As a former AFL umpire, Brian Lee-Archer would seem to have a sporting life dedicated to elite fitness and health. But it wasn’t always the case. Like most of us, Brian’s quest to keep his work life balance in check has been an ongoing challenge.
Based in Canberra, Brian has spent large portions of his career travelling and knows the challenges of keeping well, both physically and mentally, while working in the dynamic and demanding field of consulting.
We chatted with Brian to understand how he manages to be his best self at work and in life.
What was your light bulb moment in terms of taking action to improve your health?
Going to boot camp three to four mornings a week! Ten years ago, I was unfit and well above my AFL running weight. My wife gave me a one-month boot camp pass. The first month was horrible. But I kept at it – and a team bond formed amongst the other bootcampers. Now I’ve celebrated ten years with that same group and they recently awarded me ‘bootcamper of the decade’ (it was a small field!). You need that kind of discipline. In my experience, it’s the only way to keep on top of your health and fitness.
What are your top tips for maintaining health and wellbeing for our people working in consulting?
As someone who spent between three to four years out of the country while travelling all over the world for work, I understand the challenges we all face working with client demands, deadlines and working at client sites as consultants. My average work trip used to be one to two weeks in duration.
After a public service career, I worked for 12 years for a large global technology company and I could feel myself burning out. It was unsustainable, and I thought, I’ve got to change this!
When you are working in an unpredictable environment, you must focus on what can you make predictable. Controlling diet and exercise gives me that grounding. Now if I travel for work, I pack my running gear. I’m very disciplined about it.
And having that focus has helped me at work. When you’re working in an ambiguous environment and there’s lots of uncertainty, this keeps me going. It’s fun and good for me. It’s setting me up for a healthy future too.
As a business leader, how do you maintain your relationships with family and friends?
I’m a working parent with two girls aged 26 and 18 years. I spent a lot of time travelling during their formative years. My wife worked part-time in their early years and then full-time. But I always tried to get to school events. I was conscious of it. Sometimes that meant appearing at a netball event for my girls on a Saturday morning with my suitcase after a long-haul flight.
I stayed connected with my kids when travelling by taking ‘Elmo’ and ‘Buddy’ with me. Elmo was even photographed with the Mona Lisa when at the Louvre Museum. The kids really appreciated things like that. Elmo is now living in Brisbane with my eldest daughter and Buddy is still my travelling companion.
Being in global roles – where I was measured on results and outcomes rather than time at my desk – gave me the flexibility to make my career and my life work together. In my current role, I’m savouring the Australia and New Zealand focus.
Elmo and Buddy
How have Accenture’s programs helped you prioritise your best self?
I recently participated in some Accenture storytelling workshops which helped me appreciate how my life experiences have real application at work. Like when I was in Istanbul after a successful three-month work stint in Central Asia with the World Bank. I’d been so vigilant throughout my travels and had just wrapped up a successful government conference in Izmir on the way back to Australia. On the last night, I met up with a local guy in Istanbul and before I knew it, I was in a dodgy bar and a sting was on. I was kicking myself for letting my guard down and just avoiding a ‘Midnight Express’ moment. I guess like in business, things can turn to custard very quickly if you let complacency creep in and you take your eye off the ball
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Life is a marathon. My early work experiences, where I was at a high risk of on-the-job burn out, showed me that I need to pace myself and prioritise my health and wellbeing.
Myself as a footy umpire along with the rest, taken 1992