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Go Away! July 15, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership, Random Musings.

As the summer reaches it peak, let’s all take moment to consider the importance of vacations.

This seems patently obvious; I doubt that many people would come out against vacations in any sort of popularity contest.  For many of us, though, vacations can generate a lot of talk but very little action.  As our jobs become busier and busier, it can get harder and harder to actually set aside time and get away for a while.

However, leaders need to set examples for their people, and vacations are no exception.  If you think vacations are important, lead by example and take one!  Here’s why:

  • You really need the time to get away.
  • Your people really need you to go away.

For you: go somewhere and clear your head. Break free of overwhelming detail to get a fresh perspective on everything: life, work, family, and everything else that is important to you.  I find that my best thinking is done during extended absences from work, when time and distance gives a perspective that is simply not available in the daily trenches of your job.

Whenever I get away, I typically return with a laundry list of ideas.  Solutions to nagging problems suddenly gel and new paths to explore present themselves.  It is refreshing and invigorating to be able to step away and refocus on everything.

For your people: I don’t mean to chip away at your fragile ego, but your company will survive in your absence.  So will your organization, if you are doing things right.  There is no clearer sign of a bad leader than when his team collapses in his absence.  If you are micromanaging the world to the point that nothing happens when you are away, you are not serving your people, your company, or yourself.

Your team needs a chance to run things while you are away.  Ideally, they are completely capable of running things anyway.  Your absence simply lets them prove that to themselves. Dealing with things in your absence lets them explore solutions on their own, deal with details without pulling you in (or you horning in!), and resolve things from start to finish.  Not only do they get crucial experience, they get a huge boost of confidence.

Recently, many companies have stopped allowing people to roll vacation days over from one year to the next.  While there are clear financial benefits to this policy, I think the personnel benefits are far more important.  We all know of those folks who simply never take vacations, accruing weeks and weeks of time off in the process.  While a tiny minority of people really are saving for that eight-week excursion around the world, most people are simply never going to take that time. By forcing people to take their time each year, you force people to help themselves with a much-needed diversion.

Resolve to take time off.  Encourage your people to do the same, and set a good example by going on vacation. The time you spend away may be the best thing you do to improve the time you spend at work!


1. MnM - July 15, 2009

Absolutely agree… I’ve been deployed twice (total 26 months), have a team of 90 and everything went wonderfully while I was gone. In fact, the appreciation for my and their roles and responsibilities has only improved and strengthened the organization. Some places have “be boss for a day” and when you actually get to step up and BE that other role you quickly realize more of an appreciation for it.

Being humble is something that must be grown also and the separation is important for improving it as well as communication (the key to any team).

2. Bruce W Cavey - July 15, 2009

Have you ever worked for a boss you thought was permanently “on vacation” even at work.

Gave me the opportunity to learn his position and make him a hero.

He got promoted and I stayed where I was.

But, I learned, gained experience in IT decison making and put it to use when I did get recognized. To serve is a the greatest of honors, sometimes rewarded , many times not. but you get to look in ther mirror and and say you did right…and then take a vacation!.

Balancing duty verses personal peace takes allot of discipline.

3. Ernie Huber - July 16, 2009

The ability to clear your head and get that fresh perspective you mentioned is so important, especially if you are driving innovation.

Actually, I find you don’t need to completely disengage. Checking/cleaning up email periodically from my PDA allows me to come back and hit the ground running rather than spending the first day digging out.

4. Joe Williams - July 18, 2009

Great reminder for all of us, Chuck. It is important to get away, and by that I mean REALLY get away. Leave the blackberry and laptop at home. Engage with your family. Enjoy yourself!

5. Gwyn Teatro - July 18, 2009

“There is no clearer sign of a bad leader than when his team collapses in his absence”. This is so true. And, perhaps there are some leaders who fear that in spite of their efforts, they don’t trust in their own ability to develop others to the extent that those people can indeed take over in their absence. So perhaps another message is for leaders to trust in themselves and in their people and learn to let go. Then everyone gets a breather.

A great post, Chuck and a really timely message!

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