Shifting your mindset from work-life balance toward work-life integration

Work-life integration is not just a buzzword. It’s all about bringing your personal and professional lives together, especially if you're an entrepreneur.

Just about every small business owner struggles to find the right balance between professional life and personal time. In addition to running a business, we’re also juggling many other responsibilities such as caring for our family, our own health and wellness, and even our pets.

Oftentimes we feel dispirited, and we worry about not doing enough for our company or family – or sometimes both.

So, exactly how do you achieve work-life balance? The thing is, most professionals don't. But, if you've ever felt like this, you're not alone – and there are things you can do to help ease the stress.

Let’s take a deep dive into work-life integration.

Work-life integration: What does it mean?

Work-life integration is not just a buzzword. It’s all about bringing your personal and professional lives together, especially if you're an entrepreneur. An example solution often recommended involves finishing chores at home while attending conference calls or bringing children into the office during summer holidays.

Work-life integration empowers business owners to intuitively coordinate schedules and responsibilities to focus on overall well-being. This ultimately helps lead to greater satisfaction in all aspects of life.

Work-life integration: Advantages for business owners

Work-life integration eradicates the competitive feeling business owners sometimes experience regarding professional and personal lives. The best thing about work-life integration is that it helps to level the playing field across all aspects of your life.

The concept of balance inherently implies that you can only do one thing at a time. When it comes to business owners who are also parents, they may feel stressed or overwhelmed trying to gain control over their personal and professional lives – running a business while also spending quality time with loved ones, exercising, social responsibilities, etc.

That’s the beauty of work-life integration weaving together a fulfilling life and career. When you bring them together, it opens the door for other opportunities, allowing you to create more meaningful moments across every arena of your life.

Why do we need work-life integration?

Work-life “balance” calls for personal and professional life to coexist, while still growing separately. Employees hold firm boundaries between personal life and the workplace. This situation could divide their concentration for each at a given time.

I think the quest for balance is not the right approach to managing professional and personal lives in today’s work-from-anywhere era. Work-life “integration” might be more suitable because it equally brings together elements of one's career and private life.

As work demands and contexts are changing rapidly, we also need to alter our approach. Don't think about “balance” because that connotes ultimate perfection and uniformity that is impractical and therefore leads to frustration and dissatisfaction.

I stopped many years back to be perfect with gaining balance. It just doesn’t work because our brain is such a place where overflowing activities keep us attuned. And that’s why we need work-life integration.

Tailoring employees' work situations to their personal situations

Part of building a great business is designating what kind of workspace suits the individual in today's workplaces – with as many as five generations collaborating simultaneously across different industries.

Since people are spending more time professionally than personally, adapting the office environment to each employee’s individual work situation and personality can help create an ideal environment for productivity. And it’s important to keep in mind that each employee works differently. Some make progress in an office setting, while others could be more efficient at home.

A simple possible solution is providing remote work collaboration tools to facilitate employees to stay productive and involved, irrespective of their work.

Employee benefits such as tuition compensation, childcare support and flexible working systems can also assist employees in acquiring their personal and professional goals.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series that will provide tips to help you work toward work-life integration.

Meet new MYB contributor, Anita Murphy, founder and CEO of Onebridge Center. By nature, Anita is a planner and creator and enjoys startups. After devoting seven years of her life to serving in the Army Reserves – and getting discharged honorably just two days before 9/11 – she built an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities company in 2006. After creating the company from scratch and growing it into a thriving business in just three years, along with single-parenting her special needs son, Anita was burnt out. She ran her business for six years before selling it and taking a three-year hiatus. 

While providing strategic planning to women business owners, she created a new company. Onebridge Center not only provides digital skills training but also enables disabled individuals to access better employment opportunities in the marketplace through job readiness training.

Onebridge Center empowers individuals to achieve what’s possible. They provide skills training through both job readiness training to assist individuals in breaking barriers to employment and corporate training for companies and organizations looking to upskill their workforce. If your company would like to have a discussion about your training needs, please contact Anita at (330) 267-7556 or drop her a line at

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  • Next up: Strategic Implications of the Chief Digital Officer

    Strategic Implications of the Chief Digital Officer

    What are the strategic implications of the role of Chief Digital Officer and how does it affect your company and your strategies? Is this a role that needs to be developed at your company? 

