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Beyond Work-Life Balance: What Really Works in Building and Retaining High-Performing Teams

In a session titled “Beyond Work-Life Balance: What Really Works in Building and Retaining High-Performing Teams,” Dana Look-Arimoto, executive and leadership coach with Talent Ecosystem Advisor, Phoenix5 LLC, emphasized that business and leadership challenges are the same regardless of industries.

“People are people,” Arimoto said. She recommended listening to the VoE – the voice of the employee. To this end, companies can use ENG scores to qualify employee engagement. Dana stressed the importance of using the results of an ENG test to help reduce turnover, citing the range of 21% to 200% as the amount a company has to spend to replace departing employees who they didn’t want to lose.

Dana advised settling smart to improve performance rather than chasing the “unsustainable” ideal of “work-life balance.” She stated: “Striving for balance leads to burnout while prioritizing integration leads to harmony, and harmony beats balance every time.”

Building a high-performing team can involve encouraging “wanted turnover.” On this topic, Dana said, in reference to employees who aren’t high performers or culturally additive to a company: “If people aren’t going to cut it at your firm, you’re not doing them any favors by hanging on to them.”

She advises “investing in your top performers” by removing the obstacles of administrative work from your top performers, stressing that it doesn’t make sense to bog down your top performers with this type of menial labor.

With regard to technology, Dana warned against focusing on the latest tech innovations at the expense of building your team. She stated: “I don’t care what technology you buy – without the right people you’re not going to get where you want to go as a company.”

To improve retention, Dana said, you need to hold management accountable for improving a company’s retention score.

With regard to building a team, Dana stated, “I don’t care what type of company you are, without a high performing team you aren’t going to be successful.”

When it comes to settling, she emphasized that we should stop settling, settle smart. Dana said, “we are settling unconsciously and involuntarily for things we don’t even realize. We think we can do it all and be it all and have it all.”

We are taught to achieve our goals whatever the cost, Dana said, and are brought up to think that settling is bad, when “in fact, it may be the one thing that creates work life integration and a culture for sustainability and high growth in our life.”

When you think about settling smart, she advised considering things you are willing to trade off and reprioritize and thinking about having those settling conversations in a good way with your team and people at home. Companies that get creative about creating space for people personally and professionally, Dana said, have higher performers.

Dana invited the audience to visit her website at to learn more about her ideas for “redesigning your busy life” by rethinking work-life balance.

She suggested analyzing five key facets of life to see how much settling you are doing in your life. These facets are:

  • Career
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Society
  • Vitality

Dana suggested companies should get creative around giving people the opportunity to create the type of work-life balance that works best for them without the “you should.” By saying “you should do this, you should do that, we are shoulding ourselves to death,” she said.

She advised asking your employees what they want, and within reason giving it to them. Companies that do so, she said, “will see a major change, especially with your high performers.”

She stressed that company leaders should be aware that employees, especially high performers, watch what they do and not so much what they say. Because of this, leaders should lead by example and be cognizant of what message they are sending to the organization by their actions.

Dana said that, whatever type of leadership team a company aspires to have, “I’m here to tell you, if you don’t actually adopt and adapt to what people want it doesn’t matter which of these systems you choose.” She added that you should know what you won’t do as well as what you love to do.  What you won’t do is as important as what you will do. CEOs, according to studies, say 10 nos to every one yes.

Overall, she suggests helping employees realize what they are capable of at their pace, whether that involves baby steps or giant leaps forward. “Help them grow or watch them go.” She suggests that a leader be transparent, tell the truth, take the mask off, and be willing to fail.

“Teach your teams it’s OK to fail,” she said. “They have to fall so that they can rise back up. Set up safe to fail experiments at your company.” She added: “Iterate. Once you know how to focus by clearing obstacles and dumping stuff that doesn’t really count and being maniacal about focusing on high and medium prioritization and not low priority stuff and not reacting to the small stuff, then you can provide clarity to others and with clarity comes results.”