As I described in my entry last week I recently had the opportunity to take a three and a half week out of country vacation. As far as vacations go this was in the longer side. But not exceptionally long. What was exceptional about the vacation was that I checked out. I let work go on without me. I decided that what I needed most was to not work.
Now I have to admit that checking out for me didn’t mean not touching my Blackberry or not looking at email. In fact I checked email every day. But not to do work. I did it for my own peace of mind to ensure that I wouldn’t have 2,000 messages when I got back. I deleted, filed and otherwise pruned the stack. And in only two instances did I send an email on to anyone else, and in both cases only because no one else was copied on what I sensed what was an urgent situation. By doing so I enabled my own ability to disconnect.
So how did that work out?
My answer is remarkably well, and as an added bonus I learned a lot as well. It helps here to identify that I am responsible for a great team with multiple levels of leadership. With that in mind, Here are six important things I learned as a result of checking out on vacation:
- Vacations are for recharging. And how is that going to happen when you are working? As I mentioned above, I still looked at my emails. But I did it for peace of mind. What I didn’t do was engage in the content of the email. So by refusing to give energy to the work, I could put that energy into my personal batteries.
- Assess your personal readiness. You can’t recharge if you can’t let go. All that happens is you get to work from new surroundings. So what are the keys to being ready? Probably first and foremost is to know that you are allowed, actually expected, to let go. Everyone knows you are on vacation. Second is to know that you will be missed. To think otherwise would be to call into question if you are needed in the first place, and the answer to that has to be yes. Think about it. Your organization spends a lot of money employing you. That isn’t out of any philanthropic interest … you’re there because you are needed.
- A great chance to assess your team. The true role of any leader is to develop the people who will replace them. So what better way to assess your progress than to get out of the way and let them do your job? Should you expect it will be perfect? No … But it will likely be pretty darned good. Should you expect that it will be all roses for your team? No … they are being stretched and that can be uncomfortable. Will you learn anything? You bet … likely some strengths in individuals that are beyond what you expected, but maybe also some opportunities for coaching and development. And ultimately the confidence that you have the right people on your team!
- Demonstrate trust. You need to let folks on your team know that they are the right people, and the way to do that is to show them they are trusted. They’ll know they are trusted when you turn over the keys. Trust begets confidence. And confidence will allow your team to step into your role more easily.
- Provide an opportunity for growth. With that confidence your team is probably eager to tackle decisions that are normally made by you. In so doing they will likely be considering more complex and bigger issues, as well as have opportunities to work with more senior members of the organization. That exposure will make for excellent earning opportunities.
- You can continue to let go. So with all these great things that happen when you
let go, why would you want to take the wheel again when you come back? Sure you are a part of the engine, and not being there does put more stress on the rest of the team. So when you return you’ll step up and take some of it back. But why not leave those opportunities for learning in place? Why not continue to let your team make the decisions they were making while you were away? And why wouldn’t you take the extra time you get and put it towards the future, towards coaching and mentoring and other activities that truly inspire you?
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