    Information roles in companies are constantly evolving; in fact the very existence of the CIO role evolved out of changes in business technologies many years ago. Rapidly advancing changes in information technology, particularly around digital connections to customers, partners, vendors and more has led to a new role: Chief Digital Officer. 

    What are the strategic implications of the role of Chief Digital Officer and how does it affect your company and your strategies? Is this a role that needs to be developed at your company? 

    Paul Stefanuk, partner with Paul-Lawrence, a national executive search firm, shares insight into this developing role. What industries are embracing this change? Where does it fit organizationally? How does the role drive enterprise performance and how does it interface with traditional information technology operations?

    Listen here.

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  • Next up: The 3 'I's' of Leadership

    The 3 'I's' of Leadership

    There are so many different views and perspectives on leadership—so many that I sometimes wonder how anyone is supposed to discern the essentials. At the same time, it’s important to have some leadership foundations that you can use to build your own leadership model, and the simpler the better. Enter the three “I’s” of leadership:

    There are so many different views and perspectives on leadership—so many that I sometimes wonder how anyone is supposed to discern the essentials. At the same time, it’s important to have some leadership foundations that you can use to build your own leadership model, and the simpler the better. Enter the three “I’s” of leadership:

    • Intention
    • Influence
    • Impact

    With clarity around these three leadership “I’s” you will have a firm foundation for whatever leadership role you’re playing, no matter the arena where you’re serving as a leader.

    Intention—Leaders are intentional. Leaders live and lead on purpose. They are thoughtful and discerning when it comes to who they are and what they’re seeking to achieve. History has shown us that leaders can influence people, but often their leadership is more about playing a role than purposefully creating outcomes and impacts. In other words, these leaders use their influence without thoughtful intentions. If you want to be an effective leader, being intentional in all aspects of your leadership will serve you (and those you serve) well.

    Influence—Leadership is about influence, and the essence of influence is being a person that people want to follow. It means engaging people behind a cause, mission, vision, purpose or values. Influence is the outcome of being authentic as a leader, which allows you to build the deep levels of trust that draw people to you, engage people and commit them to being a part of your plan and vision.

    Impact—Leadership is about impact, not actions. Leaders are acutely focused on their desired impact (beyond goals and objectives), and impact equates to creating something long-lasting. While some “leaders” are focused on their personal agendas and legacy, true leaders are focused on organizational, institutional, community and global legacy.

    What about you?

    Will you be intentional? Are you committed to being the kind of person and leader that people will trust and want to follow? What’s your “why” as a leader (personally and professionally), and is your “why” more about impact than outcomes?

    These might seem like easy questions and they are, but only if you’re willing to be authentic, vulnerable and honest in assessing yourself. Many so-called leaders never even ask these questions, let alone honestly answer them. Many leaders claim to desire feedback from others (often the best source of honest perspectives and the best way for identifying blind spots), yet they never take action on the feedback—believing they already are the leader they want to be. We live in a world where leadership is often defined by effectiveness, rather than impact. Where leaders are judged more on their ability to be decisive than on their willingness to be vulnerable. Based upon the state of affairs in our world, it’s time for a change—time for a new type of leader. Authentic, vulnerable and courageous!

    In the end, leadership is a choice, and the three “I’s” outlined above are individual choices that collectively represent that larger choice. Once that choice is made, you can commit to these three I’s in order to be the type of leader that makes a difference with people, in organizations, in businesses, in initiatives and in the community.  The time is now—time for a new type of leader who is focused on intention, influence and impact. Will you choose to embrace the “I’s” of leadership?

    Join me on Tuesday, June 21st at the COSE Business Boot Camp as we take a dive into what it means to be an authentic leader and the impact authentic leaders can unleash. No matter your title or role, this session will help you tap into a whole other level of personal and professional leadership.

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  • Next up: The Importance of Effective Goal-Setting for Small Businesses

    The Importance of Effective Goal-Setting for Small Businesses

    Setting goals and establishing a clear vision are important parts of running your own business. But the types of goals we set, how well they are communicated throughout the company, and how closely our teams are united around and act consistently on these goals will ultimately determine the effectiveness of your goal-setting process and the return on your investment in goal setting.

