by Jeff Wolf
How many times have you heard your boss tell you that? In fact, how many times have you told your employees that?
Come on, fess up. Either case is as rare as a drenching rain in the Sahara. Let’s face it. Too many bosses discourage employees from taking more than a day off or a weekend here and there. And even then they don’t discourage a barrage of phone calls from work and many will expect employees to check their email several times a day. A two-week getaway to the Far East? Not a chance.
Every year, the media reports on surveys showing that large chunks of U.S. workers don’t plan on taking all their vacation time. Why does this happen, when it’s part of a worker’s compensation package? Large percentages of workers wouldn’t pass on a company-sponsored life insurance plan, or forgo a paycheck for all of December, so why are so many people willingly (or perhaps not so willingly) giving their paid time off back to their employers?
Forbes Magazine contributor Kristi Hedges nails the explanation: “The idea of a skimpy vacation as a worthy sacrifice or badge of honor is culturally embedded. The U.S. is the only rich country to not have legally mandated paid vacation and holidays.” She goes on, “science tells us that this is a very bad idea. Increasingly, studies are showing that breaks of any kind are not only good for you; they can actually increase productivity and well-being.”
Long Vacations Benefit Both Company and Employee
To create a lasting change in their organization, and maybe even greater society at large, leaders must fully embrace the practical benefits of vacations. Good leaders will be more inclined to not only grant, but also encourage employees to take not just a couple of long weekends here and there-and maybe a week off in the summer-but longer vacation time. Employees come back from a full week (or two or three) of time off when they were able to truly disconnect from work energized and recharged, with better ideas, a fresh perspective, lower stress-levels, and genuine excitement to tackle work challenges that can become overwhelming without time to recharge. Truly effective leaders recognize the value of paid time off, and understand it’s key to a productive and engaged workforce.
Here are specific steps leaders can take to make sure this happens:
- Issue specific company policies that encourage all employees of the organization to take all vacation days due them, and in any increments they prefer.
- Be clear the time off must not interfere with mission critical work, but also be clear that one person’s week off shouldn’t incapacitate a well-run department, and that while every department has busier times on the calendar, it is normal and expected that departments will experience slower times periodically throughout the year.
- Require that all managers and supervisors conduct short meetings with their employees explaining the vacation policy.
- Ask employees for feedback regarding perceived problems with the vacation policy. Since many employees may feel constrained to speak up, use a suggestion box where they can offer suggestions or voice complaints.
- Assure that all complaints and suggestions are answered by a third-party, such as Human Resources.
- Follow-up yearly to make sure the new vacation policy is working.
As we head in to the height of the summer, when friends and family frequently plan reunions, couples get married, families with children have the freedom to travel, as leaders it’s our job to help facilitate these getaways. Your employees will thank you for it, and ultimately, your bottom line will thank you for it too.
Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness.
Contact us today to discuss how we may partner with you to develop your current and future leaders or to have Jeff Wolf speak at your next meeting, conference or convention: Michael Adams firstname.lastname@example.org 858-638-8260 or www.wolfmotivation.com
All the competitive advantages – strategy, technology, finance, marketing – that we’ve pursued in the past are gone. The disciplines haven’t disappeared, but they have lost their power as meaningful competitive advantages, as real differentiators that can set your company apart. Why? Virtually every organization has access to the best thinking and practices on those topics. As information has become ubiquitous, it’s almost impossible to sustain an advantage based on intellectual ideas.
However, one simple, reliable, and virtually free competitive advantage remains – team health. Healthy teams all but eliminate politics and confusion from their cultures. As a result, productivity and morale soar, and good people almost never leave. For those leaders who are a bit skeptical, rest assured that none of this is touchy-feely or soft. It is as tangible and practical as anything else…and even more important.
Even the smartest team will eventually fail if it is unhealthy. But a healthy team will find a way to succeed. Without politics and confusion, it will become smarter and tap into all of the intelligence and talent it has.
Team health requires real work and discipline, maintained over time, and the courage to objectively confront problems hindering true team achievement. Leaders must confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their teams with honesty and persistence. Persistent leaders walk into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing the potential that eludes them.
To get healthy, leaders need to take four simple, but difficult, steps:
- Build a cohesive leadership team. Get the leaders of the organization to behave in a functional, cohesive way. If the people responsible for running a team, department, or organization are behaving in dysfunctional ways, then that dysfunction will cascade down and prevent organizational health. And yes, there are concrete steps a leadership team can take to prevent this.
- Create clarity. Ensure that the members of that leadership team are intellectually aligned around simple but critical questions. Leaders need to be clear on topics such as why the organization exists and what the most important priority is for the next few months, and eliminate any gaps between them Then people who work one, two, or three levels below have clarity about what they should do to make the organization successful.
- Overcommunicate clarity. After the first two steps (behavioral and intellectual alignment), leaders can take the third step: over-communicating. Leaders of healthy organizations constantly repeat themselves and reinforce what is true and important. They err on the side of saying too much, rather than too little.
