As I write this blog I am stretched out on a balcony overlooking a beautiful stretch of beach in Kwazulu Natal. It’s been a long year, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to finally stretch out, relax, and enjoy the festive season. Most of us feel the same: the promise of a holiday ahead is what sustains us in those final grueling weeks leading up to year-end. And when we look back at the highlights of every year, it’s often the memory of holidays with loved ones that stand out among the 365 days gone by.
But even though we may be out of the office and even offline for a bit, we remain business leaders. After a few weeks off, most of us will return to our leadership roles and resume our leadership responsibilities. Even though we’re taking some temporary reprieve, we will never shed the mantle of leadership no matter what day of the year it is. Take a look at the example of Bill Clinton to get a feel for the fact that a leader never really goes off duty, even in his or her private life.
That being acknowledged, this blog is dedicated to rounding up a few things that great leaders do when on holiday. Take a quick read for some ideas for good “downtime” leadership.
- Communicate expectations to employees before going on leave. One of the basic principles of good leadership is being clear with your team about what you expect of them. When going on leave, it’s easy to sail out the front door as soon as your loose ends are tied up. But you may return in the new year to be disappointed that things haven’t been maintained in a certain way, or that employees slacked off while leadership was away. So let your team know what you expect them to achieve while you are gone before you leave. Not only will it keep them motivated while you’re away, it will minimize the number of “what shall we do now?” type phone calls from the office.
- Allow others downtime as well. The golden rule applies here – if you wouldn’t enjoy spending your Christmas chasing a deadline or coming into work when an unexpected emergency crops up, neither will your employees. As far as you can, try to respect other people’s away time. Allowing them to full fully relax will ensure they arrive happy and motivated after the break.
- Use your travels to connect with people you haven’t seen in a while. Successful leadership recognizes the importance of keeping your network wide and active. If you’re travelling to Cape Town from Johannesburg, use the first day or two of your holiday to reconnect with old colleagues or people with new ideas. There doesn’t need to be a “reason” to meet: you’re simply making real time for people, and recognizing their importance in your life.
- Commit your list of to-dos to paper. Or your laptop, or your cellphone for that matter. As your mind relaxes, it’s normal to come up with new ideas of things to do. These are useful things, but as long as they bounce around in your mind, you won’t be able to fully relax. Give yourself some necessary mind space by writing them down and then letting them go until your break is over.
- Allow yourself to truly disconnect for a while. The American existential psychologist Rollo May wrote: “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” From a leadership perspective, we need to be creative in order to innovate, think up the best solutions possible, remain motivated and motivate our team. Our leadership position demands that we refuel in order to charge our creative juices – and that means giving ourselves the time to be alone.
In a modern sense, a fear of being alone may not manifest in a reluctance to be the only one in the room. Being truly alone today also means cutting oneself off from the hundreds of virtual ways to connect. It means staying away from emails, text messages, instant messages, voice calls and myriads of social media connections – even if just for a short amount of time. Try it.
A great leader not only knows how to make good use of their work time, they also know how to make the best possible use of their downtime. If you could do with some inspiring financial leadership in your work place, contact The Finance Team. One of our qualified, experienced finance executives can assist your company in any number of ways for the period of time that you need it.