    What does it mean to be “goal-driven?” It seems obvious that someone who is driven by goals would be focused on achievement and have a strong sense of purpose.

    So, is it a good thing to be goal driven? I suppose the answer to that question really depends on how effective we are at setting goals and implementing strategies to achieve them.  

    Goals unite us; they orient individuals and teams toward a common sense of purpose. Goals provide the insight needed to shape the activities of our day; they shape our destiny. So, as a business owner, it is vital that we take time to reflect deeply upon our goals and to cascade and communicate them effectively inside our companies so that they are a positive and powerful force in our business.

    Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

    Effective goal setting starts with an inspirational statement of vision—a long-term goal, perhaps 10 or more years into the future, that represents our ambitions, our dreams. They represent everything that we want to achieve in our business or in life. Jim Collins calls these long-term, dreamy goal statements of vision BHAGs—Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals. BHAGs are moon shots; or in today’s vision, a manned trip to Mars. BHAGs are, by definition, the kind of goals that change the world represented by your dreams, however big they may be.

    Setting SMART Business Objectives

    Linked directly to the inspirational vision are business objectives—the quantifiable and time-bound measures of that which we want to achieve in the next one to three years. Business objectives set the stage for what the business will achieve during a specific time period. They set the stage for the foundation of business strategy.

    Business objectives are achieved in steps, represented by short-term goals. These goals are often defined as needing to be SMART in nature—SMART meaning Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. SMART goals are the most common and are the ones that we should remain most mindful of during the course of our day. They set the pace and focus of our day and are the primary motivators for getting things done.

    RELATED: An inspiring vision, an effective plan, and other secrets of successful small businesses.

    How a Business Coach Can Help

    Business coaches provide much-needed insight, experience and discipline to business owners. They help put these factors into play to bring about positive change in business practices in order to achieve more than is possible without the use of a coach. Consider contacting a business coach to help set inspirational and achievable goals that are well-communicated throughout your company.

    1Direction certified ActionCOACH Brian Alquist has over 35 years of business experience. 1 Direction helps small business owners focus on the importance of goal setting, which is critical to the success and sustainability of their business. Contact 1 Direction by clicking here and secure a free coaching session for your business to begin understanding how to translate leadership into success.

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  • Next up: The 'Paradox of Progress': A Year-End Reflection

    The 'Paradox of Progress': A Year-End Reflection

    As an entrepreneur, you started your business for yourself and to fulfill your goals. Sometimes we lose sight of why we started on this journey in the first place. The end of the year is a good time to pause, reflect and potentially realign your current strategies to accomplish your original intentions.

    2017 brought many changes to our lives. Some were positive; some were not. Maybe you were able to turn a long-time dream into a reality. Maybe you struggled personally and saw the end of a relationship. We all have our individual journeys, but, if we observe closely, we can find truths in every story, and we can extract lessons from each tale.

    With that in mind, this narrative below might resonate with your ongoing quest to be the best business owner in the world….

    As Mr. James Williams, owner of J.J.W. Lumber, parked his Stingray in the driveway and silenced the engine, his entire body ejected a booming sigh. He clutched the steering wheel and let out a groan as he thought about the latest incident at work. “I have to do something,” James told himself as he swiveled out of his jewel and headed toward the house. “I just don’t know what.”

    Like so many of us, Jimmy built his company through sweat equity, wise decisions, and support from friends and family. It took a few years to really get going, but in year four, he truly started to reap the fruits of his labor. Sales were booming and he realized that if he did it correctly, J.J.W. could give him what he truly wanted from life: More freedom and time to spend with his family. If he could find someone to run the business and move it in a new direction, he could step away and just oversee the overseer.   

    He discussed his idea with his three best buddies—John, Joe and Mike—who had worked with him from the beginning. Jimmy had hoped one of them could step into the role, but, after a lengthy discussion, they all agreed that none of them had the expertise needed to take J.J.W. to that metaphorical “next level.”  

