Here’s a question for all of us who lead remote project teams: if we’re not with most of our team most of the time, why is going on vacation (or at least taking time off) so traumatic? According to reports, over half of Americans don’t take all their vacation time, and 2/3 of managers admit to checking email frequently when supposedly on vacation. Note, those are the ones who cop to it. Any guesses on a real number?
On the surface, it shouldn’t really be a big deal. I mean, our teams are remote or at least partially remote. We don’t actually see each other or our stakeholders for weeks at a time. What are a few days going to matter? Yet, project managers and their teams seem to have a really hard time letting go.
Why is that? Well, there are three things managers do that tend to make it hard to relax and enjoy time off:
- They don’t delegate decision making and authority before they leave. For many of us, delegating is a skill we have yet to really perfect. When our teams are dependent on us for every decision, or don’t feel empowered to take action on their own, they are going to reach out to you no matter where you are. If we respond, all bets are off and we may as well be at work. At least we can find the files we need. Before leaving on vacation, establish where people can go for information, resources and decisions. Also, let them know that unless the building catches fire, it can probably wait until you get back.
- They check email too often. Okay, full disclosure. Even though I was on vacation, I did check my work email twice a day (fortunately my wife is a heavy sleeper.) Cold turkey is hard to do, so I settled for knowing enough that I wasn’t tormented by questions, but secure enough that nothing couldn’t wait til Monday.
- Checked is not the same as “got sucked into.” You know what I did? I scanned for anything critical, marked it as read, and went back to my hammock. In a week, I responded to only one email ( a customer problem) and didn’t come back to an overflowing inbox. Too many managers become so concerned with what they’ll have waiting for them when they get back, they sacrifice the precious time they have off.
One of the benefits of taking your vacation time, and really getting away (at least mentally) is that the team realizes they can live without you. You demonstrate faith in their ability, while enhancing their independence and inter-dependence with each other. This can have positive results in the long run, as well as make your mojitos taste just a little bit sweeter.
For even more resources for creating and managing productive remote teams, check out this.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.