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I thought the O3 area may be the appropriate place to post this question... how do you handle communication/updates when YOU are on vacation?

I have a tight schedule this March (2 days w/consultant, 1 week vacation, 1 day back in office, 2 days at MT conference in Chicago, 2 more days with consultant- this is all consecutive mind you, and it starts March 13th). Essentially, I'll be out of the loop for 12 business days.

In the past, I've had my DR's just write down some notes, but I've never felt I completely "caught up" when I got back.

I am thinking of this email below (as well as a quick stand up w/DR's). Any thoughts?

[i]COMMUNICATION
Keep a daily log of your 1) activities/accomplishments, 2) radar items (customer issues, ee issues), 3) things we need to discuss when I return. It's almost the same as your O3's! See example below*.

I prefer email, but if you must write on paper... that's fine, too

Reports are due Monday 03/24/08 6AM and Monday 03/31/08 6AM (Hint: send them the Friday or Saturday before)

If you need me between 03/24/08 thru 03/28/08, call and leave a voice mail OR send an email and I will get back to you as soon as I can

BUSINESS AS USUAL

Please hold Staff Meetings on Thursday 3/20 and Thursday 3/27 (you guys can decide who'll be the "facilitator")

See George with major problems

*EMAIL EXAMPLE

Monday March 17 2008

Activities:
Went to ... and ...
Talked to ... about
Worked on...

Radar:
Heard that ...
Nancy said...

Talk about:
Found out... here's what I think...
Met with... he would like to... I recommend...
[/i]

ctomasi's picture

Cwhite,

I love the idea of holding staff meetings while you are away. Excellent idea. I'm going to be out a lot this summer and am will be facing the same challenges. I think you're on the right idea to encourage "tight" communications (i.e. give it to me quick and straight.) I have a team of mostly "C"s who can get detailed pretty quickly - I'm guilty of this too if I'm not paying attention.

Suggestion: Have any time blocked off when you return to get caught up.

Suggestion: Communicate with your boss to see if any directions changed.

Suggestion: Have O3s shortly after that.

BJ_Marshall's picture

Is it possible to still conduct your O3s while on vacation? You could take your O3 binders/folders/papers with you, and tell your directs you will conduct your O3s with them at specified times. I only have four directs, so it works for me; I don't know if you can make it work for you. When I'm on vacation, I can usually make four 30-minute phone calls a week without a problem.

[quote="cwhite"]If you need me between 03/24/08 thru 03/28/08, call and leave a voice mail OR send an email and I will get back to you as soon as I can.[/quote]

I don't really like extending an open invitation to call me while I'm on vacation. Other than the O3s, they can speak to George.

Cheers,
BJ

tomw's picture

YOU DON'T.

Vacation is time away from work, guys. Unless the company is on fire, there is no work for that week.

tcomeau's picture

[quote="TomW"]YOU DON'T.
[/quote]

Yeah, you don't.

First, you're on vacation. You should be doing whatever it is you like to do when you're NOT WORKING. I like going places where it's hard to find wireless access.

Second, you're on vacation. The people who work for you ought to be able to keep things going for a week or two. If they can't, you're letting them and your boss down.

Third, you're on vacation. If you keep calling in or checking email while you're on vacation, you're setting a bad example. Your directs should be going on vacation, and not working while they are on vacation. If you work while you're on vacation, you're setting the expectation that they'll work while they're on vacation. At best that's bad karma.

Get caught up when you get back. If people take notes while you're away, great.

Have fun on your vacation. Relax and recharge. Read a book or two.

US41's picture

While I am on vacation, I expect my directs to form up into a slightly modified configuration which achieves the following objectives:

* Reduce the number of potential "temporary reports" for my boss.
* Prevent traffic from landing on my boss's desk
* Prevent me from having to be reachable *at all*
* Gives my directs experience managing without me
* Gives my directs and boss face time with one another

Here's what I do:

* I assign one or two of my managers to have all of the others fall in under them while I am out.
* Staff meetings continue as before, the direct in charge holds the staff meeting in my absence. Everyone is expected to work together
* Fold any individual contributor employees up under other managers
* All communication upstairs is to channel through those assigned to take charge while I am out
* No one is to contact me - not my boss - not my directs. There is no such thing as "the house is on fire and we need US41" on my team. I make myself as expendable and redundant as possible

I want my directs to learn my job. Learning my job means learning to own my job and feel comfortable in my job. I want them to feel as though they can seize the reins in the event of my death, retirement, or termination. It is my responsibility to my boss to provide a succession plan in the event I am no longer available.