    After about 50 interviews, Jimmy settled on a candidate, Noah Smith, to run J.J.W. “Settled” is the perfect word to describe his hiring process. During each interview, Jimmy asked some questions he pulled from the Internet (and a few others that he and his wife, Karen, had developed). Noah had the best answers, and he got the job.

    A few months into Noah’s tenure, however, Jimmy started to notice some curious changes within J.J.W.  A few company mainstays were no longer around. Other employees were working later into the evening. Customer issues were handled with a sense of nonchalance. Fewer and fewer workers were smiling throughout the day, and, in the break room, instead of talking to one another, they were glued to their phones, trying to escape into their own happy places. One afternoon, he even overheard Noah yelling at a receptionist. 

    Jimmy asked a few questions here and there, but Noah always seemed to divert the conversation back to the bottom line. Profits were up! “Everything’s great here! Look at the numbers! Be happy!” was the melody, and Jimmy decided to harmonize with that song. After all, numbers don’t lie….

    But then, today happened. Somehow, there was a miscommunication with a major order, and J.J.W. didn’t deliver the expected lumber to a worksite. Instead of taking the blame and trying to fix the situation immediately, Noah spent about 20 minutes arguing with the client. Jimmy learned about this on the way home from the golf course….

    'Paradox of Progress'

    This imaginary tale isn’t new or novel. Its lessons aren’t unique. In fact, the scenario reveals a common woe many owners encounter as they confront the “Paradox of Progress” misalignment.

    Every owner (and employee) has values and those values are manifest through actions. In many cases, however, people aren’t in tune with their principles and this creates misalignment within relationships. When this happens, stress grows, discord festers, the culture suffers, and productivity and revenue eventually decline.

    When we revisit the story, we can see that Jimmy is a good-intentioned owner. He values time with his family and he cares about maintaining healthy relationships with customers and employees (even with Noah!). Noah, upon closer examination, also appears to have good intentions. Think about it. If we were to ask him why he’s behaving in a certain way, he’d probably argue that he’s operating with Jimmy’s best interests in mind. Afterall, doesn’t Jimmy want more money so he can have more freedom with his family? Doesn’t Jimmy want to be free from the day-to-day operations? Isn’t Noah making that happen? Why aren’t they aligned? The problem is more complex than it first appears—and the solution rests with Jimmy.

    Your business, your vision

    Imagine how this might have played out differently if Jimmy had known what was truly important to him at an earlier point in time. Imagine if Jimmy would have been able to articulate his vision for the J.J.W. workplace before he began the interview process. He could’ve created better questions that incorporated his values and ensured that whoever he hired would operate in accordance with those principles. If the owner’s vision is clear, then everybody can align with that mission.

    It should come as no surprise that the very best leaders—in the business realm and life at-large—are clear about their goal and vigilant about moving toward that direction. We all know these people. They know exactly what they want and can transfer that vision to the collective whole. Maybe it’s your aunt who always throws the best cookouts and family parties because she puts everyone in the best position to contribute. Maybe it’s your old high-school track coach who always knew how to push the right buttons to get the most out of the team. Maybe it’s your former boss who helped nurture your dreams and gave you enough confidence to set out on your own.

    Remember: As an owner, it’s all about you. If you want to use your business as a vehicle to drive you to your life’s destination, you need to be clear about your focus. If you’re clear, you will set a solid framework with which everyone can align. And once that happens, you will find even more seasons to celebrate. 

    Christopher Leo is the President and CEO of Flash Three Consultants. A former English teacher, newspaper editor and football coach, Chris is committed to helping business owners get what they truly want from their personal and professional lives. Visit or email him ( to continue the conversation

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  • Next up: Strategic Volunteering: The Power of Pro Bono

    Strategic Volunteering: The Power of Pro Bono

    Volunteering your time and skill set to organizations in need isn't just the right thing to do, it can also help your business' marketing efforts. Behold the power of "strategic volunteering."

    Going pro bono is a win-win. An organization gains your expertise and talent at zero cost, and you gain more experience and positive exposure—not to mention a good feeling. Here’s how to go about it.

