Setting boundaries with the boss

Maybe it's a characteristic of the CEO species, but many of them work incredibly hard, on duty most of the time, and compensated more than accordingly. Should chief executives expect the same drive from their employees?

"That's a great question," Mark Group CEO Jeffrey A. Bartos responded during our Leadership Agenda interview published in Monday's Inquirer. "I had to learn to not expect that same level of time and hours from everyone and I had to learn that in the job. I give Abby [Feinstein, Mark's marketing executive] a lot of credit. She’s been good at pointing out that, `this is my personal time.'  I respect that.

Jeffrey A. Bartos

"I think there’s a give and take. You know someone’s committed; they work hard; they are passionate; they love the company, and they are good at their jobs and you have to respect those boundaries," he said.

"I'll tell you who else I learned it from," he said. "My colleagues in England are great at that -- from the executive chairman to my boss."

(Mark Group is a British company that analyzes homes and buildings for energy efficiency and then suggests upgrades. In 2010, they opened a business in Philadelphia and recruited Bartos to lead it.)

"I can’t speak to the English culture, but in our company, it is super important. Everyone is involved in their kids’ lives. Everyone is very family focused. They take vacations with their families. We’ve definitely borrowed that culture from the UK. I absolutely had to learn it. It’s not in my nature. I’ve definitely had to learn it."

When he was a rising executive at Toll Brothers and then a division head at the home building company, he would arrange for his mail to be delivered daily, even on vacation. He'd do the work and then have it delivered back to his office. "No one said I had to do that," he said. "I just did."

So, I asked him, did you have to overcome a prejudice that people who weren't as driven as you were actually lazy?

Yeah, he said, like `C'mon, I sent you an email at 10 p.m. Where is your response?' I had to learn not to expect it.

That's a tough lesson to teach your boss. Who schooled you?

"The guys in England said to me, `You need to calm down.' The owners of the business and the board said, `You are going to burn out. You are going to burn your people out. There has to be more balance. People need to have their weekends, they need to have their rights, they need to have their vacations. You need to respect those boundaries.'"