Why do holidays exist? Traditionally – people took holidays to celebrate events of religious or cultural significance, and they were seen as an opportunity to connect us more closely to our family and community.
Today taking our annual summer holidays can give us time to relax, get away from our normal working environment and have a change of scene. Yet many leaders are reluctant to take a prolonged period away from work and find themselves checking emails by the pool or taking a call whilst they are wandering round a shopping mall with their family. This means they never properly switch off and relax to allow their brain to recuperate and get away from the ongoing stresses of a day job.
When we take the opportunity to have a change of scene it gives the brain a chance to be creative. Some say that’s why they do their best thinking whilst taking a shower. When we are relaxed, with no problem to focus on, we can allow our natural creativity to emerge, and allow our brain to make connections that we were not aware of before.
Businessman Nick Woodman decided to go on holiday to get away from it all after his business failed, with the hope that it would give him inspiration as to what to do next. It was doing the activity he loved that gave him the idea for his next venture when he realised, he wanted a wrist held camera to capture his surfing exploits. That idea eventually turned into Go Pro.
Stepping away from the helm for a period, gives others in the team a chance to step up and gain valuable experience. It’s worthwhile particularly when planned well in advance because it may be that there are elements of a leader’s role that subordinates can take on, without the full-blown responsibility of the entire job. With some preparation beforehand, and reflection time afterwards, a forward-thinking leader can help guide a high-potential employee to use the experience to advance their decision-making capabilities, and gain insights into senior leadership.
Sometimes leaders are reluctant to do this because they are fearful that it will reveal their own inadequacies or put talented individuals into the spotlight. It takes a strong confident leader, to have one eye on succession planning and to build a team around them that have the potential to ultimately take over at a senior level. However, ultimately that will build a more sustainable future for the business.
Finally, many leaders use holidays as a time to relax with family and friends. Creating these shared experiences is a wonderful way to build stronger bonds and connections with loved ones. It’s important to be able to be ‘present’ and to taste the food you are eating, listen to what others are saying, and to see a holiday as a chance for an adventure. Many older people reminisce about trips they took with their family when they were younger, and these shared times together are meaningful. Rather like saving money in a bank account, investing time with people you trust and enjoy the company of, can bring a positive return when there are times of stress later in life. It’s those folks that are more likely to reach out to help or provide support if a leader finds themselves in need. Friendships and family time can be priceless.
Sue Stockdale is an executive coach supporting CEOs and senior leaders in some of the world’s top companies, and author of EXPLORE: A Life of Adventure. For more info www.suestockdale.com