In yesterday New York Times article He Breaks For Band Recitals, Sheryl Gay Stolberg describes how President Obama left crucial health care talks for several hours to attend his daughter's band recital. He left his advisors with assignments, returned after bedtime, and the talks went on until 1:30 AM. Stolberg describes a similar scene during an automotive bailout strategy session. The President left at 6 PM for family dinner, returned at 8 PM after tucking his daughters in, and resumed the talks.
Here's what we've learned from the President:
- Prioritization: You can be the leader of the free world and have dinner with your family every night. He might miss many other important daily events but to him, family dinner is sacrosanct. His staff knows it, it's blocked off on the calendar, and all work can resume after 8 PM.
- Flexibility: Work doesn't have to occur between 9 and 5. Clearly the President and his staff are working much earlier and later than that, but the lesson is the same. Knock off at a reasonable hour to spend time with your kids while they're awake and need you and wrap up your work after bedtime or before they get up (author's note: I am writing this at 6AM)
- Support: It is widely known that President Obama intended to run a family-friendly White House. From the swing set on the front lawn, to monthly date nights and his daily presence at the family dinner table, he's saying to the world that even though times are really tough, family should and can come first. He delegates down to his advisors to get the job done in his absence, his staff helps him achieve his flexibility (e.g. scheduling overseas trips during the children's spring break) and, most importantly, he encourages it in his own staff.