As the days cool and the holiday season comes to an end, I often feel a collective sigh of relief from the business owners I work with.
You’d think their punishing workload would mean these people would relish the prospect of time off with their families or pursuing their hobbies over the summer. But, for most, this simply isn’t the case.
In fact, I often hear them talk about how holidays are a frustrating time: they don’t feel that their business can function without them; they believe that they have no choice but to check emails and messages constantly; and, what is worse, they try to deal with problems from afar.
Make yourself redundant
The truth – I reassure my clients – is that where a business has a robust planning process in place, none of these things are true.
Thinking strategically about your business covers many external factors – clients, markets and supply chains. But it’s also about internal development, such as putting a capable and trusted leadership team in place, delegating responsibilities and freeing yourself up to focus on big picture thinking.
The problem, more often than not, is that owners think they are irreplaceable. But ‘sacrificing’ yourself for your business could mean you are not only putting your health and relationships at risk – but also your business.
So, here are three tips for surviving the holiday season – for next year:
1. Stop lobbing grenades
If you try to manage the day-to-day running of your business from your sun lounger, you risk undermining your employees’ ability to function in your absence.
A barrage of frustrated, demanding and sometimes misinformed emails (the grenades I mention above) will simply force your people to make reactive, panicky decisions that will inevitably lead to mistakes and further erosion of trust and morale.
So, during your planning process, aim to create a business which can function without you. Build a strong leadership team and delegate decision-making powers to them. Give them a chance to grow into their role, and importantly, learn from any mistakes.
Then just leave them to get on with it in your absence.
2. Holiday by example
If you spend your annual break checking emails, how will your employees interpret that? Will they feel that they have to do the same on their holidays – and what will that do to morale and productivity in the workplace?
You’re propagating a cultural malaise which can spread through a business like wildfire – if you foster too much competitiveness and play one employee off against another, or you expect your people to be seen to be busy at all times, you’re actually preventing them from being able to think clearly and strategically about their role and what new ideas they can bring to it.
So, if you must think about work, close down your email and do some research into your sector and industry. You’ll identify the latest trends, brainstorm new ideas and collect positive strategies to take back to the workplace to inspire and engage your people.
3. Hang up your out-of-office sign
Finally, tell everyone you are going away and will be out of contact. Clients, suppliers and employees will understand and respect this sentiment.
That’s because making it clear that you trust your people communicates a wider message. It demonstrates that you have planned ahead, and put good people and processes in place to manage in your absence. It says: I know how to lead with confidence.
As a business owner, how do you manage to take time off work – and what have been the benefits?
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