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How CEOs should plan before leaving for vacation

There is a lot of talk by executive coaches about how senior leaders in growing organizations should work “on” their business instead of “in” their business, the logic being that those in the C-suite should focus their efforts and energy primarily on strategic big-picture issues rather than the day-to-day minutia. There’s been a lot of talk about the reinvention of work in the twenty-first century, but little guidance for the reinvention of vacations. As a big believer in vacations, I think it’s about time we become clear on dos and don’ts for leaders in turbulent times.

Turning the day-to-day management of your maturing company over to the people who work for you so that you can focus on long-term and strategic matters sounds like “textbook” management come true. But unless the process is thoughtfully and deliberately handled, you will end up with major problems in your organization on just about every front.

I have seen many leaders of growing companies whole-heartedly embrace this philosophy and then subsequently crash and burn. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t disagree with this principle. You should be able to delegate the day-to-day running of your organization over to the troops and take a relaxing vacation, completely unplugged, with no access to office technology. But if you’re going to journey down this road, then you better make sure that you’re setting your people up to succeed.

If you’re a growing company, you need to establish an organization chart that lays out who’s responsible for what, not just for what is currently happening, but also for what might come up. Organization charts may seem overly bureaucratic, but if yours is a company that’s expanding rapidly, then people need to know who’s in charge of what, particularly if you’re planning to be unavailable.

Don’t abandon the day-to-day obligations in favour of long-term strategic issues unless you’ve given your leadership team the tools it needs in order to take action without you. Good leaders empower their employees to make decisions and take action.

I’m not saying that CEOs of growing companies can never take a vacation. But to simply hand the reins over to your next-in-commands is irresponsible. Fear not though … do these few things, and it is possible to take that unplugged holiday without setting your people – and your company – up to fail.

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