen-X and Y's into senior leadership roles, and considering that the Boomer generation is rapidly reaching full retirement, I believe the social forces alone will start eroding this 'sold my soul' mentality.

    Because at the end of the day, it must come from the top

    Best wishes for 2011 to all here, and may each of you try and preach that change within your own circle, lets pay it forward.




      January 3, 2011 at 8:15 am

      Thanks for sharing this great message which should cause us all to think…I agree with you that Gen X and Gen Y are doing a much better job prioritizing, even if it doesn't always seem like it to Boomers:)

      Thanks for sharing Elliot.


    Wally Bock

    December 31, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Wonderful post, Mike, and you inspired some great comments. Years ago my father told me that life was an act where you had lots of balls to juggle. You would drop one from time to time, so you need to know which balls are glass and can't ever be dropped without damage. Family is a glass ball.



      January 3, 2011 at 8:12 am

      I really love the analogy of the glass ball. This is a story that all fathers should share with their sons. Lest I get myself in trouble, it's also a great story for all moms to share with their daughters. Thanks for sharing Wally.


    Thabo Hermanus

    January 1, 2011 at 7:46 am

    It is all with good intentions that we chase the super career so we can create a happy home. The results are always in favor of the career at the expense of the family. I am reading "The Snowball. Warren Buffett and the Business Of Life" by Alice Shcroeder at the moment. Warren Buffett is my hero and being halfway through the book now I am learning that he lost a lot (his family life) in his drive to build the investment powerhouse he created. I can't help but think it was an expensive price to pay, so I too need to check myself on this one given the recurring message!



      January 3, 2011 at 8:10 am

      Thanks for sharing you thoughts Thabo – Glad to be of some assistance in helping to stimulate some reflection. Best wishes for continued success.


    Bert Decker

    January 3, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Great post Mike. I had to learn that lesson, and almost blew it many years ago. Now both my sons are doing the tough balancing act, but their priorities are keeping their leadership skills sharp – leading family and companies.



      January 3, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Thanks for stopping by Bert. From what I have observed with your son's they both seem to be winning the battle – of course it never hurts to have a great example to follow:).


    Tom Currie

    January 3, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Thanks Mike for powerfully putting family as the priority over career.



      January 4, 2011 at 8:28 am

      No thanks necessary Tom. Thanks for stopping by Sir.



    January 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    As your daughter, I can confirm that you are a great person to be writing on this subject! You don't just talk the talk… you have always walked the walk. Thank you for putting us first- always. I would not be who I am if you didn't.

    Love you, Dad.



      January 4, 2011 at 8:27 am

      Thanks Amanda – I appreciate the kind words. I love you very much. You are the joy of my life.



    Al Diaz

    January 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I am on this post by accident lead here by another blog but WOW, talk about finding "GOLD." Very powerful post and comments. I will most definitely be back. Thank you so much and I believe the last comment by your daughter puts the icing on the cake. Stay well Mike. Regards, Al



      January 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm

      Thanks Al…I appreciate the kind words and glad you stopped by. I wish all of you could get to know Amanda. She is truly a blessing and brings absolute joy to all who cross her path.


    Gwyn Teatro

    January 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Of all the comments here, Mike, the last one does it for me. Earning the love and respect of a daughter, son or spouse is the height of achievement. Congratulations and thank you for the reminder.



      January 5, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Gwyn:

      Happy New Year and thanks for the kind comment. Be well Gwyn.

    Family Matters - Lead Change Group

    May 24, 2011 at 5:07 am

    […] out {{title}} #LeadChange (via @LeadChangeGroup) {{url}}" } }; }This is a re-print of Mike’s last post of 2010 on N2Growth.com. Success is only another form of failure if we forget what our priorities are. […]

    […] Family Matters […]

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