By Michael Holland     

It’s a beautiful little house on the lake.  With the windows open early in the morning the cool breeze comes off the lake providing a fresh feel to the new day.  The small waves lap against the shore and birds can be heard singing in trees.  It’s 5:00 am and there’s our fearless leader relishing in his 4th day of his family’s week long summer vacation.  Sipping coffee while reading his email.  He’s found that perfect window of time to work for an hour or so before anyone else will be up in the house.  He’s so proud of his ability to balance work and family that he misses the ignorance of the shallow façade he’s created and the weak, career limiting habits he has formed.

Given the behaviors of most leaders around vacations we might as well just eliminate the word vacation from our vocabulary and just call the time what it is: working remotely for the week.

Here are three vacation habits leaders should correct.

You Can’t Live Without Your Job – You seem to find a shallow self-worth in your ability to grab slices of time on vacation when you can check email and make a call just to check in.  You get up an hour or two before the family for this work so that you don’t impact the “family vacation time” even though you spend a good portion of the rest of the day thinking through the problems and situations from those emails.  You rationalize that these behaviors will make it easier for reentry to the work world upon return from vacation ignoring the reality that you basically haven’t even gone on vacation.  Great leaders seize the opportunity to be fully engaged for rest, rejuvenation and restoration found on vacations when separating fully from work.

Great leaders seize the opportunity to be fully engaged for rest, rejuvenation and restoration found on vacations when separating fully from work.

Your Internal Clock is Off – You are in such a Pavlovian habit of attending hours upon hours of meetings every day that you are lost on vacation without meetings to make you feel productive.  Time seems to have a different cadence on vacation.   Once the fog begins to clear you begin to look at activity based blocks of time chunking out the day with breaks when nothing may be happening.   What do you do with nothing?  Great leaders let their brain and body recharge by day dreaming, napping, or just staring at the waves breaking against the shore.

Great leaders let their brain and body recharge by day dreaming, napping, or just staring at the waves breaking against the shore.

You Don’t Have a Life – While on vacation you describe yourself to a new acquaintance via your job title and a bland summary of the type of work you perform since you spend an exorbitant amount of time working during the year and have nothing else in your life beyond the labels that identify you.  Imagine a vacation which included your passions, interests, and hobbies which add substance and depth to your life and feed your brain.  Without a life you are limiting your ability to lead your team to creative decisions as well as reducing your capacity to be intriguing, an oft overlooked trait of successful leaders.

Choose well “how” you will vacation this year and what you can learn about yourself to be a better leader.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • How well do you dis-engage from work while on vacation?  How would your family, friends, significant others grade your ability to dis-engage?
  • Does your boss expect you to be available while on vacation?  How do you know this?  Have you had a direct conversation?
  • If you could only work 7 hours a day for the next 6 weeks what behaviors would you change?  What meetings would you eliminate?