The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success

by Teresa A. Taylor

Teresa Taylor is a former COO of a Qwest Communications. She writes about how she navigated her career while also juggling the demands of her personal life as a wife and mother of two boys.  As the title implies, she found that “trying to achieve this mythical ‘balance’ simply causes us endless frustration.” She uses layers of clothing as an analogy. You can add or remove layers to adapt to changing circumstances. “Thinking in layers allows you to integrate your work and your personal time to create one life and one family.”

Time management is a fundamental skill discussed in the book. Taylor uses to-do lists, but keeps them short. “Begin by assigning a time limit for completing every item on your list.” She also advises being disciplined about time limits in meetings. “Anything over an hour needs to be avoided like food gone bad… Speaking of meetings—when you’re running one, be focused… Stick to the topic at hand.”

Taylor writes about leadership. “As a leader, every little thing you do is noticed and matters… One of the roles in leading is to keep everyone motivated… You have to always ask yourself: ‘How would I feel if someone talked to me that way or made this decision without asking my opinion?’ People want to be heard.”

She also writes about ethics and integrity. “The greatest failures I’ve seen in my corporate life were due to the selfishness and greed of others. They brought down more than one corporate head…  I knew many who were doomed because of their lack of integrity. They weren’t grounded. They didn’t have a rudder… As you continue to mature, your rudders become more and more clear.”

The book also has some very useful advice about networking. “I prefer the word connecting because it feels more sincere than networking… A basic understanding of relationship building underlies successful networking. One of the skills I employ is genuine curiosity to gain an understanding of what the mutual value of the connection could be… It’s all about someone’s backstory or personal life that creates an authentic and valuable rapport. The moments when you really connect with someone are the moments to build on and are the moments that may lead to collaborative exchanges later… Another point of networking is this: If you connect with someone, follow up…  By making the effort to strategically reengage with an occasional email or holiday card, for example, you keep the lines of communication and the potential for the future open.”

Taylor concludes with this career advice: “Throw out the idea of perfection and the belief that a magic checklist for someone’s career actually exists. There are no secrets. It is simply about working hard. Working hard is the mainstay to a successful career, and it’s the same for home. It’s about one life, one calendar—not bifurcating yourself. You need to be all in… Celebrate yourself and the things you did accomplish instead of focusing on what did not happen.”

Taylor, Teresa A. The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-life Success. Austin, Texas: Greenleaf Book Group, 2013. Buy from

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