Leaders: Don't be the Grinch who stole holiday relaxation

Leaders: Don't be the Grinch who stole holiday relaxation

Make taking personal time a priority for yourself and your team this holiday season. Three leaders share strategies

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December 14, 2018

The holidays can be a stressful time – long lines, busy airports, cooking for a crowd. But for many professionals, the stress begins long before the holidays even start. In fact, the anxiety of preparing for a vacation can be so daunting that people choose not to take time off at all or stay glued to their phones for work updates all throughout the holiday.

For leaders, the resistance to “unplug” may seem like a smart business decision, but it’s one that could negatively impact the leader, their team, and their business in the long run, notes Dr. Chance Glenn, founder/CEO and co-inventor, Electronic Alchemy.

“There is a feeling that if you stop driving, stop pushing, stop demanding, then some great opportunity will be missed that will make the difference between success and failure,” says Glenn. “This is why driven entrepreneurs burn the midnight oil, burn the candle on both ends, and burn out.”

[ Also read: 5 things employees want from managers: A holiday wish list ]

With proper planning and backup protocols, there’s no reason leaders can’t enjoy a peaceful holiday break – and extend the same to their teams. Below, three leaders share how they make stress-free time off a priority.

Set the tone from the top

Frank Auger, CIO, HubSpot: "Fewer Americans are taking vacation and an increasing number of employees at companies feel pressure not to take time away from their jobs. The reality is that those who don't take time off are more likely to lose their passion for their work, burn out, and eventually look for other roles. In order to ensure employees take the time off they need to recharge and stay engaged, leaders need to help employees feel safe and comfortable that time off won't diminish their perceived value and potential for advancement. I take time off when I need it, talk about it openly with my team, and set an example that a healthy, balanced work schedule is not only allowed, but encouraged.

Leaders need to help employees feel safe and comfortable that time off won't diminish their perceived value and potential for advancement.

Many leaders like myself at HubSpot practice ‘leaving loudly’ where we share when we will be out of the office to our teams, which promotes transparency and opens up discussion about the value and benefits of vacation among the team. As a leadership team, we started the practice of putting vacations on our monthly management priorities in order to keep it top of mind for us all, which has helped greatly in spreading the message that taking time off is valuable for not just the employee, but the customer and company as well. Before the holidays, I like to send a note to my entire team to encourage them to take time to be with their families, enjoy good food and good company, and show my appreciation of the time and energy they invest into our company."

Think about the big picture

Dr. Chance Glenn, founder/CEO and co-inventor, Electronic Alchemy: “People, like batteries, need to recharge. The more you require from your people the more it drains them, whether they admit it or not. Build redundancy into your team. In small companies and startups, people often have multiple responsibilities by necessity. As the company grows people tend to settle into specific roles; however, it is important to know where the backup lies, particularly in critical roles.

There is always a new plateau. Challenges never end. Opportunities never cease. As long as the world keeps turning, and there are innovative people upon it, there will always be a hill to climb. Play the long game. Look at the big picture with your product, your company, your impact. What are you doing? Where are you going? What does it take to get there, and what do you need from your team to get there? A short-term respite can result in a long-term gain if played right.

Sometimes it is difficult when those around you, whether they work for you or with you, do not have the same ‘motor’ that you have. Your drive, willingness to sacrifice, and the cost it exacts may be different than those around you. It can sometimes be easier to be demanding than it is to be understanding. Remember, though, that you are building a healthy company for long-term success. People are the key.”

Ready, set, unplug

David DeWolf, president and CEO, 3Pillar Global: “I believe leaders are responsible for training their teams to think through the big picture. This includes challenging staff to unplug – fully – during the holidays and while they’re on vacation. I know personally the positive impact that truly unplugging on vacation has had on my focus and productivity at work. Setting explicit expectations and promoting a culture of both hard work and deliberate rest is crucial for leaders in any industry. Leading by example is the best way to ensure my team knows that I actually expect high performers to take the time they need to recharge their batteries. 

Leaders must encourage their team to plan for adequate backup coverage when they are away so that they don't have a pile of work upon return. Another tip is to encourage your team to log out of email and other communication mediums and not ‘check in’ while away. I use ‘Inbox Pause’ during my downtime to limit the notifications I receive and am committed to embracing unplugging on the weekends.”

Want more wisdom like this, IT leaders? Sign up for our weekly email newsletter.

Carla Rudder is a writer and content manager on The Enterprisers Project.

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