Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

How Vacation Time Can Make You A Better Leader


When you’ve been writing a blog for 5 years as I have starting this month, one of the things you appreciate as being a key factor behind your longevity in this sphere is the importance of taking a vacation break to employ the 3 R’s – rest, review, and reflection.

Of course, it’s not just the art of writing that benefits from taking time off for rest and relaxation to keep improving your craft. As leaders, it’s critical that we’re also taking vacation breaks from leading our team and organization in order to ensure that we’re consistently offering our best to those we lead.

So as I prepare for my annual sojourn, I’d like to share with you these four reasons why taking a vacation will help you to become a more effective leader for those under your care.

1. Vacation breaks give you time to reflect and review
One of the things many of the leaders I’ve worked and spoken with share in common is how they enjoy being able to spend time on ‘big-picture thinking’, where they consider current realities and situations, and what opportunities lie ahead that their organization should invest time and resources to explore.

Unfortunately, while this is an important requirement for effectively leading organizations in today’s interconnected, global economy, one of the realities leaders find themselves grappling with is managing the growing demands for their time and attention in this 24/7 wired world.

The work routines employed by many of these leaders leave them operating more in a reactive, instead of reflective mode, so spending any time on pondering the long-view can seem almost like a luxury.

Indeed, many of the leaders I’ve worked with have expressed this common frustration in spending so much of their days dealing with putting out fires or addressing day-to-day issues that they admit feeling a disconnect between where they spend most of their time and attention, and what they want to achieve through their leadership.

And if the leaders of these organizations feel this disconnect, it doesn’t take much for us to appreciate what realities their employees must be operating within in how their approach their own work.

That’s why it’s so important that we take time off work to break free from those work habits that impede our ability to truly reflect and review how things are going, of where we need to be spending more of our efforts, and what possible opportunities we’re overlooking in our rush to get things done.

2. Vacations allow you to flex your creativity by pursuing your other interests
Of course, the reality is that we shouldn’t be taking vacation time solely to reflect and review on what we’ve helped our organization to achieve over the course of the past few months. After all, while we might be defined by what we do, our work is not all that we are.

That’s why we need to make sure that we use our vacation breaks to pursue our other interests, so we can rejuvenate our mind and body, ready to take on the next half of the year leading our team and organization.

There’s also the added benefit for how using our vacation time to focus on our other interests can help us to flex our creativity muscles, enabling us to discover new ideas and opportunities that we can look into exploring when we return to work. Indeed, a recent survey of 1 000 small business owners by the UK consultancy firm Sandler Training found that one in five entrepreneurs came up with their startup idea while they were on vacation.

And this makes a lot of sense when we consider that when we’re on vacation, we’re more open to trying out new experiences, new foods, and new environments, as well as engaging with new people. Each of these initiatives can encourage our brain to build new cognitive pathways that will help us to connect seemingly unrelated concepts using a neurological mechanism called “global processing”, a process that often leads to those ‘A-ha!’ moments that precede unique discoveries or innovations.

By taking time to free ourselves from our everyday work routines and spending time on other areas that we have a passion or interest for, we can build and strengthen that sense of curiosity and learning that is so critical to unravelling key insights that will help your organization to become more responsive and adaptive to your customers’ changing realities and needs.

3. Vacation breaks remind employees to disconnect from work to sustain productivity
We all know that we succeed at leadership not simply through the words we impart, but through the example we provide to our employees of what we expect them to do. That’s why I often remind leaders to be mindful of how they show up in those daily interactions with their employees because those around them are watching their every action and word to better understand what really matters to us, as well as to what we’re really paying attention to.

That’s why taking vacation breaks is not only beneficial for us, but it’s also beneficial for our employees because it demonstrates to them our understanding that they need to take periodic breaks from work if they are to sustain their productivity over the long run.

The reality for today’s organizations is that technology and processes are no longer enough to be key differentiators or even measures that will ensure our long-term viability. Instead, what’s becoming more and more clear is how we are very much operating in a people-centric environment, regardless of what our product or service offering is.

And that means that we can’t limit our focus to attracting and retaining key talent to our organization, but to ensuring that we’re able to tap into the discretionary efforts of every employee under our care.

That every individual not only sees an opportunity to dedicate their talents, creativity, and insights to our shared purpose, but that they see that those in charge care about their well-being and ability to continue to be valued members of their organization.

By taking vacation breaks, we can use these opportunities to encourage our employees to do the same in order to rest and recuperate because we care about them and their overall well-being. Consequently, we can ensure that we will be able to motivate and engage them to be fully committed to the shared purpose of our organization, even when we inevitably hit those rough patches.

4. Taking vacation breaks demonstrates trust in your employees’ capabilities
When it comes to the work we do, one of the things I’ve written and spoken a great deal about is that we need to make sure that we create an environment where our employees feel like what they do matters; that they’re creating a sense of value and purpose not only for those your organization serves, but for themselves as well.

Of course, we have to pair this understanding with the reality that none of us – even those in charge – are indispensable. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of a successful leader is how they enable those under their care to learn and grow, so that they rely less and less on those they follow to achieve the goals set out before them.

Here again, is where we see one of the benefits of taking vacation breaks as a way to remind not only ourselves of the competencies and capabilities of those we lead – but to provide our employees with that opportunity to continue to stretch themselves and challenge their assumptions of what they’re really capable of.

By taking vacation breaks, we create these opportunities to delegate more than just the tasks we don’t want to do. Instead, we end up delegating meaningful work that will encourage our employees to appreciate the value they can bring to our organization. This also allows us to better understand what areas and opportunities we can provide to our employees to encourage them to evolve and grow within our organization.

The simple truth is that as economic conditions continue to improve, demands for our time, attention, and resources will continue to grow. As such, if we are to truly be in the right frame of mind and be fully present to recognize the opportunities to improve and grow before us, we have to make sure we make time for ourselves to rest, to review where we’ve been, and to reflect on what we need to accomplish next to achieve our shared purpose.

By taking vacation breaks to rest, review, and reflect, we can ensure that we are in fact providing through our leadership the kind of environment and conditions our employees – and consequently, our organization – requires to succeed and thrive in the months and years ahead.

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1 Comment » | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | July 29, 2014 by |

One Comment
  1. On August 20th, 2014 at 8:34 AM Jim Matorin said:

    Makes sense to me, but why are people taking less vacations and taking their time off in days or days in conjunction with company holidays like 4th of July. Totally unplugging key too!

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