A simple model for creating balance
Updated: Feb 28
Task | Team | Self
This model was first introduced to me in leadership training as a new senior manager taking on a big role. It was designed to help us reconsider how we balanced our time across our responsibilities, as we transitioned from managing single teams to large multi disciplined departments.
There was recognition that our previous experience of management had likely come from doing; having worked our way up the ranks by nailing a task and being able to show others how it was done. Rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in when as needed.
As senior managers, however, we would be required to oversee, manage and motivate potentially disparate teams in more specialised areas that we had little or no experience in.
It felt particularly relevant to me as I took on the senior management role, heading up a global team of different skill sets and lots of challenges.
Whereas previously we had relied on our own skills and experience, going forward we needed to rely on information from others, quick assimilation, collaboration and our judgement.
We needed a different approach.
Additionally, as the point of escalation for multiple teams, we will be required to mitigate competing issues in less familiar areas. We would need to be able to keep a level head in order to process information carefully, ask the right questions, leverage relationships and make balanced decisions.
Neurologically speaking, we are at our most mentally capable when we are operating in our steady state. I.e. NOT stressed.
That feeling of running on adrenaline is actually a false positive when it comes to problem solving, as our capacity for lateral thinking is reduced when our fight or flight mode is activated. So being able to recognise and reduce our automatic stress response in the moment is critical.
Having learnt the importance of strong resilience in managing stress, as senior managers we were given this model to help us assess and adjust how we balanced our time. Ensuring that we gave equal importance to nurturing key relationships that we will need to rely on as we would recharging our batteries and doing our ‘work’.
The fact that we were so strongly directed to take responsibility for our own mental health stuck with me. The importance placed on self care for a productive workforce has continued to grow, with organisations spending more on mindfulness, mindset coaching and team building than ever before.
And this applies to everyone outside of the corporate world just as much, if not more.
All work and no play doesn’t just make Jack a dull boy, but could lead to burn out if it goes unchecked.
I repeatedly find that clients facing burn out have often failed to invest in one of the three critical support systems in the model. Or failed to adjust when one was severely impacted. Founders and entrepreneurs are especially guilty of rolling up their sleeves and fixing all the issues with less and less time looking after their own needs.
And that’s where this model has continued to help my clients assess, rebalance and implement tools to reduce the impact of whatever stressful scenarios they need to face. It's a great way to complete an initial audit, to identify weaknesses and create strategies to strengthen individuals (and teams!) overall resilience.
Ideally before you hit burn out.
I’m sharing this simple model with you as I learnt and have used it with my teams and clients. A quick google suggests it may have been influenced by or adapted from John Adair’s action leadership model, but interpreted quite differently.
Imagine a stool with 3 legs: Task, Team and Self.
When each leg is strong, you are stable and balanced. You thrive.
When you understand and protect what gives you strength and energy in each area, you can actually withstand huge pressures in one or two areas and will consistently recover faster from a crisis.
This is resilience.
But fail to invest or allow that equilibrium to fail and you will be knocked off balance with the slightest bump.
So take some time to consider what is needed to build and maintain strength in each and across all three critical support systems. Ensure you balance your time and energy, giving equal importance to each.
Ensure that you have reliable activities AND protected time that give you what you need in each area, ensuring you define what each leg/ support system means for your (your teams) unique preferences and needs):
Task: the work you need or want to do
Team: your support networks; friends, family and professional contacts
Self: how you both SWITCH OFF and RECHARGE.
It's important to understand what gives or saps your energy in each area so that you can proactively assess what you can rely or consider what capacity you have for change across all areas.
By mindfully considering and reviewing the distribution of your focus and energy in this way, you can begin to strategically build resilience and adapt as needed; when one area has too many cracks, strains or pains you need to face, you can simply dial up the comfortable activities in other areas to recharge and bring back that balance.
I used this model to remind myself to make as much time for personal development, learning (self) and networking (team) as I did "the work" (task = firefighting). And by developing those networks and learning those skills, I felt more informed and supported when sh*t hit the fan. And I encouraged my teams to do the same. I needed them working at their best through in a high stress environment so encouraged self care in what ever form they needed.
Most of us have a clear idea of what we can to do to unwind and relax, but sadly this is often the first thing to go when time is tight. But by ensuring you take regular time out to meet friends, go dancing or wild swimming could actually be the perfect break your brain needs to reset and begin working for you again.
So I continue to encourage leaders and individuals I coach to use this model and understand what's needed to invest in their support structures. And building resilience they can protect their energy for the things that matter, ensuring enable peak performance for themselves and their teams.