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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!