    Here’s a simple but very effective strategy to maximize the impact of a ‘No Budget Marketing’ campaign you may create for your employer or your own business—harnessing the ‘Power of the Pro Bono’ or Strategic Volunteering.

    Why volunteer at all?

    Whether you’re marketing the products or services of your employer or your own business or just simply enhancing your image and value to the people you work for and with, the Power of the Pro Bono can be a simple, quick and no-cost self-marketing strategy. Effectively done, it can help accomplish several important goals for you, including:

    •          Creating positive exposure for yourself as a caring and giving professional or a very positive reflection on your employer;

    •          producing positive name recognition and credibility;

    •          creating tools that can showcase your skills if you produce a newsletter, brochure, video or event. You can even win awards for your work;

    •          helping you learn new skills or enhance existing skills in leadership, project management, social media, accounting, e-marketing, writing or presenting;

    •          making you feel very good about yourself by doing the right thing and helping out a worthy professional, civic or charitable group; and

    •          stroking your creative ego and professional self-esteem by being involved with something worthwhile, creative and fun.

    How do you get started?

    As they say, getting started is the hardest part. We’re helping you ease in by giving you the following five steps to beginning your pro bono journey.

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 1: Clearly define your or your business’s value proposition. What do you do well that adds value to customers who will pay you for it at a profit?

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 2: Determine those professional, civic or charitable groups where lots of your customers and prospects are actively involved. 

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 3: Search for linkages between that group’s needs for support, other than money or pure volunteer time, that relate to your value proposition. For a web design firm, that could be a website makeover. For a writer, it could be help with their brochure. For an accountant, it could be serving as a volunteer auditor.

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 4: Reach out to each group and offer your services. It really helps if you’ve been an active member for several years rather than a stranger—yet another great reason to get involved with your profession or community.

    Going Pro Bono Step No. 5: When your task is completed, ask for a ‘subtle’ acknowledgement: ‘Website designed by x’ at the bottom of the home page, ‘Brochure content and design courtesy of y’ on the back page of a brochure or a glowing letter of thanks from the group leader with reference in their routine member communication.

    Where do you volunteer?

    There are lots of effective platforms for strategic volunteer activity. Be creative and think outside of the usual box with the following ideas:

    •          Start with your own industry and the professional associations that support it. Those groups can probably use the help and you can benefit from all the good will you will gain from the experience.

    •          Other professional, business or civic groups you may belong to or where you’d benefit from the exposure. Start with COSE and your local Chamber. 

    •          A charity or non-profit that has personal importance to your family, your boss, your boss’s spouse, the big boss, the big boss’s spouse, or an important customer.

    What volunteer activities should you consider?

    Strategic volunteer activities are “win-win.” The organization benefits from what you contribute, but you also benefit from what you learn or gain. What special skills or talents can you contribute and showcase beyond simply giving of your time? What skills do you want to learn or enhance? What will give you the kind of exposure you need and want?

    If you want to enhance or showcase ...

    Leadership or management skills: Manage an event or fundraiser, chair a committee or task force, hold an office or sit on a board

    Writing skills: Edit the group’s newsletter, write articles for it, PR releases, promotional pieces or blog posts

    Creative media skills: Coordinate the advertising or PR for the group a major event. Write or produce a video or media tool that helps them recruit members, raise money or train volunteers.

    Graphic design skills: Design or improve their logo, letterhead, brochure or newsletter layout

    Web design skills: Design or improve their website

    Social media skills: Create blogs, their presence on leading social media sites, regularly post content.

    Presentation skills: Deliver a presentation, emcee an event or serve on their speakers’ bureau or improve their PowerPoint presentations

    Training or facilitation skills: Teach or facilitate classes or workshops for members or leaders

    Financial skills: Serve as treasurer or audit their books

    As you’ve seen, Strategic Volunteering through the Power of the Pro Bono involves simple, quick, no-cost and personally rewarding strategies to promote your image or the image of your employer. The organization wins because you give of your talent, not just your time or treasure. You win because you earn ‘Psychic Income,’ gain positive exposure and learn or enhance career-related skills.

    So, begin volunteering strategically and see how it can add value to your ‘No Budget Marketing’ Tool Kits. It has worked well for me for over 25 years.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. 

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