Work – Life Symbiosis (The Model for Happiness and Balance): Claire Fox 

Claire’s book is great. But then I’m a bit biased given one of my core beliefs is that organisations are more effective when they are successful at employing people who are willing and able to bring their whole selves to work. Authenticity and pragmatism are at the core of the book and help make it an engaging and easy read.

The author happens to be an HR professional, but has managed a successful career alongside raising a thriving family and was formerly an international sportswoman. Her insights originate from the sweet spot located at the epicentre of these three worlds, making the suggested best practices all the more powerful as a result. As she states, it’s pointless compartmentalising and therefore makes sense to take a holistic view of life because “it’s all connected”.

Her book is very accessible and well structured, starting with the socio-economic context, stressing that empowerment for life choices is something individuals have to take (no-one will do this for you) and making the very important point that, while coaches and advisors can offer tips and techniques, the options taken always remain at the discretion of the reader.

She offers a system for thinking complete with tools appropriate for each stage, stresses that the phases in the system are obligatory yet she doesn’t preach a one-size-fits-all or “my way of the highway” ideology like so many books of this ilk do.

I find the choice of the film Legally Blonde an odd choice as a moral exemplar (not really my thing), but each to their own, as she says. Yet there is very sound wisdom in presenting an approach to achieving balance that includes:

The book is “on trend” with de rigueur buzz words like mindfulness and wellbeing. However, unlike some of the hippier and drippier representations of these concepts that undermine their credibility in the board room, Claire Fox contextualises these theories using sporting and corporate references. In short, we’re left with the impression that there must be value in these approaches if someone with such a busy and complex life has found the time to incorporate them into her personal life management routines.

Structured around a series of five-minute self-diagnostics and thought-provoking interactive challenges, the book encourages the development of a personal plan for balancing work and life without having to succumb to any sort of onerous process.

A little less engaging than the management philosophy of Handy but decidedly less commercial than Maister, for example, Claire Fox doesn’t suggest that she has “invented the wheel” but is just offering a different perspective on how it could and should be used. She has written a very pragmatic, useful read of and for managers and leaders inevitably struggling to find meaning at work and to balance this with the often unpredictable and taxing demands of their personal lives in an increasingly complex age.

Perhaps the ultimate accolade is that my better half, who shares many of her life choices with Claire Fox and is probably even busier, picked the book up from my desk last week without me mentioning it. She read it in two days before I noticed, and incorporated a number of the models into a leadership presentation on creating a workable diversity and succession strategy.  

Do you need a more ringing endorsement than that? And to think –

at £13, it costs little more than a large glass of wine in London.

Former Omnicom director Ian P Buckingham is an organisation development consultant, coach and mentor responsible for writing two of the pivotal management books linking HR management to brand management (Brand Engagement and Brand Champions)



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