The power of the word

Robyn Moore presents the key to unlocking work-home balance which can stop your job stress coming home with you.

I often have the privilege to speak to PAs and EAs from the public and private sector and was thrilled to emcee the recent Executive PA Awards, where we honoured outstanding nominees from around the world. Reading through the many citations, the common threads binding everyone together were dignity, respect and professionalism. These qualities were palpable on that elegant evening at the MCEC.

PAs and EAs understand the special and unique world of “unconditional” service. I know because Simone, (ex-PA now my manager) has been my ears, eyes, heart and brain for many years. A quick search of the word “service” simply said, “The action of helping or doing work for someone.” A disappointing definition. To serve someone however, is way beyond that shallow interpretation.

Recently the man checking my hire car sneezed several times with great gusto. He yelled to his mates, “I’m allergic to work!” “So are we!” was the response. I thought, “what a wonderful customer experience… not!” Obviously, no training in “the Power of the Word” to access “Authorship”. We have so much say in how our day occurs. Instead of just going to work each day, he could have chosen “I’m going to connect”; “going to engage”; “going to serve”.

The EAs I have met embody this behaviour. They go to listen, to anticipate, to cover all bases, to resolve problems. EAs make the day seamless for executive leaders, they are responsible for their boss’ tranquillity, they facilitate space for clear decision making and become a stakeholder in big ideas. The gift in this is to empower others so they find the best of themselves. There’s a Yiddish word which describes this beautifully. It’s “naches” which means “the joy one experiences for another’s success”.

Once the day is done and dedicated PAs and EAs have given their all, how can they find the balance between work and home, when the needs of others at home are often just as demanding?

When I speak in schools, I survey the students by asking whose parents come home “tired and angry”. Most children raise their hands. It appears we have an epidemic of “tired and angry” people. One simple question can transform this dilemma.

Before you stick your key in the keyhole ask yourself, “who’s coming home tonight?”

We are all tired, we all work hard! As a speaker I was on 183 flights in 12 months recently. We often fall into the habit of sticking another disempowering word next to “tired” so “tired and angry, tired and impatient, tired and resentful” sometimes comes home. Let “and” open the door to an empowering word. “tired and grateful” will create more satisfaction than “tired and overwhelmed, overworked, underpaid.”

Many audience members have told me they use this tool every night, it’s a conscious choice before they walk in the door. A young female CEO replaced “tired and stressed” with “tired and empowered,” she transformed the lives of 185,000 students in her leadership programs. Farmers in the midst of drought have shared they can come home “tired and in communication”. A woman whose partner had depression chose to come home “tired and supportive” rather than “tired and accusative.” The relationship began to heal.

I was on a national tour during the GFC and every night my client (a senior executive) had to restructure the entire company, making difficult decisions about redundancies, all whilst empowering his colleagues in each state. He’d heard me share “who’s coming home?” several times however, it didn’t hit him until he actually returned home to Sydney. Trying desperately to get to sleep at 2am, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, his 2-year-old son jumped into bed next to him! He became “tired and no Tom!” Tom simply pressed his Dad’s nose and shouted “honk!” Dad and Tom burst into laughter. In that moment “tired and fun dad” emerged. For years I ran into my client and he would share about his new promise to Tom. Every time he came home, they would make something together, “tired and team adventure.”

That’s the Power of the Word, simple and life-altering!