Why dads may secretly envy this CEO

How frequently do you feel you are being pulled in multiple directions? Do you feel like a rubber band that is being stretched beyond its intended capacity and you are likely to go PING! at any moment?

Max Schireson reached that breaking point and his resignation as CEO of MongoDB, a $1.5B tech company, has created quite a stir.

Many leaders I work with struggle with the same dilemma, whether their demands are at work, at home, with pets, family or personal pursuits; we are lead to believe saying NO is bad for our career or relationships and blindly agree to excessive commitments. Under pressure it is easy to get distracted and prioritize the wrong areas and just end up being both miserable and unsuccessful.

This is where there is a fascinating difference between the men and women executives I work with. Women are comfortable with this conversation, while they struggle with how to solve it, they are not afraid to admit it, they freely talk about it, and proactively seek advice. Yet it is a different story with their male executive colleagues. Men are a little more reserved, hesitant and uncomfortable having the conversation but once we start talking, they really value exploring how they can make changes that radically change how they are living their life. The saddest part is when I ask, it isn’t something that is a common topic amongst their peers of either sex.

But isn’t it time it should be?

I loved Max's resignation letter because it is truthful, blunt and shines a spotlight on a secret dilemma many male executives that I work with struggle with: How to be mentally and physically present and home when you have a demanding, high-profile role. As the CEO of a $1.5B tech company, unlike his female peers, he has never been asked how does he manage being a CEO and a dad, but he has struggled with that question and has some fascinating insights and a powerful story that may help other executives male or female.

Until more executives like Max start telling their story about why they make certain career decisions, nothing will change. The stigma will still exist that men should not talk about how they want to be more physically and mentally present at home, regardless of their job title.

As a leader you have no idea what others are dealing with outside of the office. You have no right to know, nor is there an obligation to share; but there is something you can do about it as a thoughtfully ruthless leader. You could take one powerful action today that could make a difference. It may make the employee on your team feel more connected, better supported and more satisfied.

Ask them this one powerful question then shut up and listen:

What can I do to help you better manage how your work life blends with your whole life?

  • It may be that regular 5pm meeting that creates stress every week.
  • It could be those frequent business trips cause havoc.
  • They might want to work remotely three weeks of the year so they can visit distant relatives.
  • It could be a serious capability gap on their team that is causing excessive demands on others.
  • It simply might be needing to hear that they are doing a fabulous job and you see a bright future for them.

What ever the answer, simply asking the question will open up a dialogue that could well save you a resignation later this year.

You may be thinking: "this is impossible, my company doesn’t allow that, it would hamper my career prospects, I would be viewed negatively". But really, what are you going to regret more?

A thoughtfully ruthless℠ leader not only manages their own time, energy and resources in a thoughtfully ruthless way - they also teach their team too.

So, ask the question, listen carefully to the answer and let us hear it for the Dads like Max who are bringing this conversation away from whispers behind closed doors to a loud conversation everywhere.


Have a wonderful weekend!

Val Wright