Vacation Delegation | How to take your vacation and have it too

Did you spend your last vacation stuck in a hotel room on conference calls? Or were you struggling to explain to your family why you still had your BlackBerry / iPhone in your hand even though you were to be on holiday with them? Given our 24/7 business culture, actually disconnecting while you’re on vacation, seems like an impossible task.

We’re here to tell you it’s possible to take your vacation and have it too.

Vacation by the numbers

There’s no shortage of evidence that suggests many employees aren’t taking the vacations they deserve. According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail, 55% of Canadians plan on taking a vacation this summer. What that also means is that 45% of us do NOT plan on taking vacations. According to another recent survey, 70% of employees surveyed at the end of 2011 said that they would not be taking their allotted vacation time for that year. In short, your work productivity over the year will improve if you take regular breaks to recharge your batteries by changing the scenery, slowing the pace and getting back on track with regular sleep and exercise.

That’s the Why. Here’s the How

To take that time away you deserve, delegation is key. Delegating effectively can mean the difference between returning from your vacation to an empowered staff, with all things nicely humming along, or a nightmare of unfinished tasks and emails that need your attention.

We have wonderful clients who often share their management tips and are open to us sharing these tips with you. One of our clients has recognized the learning opportunity that effective delegating provides for his staff, and so he uses his vacations as an opportunity for career development. His approach is to select one person who will be left in charge while he is away. This person often varies from vacation to vacation as he has seven direct reports. In his absence, this delegate can make decisions based on the guidance he has provided them. Here’s how it works:

The Pre-Vacation Meeting

Bring your delegate into your office and orient them to 3 areas for “piles of files” on your desk:
“For Your Decision” Pile
This pile will contain all the items / projects that this person has the authority to decide in your absence. Be sure to communicate to the rest of the team that this person is being asked to make decisions in your absence on these matters. Discuss any parameters or principles you would like this person to use when making decisions in your absence.

“For Your Input” Pile
This pile will be items to which this person can input but not decide in your absence. For example, what meetings might they attend and offer some ideas but not make key outcome decisions. You outline the kind of things this person needs to do to keep things moving in your absence, but to which they are not fully empowered to decide.

“Please Let These Items Wait for my Return” Pile
This pile will contain tasks you want left for your return. It is critical that this is the smallest of the three piles. If it is not the smallest, ask yourself why? It is often our fears of others success or losing our importance that hold us back. Remember one of your goals is to develop your team.

The Post-Vacation Meeting

During the post-vacation meeting, review the three piles so you know what was decided and what was moved along. Also, spend some time talking about what the person learned and what the person would do differently the next time around. The result will be that you had a great vacation and your delegate developed new skills.

No One to Delegate to?

We recognize that the above scenario might not be practical for everyone. But even if you can’t use the full approach, there are a few things to try:

1. Push yourself to find others to cover parts of your job for you. So often people tell us that they don’t have anyone available to them and yet they have a teammate or an administrative assistant. Sure this person cannot do your job – but you are asking them to only do some of your job for a brief time.

2. Provide enough information. Provide the “big picture” so your delegate can see how the work fits into the overall operation. Take one hour and write down a few points associated with each project. It will help them be successful in your absence.

3. Let clients and others know when you will be away. If you give everyone a heads up, it helps makes your absence more manageable.

You Deserve A Vacation

We’re here to tell you that it is possible to take your vaca- tion, and have it too. You can escape the clutches of your office for a week or two and your job will still be there when you get back. So what are you waiting for? Go book that vacation and enjoy some quality time with your friends or family. You deserve it.

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