6 Vacation Rules for Team Leaders

You know that all work and no play makes you a dull leader. But what happens if you habitually mix work and play? Too many managers make a habit of staying closely connected to the office during vacation, when they instead they really should be recharging their batteries.

I'm not immune to the siren song of connectivity. In fact, while at Disneyland recently, I caught myself killing time in the Space Mountain line by checking my e-mail, sending a couple of text messages, and reviewing some of my blog traffic stats.

And that's definitely not the right mindset for what's supposed to be a relaxing day at the park.

Robert Bruner, writing in the Washington Post, describes how work addiction can keep people from enjoying the benefits of time off. Effective leaders thrive on daily routines of connectedness, but that sense of being in touch can become compulsive. If you regularly divert your attention from meetings and conversations by sending e-mails or text messsages, or if you feel irritable if you're out of touch, could be you're addicted to the rush of that connectivity.

But healthy leaders know when to say when, says Bruner. Although emergencies might arise while you're out of the office, you need to strike a balance between the fires and the fire drills you'll respond to.

Here are six rules for leaders who want to vacation more wisely:

  1. Commit to vacation as a time for rest, relaxation, and recharging. Consider it a time to "say when."
  2. Tell your staff, assistants, or anyone else who needs to be looped in that you will be offline except in cases of true emergency. For bosses and other stakeholders, plan ahead: Give plenty of notice about your vacation, tell them you're serious about taking a real break, but assure them you'll respond if issues arise.
  3. Fight the lure of your electronics. Check e-mail -- at most -- once or twice a day. Concentrate on staying in the moment with your family and friends.
  4. Get active. If you're work-addicted, lounging poolside (within range of the free Wi-Fi) isn't a great environment for you. Instead, go hiking, swimming, fishing, or horseback riding; play tennis, go kayaking, or explore on a bike.
  5. Get away. You can bolster your mission by vacationing in a cellular and Wi-Fi dead zone. In an emergency, you can still be reached the old-fashioned way: by land line.
  6. If the smoke from a work fire reaches you anyway, pause before you react. Can you delegate? Would there be consequences if you delayed until you returned? Can you limit the amount of time you spend on this fire?
And if you really have to spend some of your time off handling work issues, says Bruner, make sure you block out some additional vacation time to make up for it.

You can read the full blog post for more details, or check out more thoughts on leadership by Robert Bruner.

(image by epSos.de via Flickr, CC 2.0)