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Dan was bone tired.  He had never felt this tired before.  His rigorous work and travel schedule had taken its toll.

He was way beyond pretending everything was OK because it wasn’t and he knew it.

iStock_000001723721XSmallDan, a senior executive for a large regional healthcare consultancy, thought he was at the peak of his career.  He was a rainmaker extraordinaire and an excellent client representative.  He was very successful, a much in demand problem solver.  A big part of that success, Dan believed, was directly related to his laser focus on client needs and his team’s ability to consistently deliver results.  He was good at what he did and was proud of it. 

As the travel wore on and Dan slowly wore down, he did not immediately realize he was slipping.  Dan’s friends were worried.  His health was taking a hit but he dismissed their concerns because he was doing important work.  There wasn’t enough time in the day.   

Pride precedes the fall, as the old saying goes.  

In Dan’s industry, when a team member fails to deliver results, the entire team fails.  It is a terrible feeling.  He had promised himself this would never happen.  But it did.  

A wise friend knew what had happened.  In fact, he had seen it coming.  The friend understood the pressures Dan faced – the pace of the healthcare industry was accelerating and the demands on its leaders were more intense than ever before.  

However, the mistake was made, the failure occurred, and the business was lost.  “You cannot do much about that now,” his friend advised.  “What you can do is take a hard look at what led you to this unacceptable outcome, admit what happened, and move forward.  That’s in the past.  It is now all about what you do with the future. 

Times are radically different and you must learn new ways to get things done so that you do not allow yourself to let another client down or, worse, destroy your health.  You are working hard for what?  Your family?  Then step back and do not lose sight of what is important.  Your family deserves that and your clients deserve that.” 

That was not what Dan wanted to hear but he knew it was the only way forward. 

Today, Dan is a much happier camper. He is working out, not just talking about it or promising to do it.  He is eating healthier, drinking a lot less and, most importantly, he said, he has his work life and family life in balance.  “I am not working as much, or taking crazy back-to-back trips that I do not need to take,” he explained.  “I am spending more time with my family, I am happier personally and the quality of my work is better than ever.”

Dan realizes that the tough love advice from his friend six months earlier, helped him avoid a bigger catastrophe. 

“Your kids do not care about your work ethic,” his friend had said.  “What they care about is whether you will be there for them.  Your daughter is not going to care that you worked so hard, sacrificed so much so that she could attend that great college and have that storybook wedding if you aren’t there to cheer at her graduation or to walk her down the aisle.”     

In this era of healthcare transformation, as the speed of change intensifies and as the pressure builds for peak performance at any cost, there will be more than a few executive casualties – professional unhappiness, families pushed to the background, or a major personal health crisis.  There are a lot of hard working executives like Dan, me included.  These experiences, when taken together, will hopefully illuminate the right way forward for us all.

The challenges will be many, the demands great but what we cannot afford to do is lose sight of our perspective.