If your team or organization won’t pass the vacation test, there is a problem. I am going to be bold and say that it is a leadership problem and the good news about that is that the solution also lies with you, the leader. With so many of us taking vacations this time of year, or working vacations, as many Senior Leaders sometimes do, this question has been bubbling up and I want to ask it of you:
If you were to go on vacation, and completely unplug from all work communication for two weeks, would your team, department, or organization have the tools in place to succeed? I don’t mean subsist, I mean succeed in executing against the strategy, moving the needle on key business drivers, and maintaining the integrity of value-based decision-making while forging new paths and relationships.
Spend a few moments now reflecting on your answer to the above question. Here are some questions to answer that may help you formulate insights as they arise:
Here is a list of some of the things that are in place when teams are set up to pass the vacation test. Weigh them considering your current leadership environment. Jot down a few notes after each bullet with thoughts that come up when you read the statement.
- With your team, there is a clear and articulated set of shared core values from which you make decisions.
- Your team has a sense of shared purpose, strategic agility, AND expertise to act from a value-based foundation.
- You are an empathetic leader, and your team knows you trust them not to do things “just as you would,” but to do things their way and that is even better.
- Team members have clear roles and responsibilities that maximize their expertise and give them the ability to seek out the capacity they need from others.
- Priorities are clear to the team, not just in your absence, but always because of your communication and transparency.
Leadership is not about what you do but what you make possible for others
Do you measure your success based on how many decisions you are involved in or how many meetings you are available for, or even how many people come through your open door for your approval? It is time to get out of your own way and in turn, empower others. It may feel like you are “not doing your job” at first and that is a good sign. It means you are elevating your leadership so that others may as well. You are the coach. Many leaders talk about getting their hands dirty, rolling up their sleeves, and being the first one on the court. That is powerful sometimes but when you are overworked and needed constantly it is a sign that you need to elevate your leadership and allow your team members’ expertise to surpass your own fueled by the confidence you have in them to succeed.
Coaching versus doing is the only way to scale leadership
As one person, there is only so much bandwidth you can ever have if you are still executing along side your team. Imagine the possibilities if you are able to trust that capacity in your team and start looking forward at the unmet needs of the organization and planning for the challenges of tomorrow. Preparing your team to pass the vacation test has a compelling WHY:
Decentralize Decision Making: If there is a lot of movement around you, there is potential that you are in the thick of whatever is going on and you are not able to see the horizon. Once you enable, build, and develop that capability on your team, you clear the bottleneck, and the impact your team is able to make multiplies at an astounding rate.
Create Opportunities: Leadership is not about what you do but what you make possible for others. This is easier said than done because for many senior leaders subject matter expertise is what got them to the level they are now. The real work at this level is to trust.
Delegate: Fire yourself from as many roles as you can. Look for every opportunity to hand off work because it will empower and elevate someone on your team and enhance their visibility and capability. Tap all potential and if it isn’t there build it. It will differentiate your business through the contagious satisfaction and excellence of your team’s performance.
Every leader should ask two questions before “rolling up their sleeves”:
- Who may be able to do this job better than me?
- If I can’t think of anyone, can I help a team member become better at this than I am?
You are not removing yourself from the work. You are securing the future because you are able to see the horizon and plan accordingly once you build this capability. Because you lead from a place of trust and empathy, others will follow.
The ultimate goal is to build the capacity on your team for your current leadership role to be obsolete. Why? Because that means you have created that capacity in others and that is truly leading. Congratulations, now it is time to set your sights even higher and wider and there is no better place to do that than… on vacation.