“You’re taking a picture so you can prove that you’re working?” the man at the next table laughed.
“Absolutely,” I kidded.
“That’ll be good for tax purposes,” joked his wife.
“Good idea,” I smiled. “I’ll send it to my accountant too.”
There’s my lead, I thought, as I rushed back to my seat to start typing.
The idea for this column had congealed moments before those comments were made. Of course, I was taking the picture to illustrate my soon-to-be-made point.
I was working on vacation, and I didn’t mind one bit. I didn’t mind, and my wife didn’t mind, because it was the price we were willing to pay for spending an extra day in Cape May, NJ.
“Let’s stay one more day,” she had implored the day before.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “We’ve had a great time, but don’t you think we’re pressing our luck (with our 3 and 5 year olds)?”
“We go on vacation once a year and everything is going fine — let’s do it.”
I agreed, in exchange for the understanding that I’d have to sneak in a few hours of work. Mainly, I wanted to get this column done before diving into the maelstrom of webinar logistics and general email, with its dozens of unforeseen digressions from whatever you had planned to do that particular day.
My wife agreed to the proposal.
As I was thinking about the idea of working on vacation, I remembered how Nancy had done quite a bit of work on her last vacation and, just last week Kate, did a bang-up job of preparing me for hers by not only scheduling items to automatically publish while she was gone but preformatting the enewsletter with that content. She then sent me a very clear email explaining what I had to do: “please proof my column and post it.” I could handle that.
So all three of us were willing to do some heavy lifting to earn the right not to lift for a time, and the most important thing of all, the real point, is that everyone was permitted not to lift when they chose not to lift.
Do leaders not realize that people often take their vacations in conjunction with specific and unmovable opportunities?
- “It’s our family reunion week.”
- “It’s the week every year when we do this.”
- “Our kids both have that week off.”
- “This opportunity just came up.”
For you to turn around and say, “Well, that’s really not the best time for the team because Sally and Lois are already taking off,” or, “Can you maybe take it in Q4? We have so many projects going on right now,” is a crushing blow. Don’t kid yourself — crushing.
“Well, they could give us more notice,” you say.
Yes, well, how often have you waited until the last minute for family or friends to finalize plans? Sometimes, it’s out of your hands until it’s abruptly dropped into them.
So for my part, when a vacation request comes in, it’s more a question of how than if, and I can think of very few reasons why the how — by a combination of a little extra effort on the part of the requestee and the team — could not be accomplished. In fact, when you say yes to your folks, but note any particular challenges about their absence, chances are they’ll move hell and/or high water to leave you in good shape, just like Kate and Nancy did for me. I give, they give and we all get a lot of freedom and flexibility.
Taking this approach may get you laughed at while working on vacation, but it will be you and your team who have the last one.