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How Leaders Can Take Advantage of the Summer Downtime

Boss in empty office

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the importance of leaders taking time off work and going on vacation, a piece which I’m happy to share has been picked up by the American Management Association (AMA) and is now featured on their website. Since publishing that piece, I’ve received a number of emails from my readers and had conversations with various friends and acquaintances where they shared how vacation time is viewed by their bosses and their organizations.

While these discussions have inspired some future posts I’ll be writing for my blog, they also got me thinking about the other side of this vacation time equation. Namely, how leaders and their organizations can benefit from the downtime that inevitably arises when employees are away on vacation.

When members of your team go away on vacation, it’s only natural to feel some concern over how their time away from work might slow down certain efforts or limit the number of people available to address an unexpected problem or failure. Given today’s current work environment where organizations have reduced their staff size while keeping work output the same or higher than before, any concerns over a growing lag time naturally become even more pronounced.

Of course, there are many reasons and benefits to taking an extended break from work, benefits that certainly outweigh any loss of productivity or efficacy that inevitably happens when a member of your team is away on vacation. So how can leaders make the best of the summer downtime instead of relegating themselves to simply grinning and bearing it?

As it turns out, the summer downtime provides an excellent opportunity for leaders to review their team’s efforts, in order to assess how much progress has been made to date and what issues continue to deter their team from pushing ahead. While leaders should be making time for such reflection and review as part of their daily and weekly routine, it’s not uncommon for many leaders to sacrifice this time to address urgent calls for their attention.

As such, the absence of team members during the summer time can actually provide leaders with a welcome break to do a more in-depth review of where they are in reaching their shared goals and consequently, developing a better understanding of where to focus their team’s efforts when they return to full force at the end of summer.

Of course, in assessing the efforts made so far by your team, it’s important that you move beyond your daily work perspective by fostering a sense of inquisitive thinking about your business. This way, you can make a proper evaluation of your organization’s progress that takes into account not only the accomplishments and issues you’re aware of, but also those aspects about your operations which you ordinarily don’t have the time to review and reflect upon.

With this in mind, here are some questions to help you determine how successful your team’s efforts have been in helping your organization move closer to reaching your shared goals:

How did we respond to unexpected opportunities over the last few months?
While we can’t plan for every problem that might happen, we also can’t anticipate every opportunity which might come up for our team or organization. Of course, not all opportunities are the same and that’s why it’s important to review how your team responds to them and what efforts are made to evaluate whether these opportunities align with your shared goals or whether they are steering your team off-course towards another direction.

What tasks/assignments are proving to be more difficult than we planned?
One of the goals a leader should have is to see their employees succeed in their efforts. Spending some time evaluating where your employees are running into problems can help you figure out if changes might need to be made to facilitate the process, or if additional resources will be needed to help your team get past these obstacles.

What changes should we make in the upcoming months to ensure we stay on target?
Just as an airline pilot has to make course adjustments to compensate for wind and other weather elements, so too should organizational leaders take into account how conditions have evolved and changed as their team’s efforts progressed. Becoming aware of these changes can help you anticipate issues you might need to prepare your team to address in the upcoming months.

Did we learn from our failures or is there a risk of repeating them?
No matter how well-thought out your plans are, mistakes are inevitable and par for the course. Of course, the real key to dealing with failures is not avoiding them; rather, it’s how you choose to respond to it. More specifically, are you creating an environment where your employees view them as learning opportunities or do they view them more as situations where the blaming game is played?

How your team – and you as their leader – deal with failures will have a big impact on whether improvements are made to avoid the problem rearing its ugly head again.

Is the team still motivated about our shared goals?
Obviously, when you start a new project, there’s a lot of excitement and passion in the room because people feel engaged by taking on a new challenge. It doesn’t take long, though for that enthusiasm to decline as routines begin to take hold and especially if your team is encountering more obstacles than small wins.

The downtime that comes with the summer vacation period provides a welcome opportunity for leaders to assess their team’s current momentum and what can be done to keep it going or to help it get back up to speed.

While summer provides us with the much-needed time to unplug and recharge ourselves, the downtime that comes with the summer months can also prove to be beneficial for leaders as an opportunity to evaluate their team’s efforts toward reaching the objectives that were mapped out at the beginning of the year.

Making time for such reflection and review will not only help you understand what measures worked and what didn’t, it will also help you to revise and adjust the tasks you assign to your team, thanks to having a clearer understanding of what issues your team might have to deal with over the remaining months of the year.

Some other posts you may enjoy:

  1. 4 Reasons Why Your Boss Should Take A Vacation
  2. Do You Have A Healthy Relationship With Opportunity?
  3. 10 Questions to Help Leaders Prepare for the New Year
  4. Learning From Your Mistakes – 4 Steps To Turn Failure Into Success
  5. Helping Employees Regain Their Productivity After A Prolonged Absence
  6. The One Challenge All Leaders Secretly Face


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