- Reinforce clarity. Leaders use simple human systems to reinforce clarity in answering critical questions. They custom design any process that involves people from hiring and firing to performance management and decision-making to support and emphasize the uniqueness of the organization.
Healthy teams get better at meetings. Without making a few simple changes to the way meetings happen, a team will struggle to maintain its health. Healthy teams rarely fail. When politics, ambiguity, dysfunction, and confusion are reduced to a minimum, people are empowered to design products, serve customers, solve problems, and help one another. Healthy teams recover from setbacks, attract the best people, and create exciting opportunities. People are happier, the bottom line is stronger, and executives are at peace when they know they’ve fulfilled their most important responsibility: creating a culture of success.
Applying the principles of great performance is hard, but the effects of deliberate practice are cumulative. The more of a head start you get in developing people, the more difficult it will be for competitors to catch you.
Contact us today to discuss how we can partner together to help develop and grow your leaders and teams: email@example.com, 858-638-8260 or www.wolfmotivation.com
Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JeffWolfUSA
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To create a fully functional team, the leader needs to exhibit six leadership traits.
1. Build trust. Trust is a three-way street: A. You must be able to trust each member of your team. B. They, in turn, must be able to trust you. C. Team members need to trust one another. Trust is earned, so set the stage for success by creating regular and ongoing teambuilding opportunities. You can start with small projects involving two-and-three person teams. In due course, you’ll want to expand team size and the scope of assigned projects. Never compromise your team’s trust in you by assigning a task that is well beyond their skills level. This managerial mistake sets them up for failure, and it can irreparably damage your relationship.
2. Communicate. Watch any police drama on television and you will notice how law enforcement officers remain in constant communication during tactical operations. Their lives depend on it. You can’t expect your team to understand and execute a task without clearly communicating your goals and objectives. In some cases, you will be a hands-on leader, participating in the task and offering close supervision. In other instances, you may assign a team leader, who will be charged with keeping you up-to-date on the task’s progress.
Communication must flow in several directions: How you articulate your message. How others hear your words (the takeaway message). How well you listen to-and hear-what team members say.
Any glitch in these communication channels can lead to a major disconnect, even project failure. And if you rush through communication efforts, rattling off details without ensuring clear messaging or ending a meeting with “Got it? Okay, let’s do it,” you discourage team members from asking crucial questions that may make or break their endeavor.
3. Offer sufficient resources and autonomy. Teams fail when members lack the time and resources required to complete their assignment. Perform a reality check. Ask yourself how much time and how many tangible resources you would need to fulfill the project’s demands. Next, determine whether your team, based on members’ experience levels, requires more, less, or the same amount of time. Seek input from team members, asking them to honestly assess how long specific components of the task will take. Your goal is to develop an accurate, realistic timeline.
If you have chosen a team leader to lead a task, allow this person to delegate responsibilities as she sees fit. Make sure the leader knows the difference between delegation and abdication. The team leader’s job is to set the vision, delineate strategies (often with the help of other team members), and provide the conditions and support needed for success.
As for autonomy, don’t micromanage your team (or team leader). Give members an attainable goal and enough autonomy to complete it. Monitor progress, but avoid being overly intrusive. You’re the leader – not a babysitter. Let team members feel empowered enough to embrace responsibilities and enjoy a sense of ownership. Remind the team that you are available if anyone needs consultation.
4. Build self-efficacy. Team members must know that you have confidence in their abilities to complete a task. They, in turn, must feel secure in meeting your goal.
If an employee feels uneasy about his role on the team, consider pairing him with a high-performing peer. This strategy can help boost the self-assurance of an employee who has not yet achieved self-efficacy – an individual’s judgment of his ability to successfully complete a chosen task. Team members’ self-efficacy will affect the choices they make when working on a task, as well as their doggedness when setbacks occur. It’s your job as the leader to uncover the employees’ fears and barriers to success and alleviate their concerns, including shyness; self-consciousness; poor communication skills; fear of conflict; impatience with, or dislike of, other members of the team; and bias.
5. Hold team member accountable. Every team member should be held to the same standard of excellence, regardless of training or years of experience on the job. While each person’s precise task will vary, all team members’ commitment to completing the job should be unwavering.
6. Conduct routine debriefings. Debriefings should focus on high and low points during the project’s run. When you review your team’s completed work, note individual performance and provide meaningful praise. Team members should be rewarded when they cooperate, coordinate, and share knowledge with coworkers. And when a team member fails to cooperate or complete her task, speak with her in your office. The meeting should be private, but team members should know that it is taking place – and that there are consequences for failing to pull one’s weight or working well with others.
Before ending a debriefing, ask each team member to share thoughts on improving performance in the future: What would they change? Which steps could have been streamlined? Were any of the steps unnecessary? Were any steps overlooked? Are any procedures archaic…performed simply because they’ve always done it that way? Is a technology update in order? Was there any overlap or redundancy among team members’ jobs?
You may be surprised at the constructive feedback you receive. Employees also appreciate that you value their opinions and suggestions, and that you’re willing to make changes that solidify future team efforts.
Contact me today to discuss how we can partner together to help develop your leaders and teams: email or call me at 858-638-8260.
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