The more of my job my directs can do, the more promotable they are. The more promotable they are, the strong I am to take on the next level of responsibility. My directs have to be ready for my job because they will have to do that job when I take on a bigger role. I need them to be ready to operate at the next level and support me.

I also want my boss to get to know my directs whom I leave in charge. How can they succeed me if my boss barely knows them and has no relationship with them? My boss must learn to trust my people as I do or they will be passed over for someone who is clueless.

The most important reason: I need a vacation. I mean to say that I REALLY need a vacation. I have not had a full week off since the Summer. So, when I take my week off, I will be leaving the cell phone at home. I will not tell anyone where I am going. They will have to get along without me.

My people are well-trained and very capable. When I return, hopefully everyone will wonder what I was for. Then, my boss, being a very intelligent person, will see that I need more to do, and either promote me or put more teams under my management to ensure tighter control and more development of leadership across the board.

If you must take your blackberry on vacation, then you have failed to stand up a real team and succession path for your boss, and you need to address that issue as a top priority with coaching and delegation.

And you need to let it go and stop thinking you are the best person for everything (you are not) and that if your directs outshine you that you will be fired (you will not).

BJ_Marshall's picture

Thanks, US41. Your approach doesn't just free you up for your vacation, but it frames it as a growing opportunity for your team. I'll try your approach next time I go on vacation.

Cheers,
BJ

HMac's picture

As the manager and leader, you're setting an example for your people every day - including HOW TO TAKE A VACATION.

How do you want your people to take a vacation? Do you want them to come back less-than-fully-recharged because they spent too much time in touch with work? You might look at that situation and be a little critical: maybe that person isn't really on top of his/her game because of the need to stay connected even while on vacation.

Now, move it up a notch: what would YOUR boss think about how you take YOUR vacation? Are you showing that you're so entirely on top of your game that you can fuly prepare yourself, your team - and your boss - for your absence?

1. PREPARE for your vacation so you can really DISCONNECT
2. DISCONNECT, ENJOY, and return REFRESHED
3. If this isn't possible, consider RESCHEDULING vacation to a time where you [u]can [/u]do steps 1 and 2.

terrih's picture

Thanks for this discussion. The corporate culture where I work is such that everyone who isn't at the very bottom of the org chart seems to have to be connected at all times regardless. Someone in another department had surgery recently and ended up coming back to work much sooner than her doctor would have liked because she has allowed herself (or her boss has allowed her) to become too indispensible.

The example I've received is "call me if you need me..." and even my boss calling me about business when he's supposed to be on a week's vacation.

So I appreciate your perspective and your reasoning behind it. Thanks!

ramiska's picture

Remember, "Family comes first".

Vacation should be time away from work.

eagerApprentice's picture

I really like US41's idea of giving your directs the chance to learn and grow while you are gone. I seem to remember from several management books and creeds that this is one good sign of a great leader - creating teams that can function and perform even while you are gone.

If they are the right kind of direct, they will look at that as something like a gift - and a chance to prove themselves.

That said, I have to say that as soon as I'm on a vacation, I turn it ALL off - the phone, pager (when we used to use them), and laptop... Then I put on the most comfortable clothes I can find and get ready to travel... it's time to live! :D

cwhite's picture

All excellent comments and advice! Thank you all. I was very happy to see US 41's take on this because he always has great insight. I've got everything set to go (some last minute changes based on all your feedback), and I'm ready to relax!

See you all in two weeks.

Don't bother calling or emailing because I'll be with my family! :wink:

eagerApprentice's picture

Oh man... I'm kind of jealous now. :)

Hope it's a great vacation!

arleziana's picture

I prefer to stay away during my vacation . Just rent a house like I did last year with corporate housing Tucson , and shut off my phone and just enjoy my family and rest.