Summertime is here, have you made your holiday plans?
When leading an organization or even a department or program, it can be difficult to take time away. Not only are we concerned about what could happen while we’re gone, we’re also concerned about what will be waiting for us when we get back. The critical work we do day to day is important and many folks in our communities rely on it. So how can we leave it?
But here’s a newsflash – our teams can handle it.
If we’ve done our due diligence our teams were well-hired, they’re trained, and they know how to run things for a couple of weeks. And if for some reason our team really struggles while we’re away, chances are we’ll be able to sort it out quickly and with minimal impact when we return.
If you’re a leader and you’re struggling with committing to a much-deserved holiday this summer, read on for some reasons why time away is probably just what you and your team need to grow, strengthen and move forward.
1) Combat Burnout
The first reason we need to take our holidays is the most pressing – leaders need a break. We can’t keep going for months and months on end without losing some of our effectiveness, creativity, perspective, vision, and most importantly, well-being. Burnout is a consistent issue among leaders (and other staff) in the nonprofit sector, and to continue serving the communities that rely on us, we must consider our own well-being. Taking a break will serve our organizations, our staff teams, our communities and ourselves. Book off time NOW!
2) Get Perspective
Time away from work can leave us feeling vulnerable and insecure because the day-to-day functioning of the organization is temporarily out of our control, yet the responsibility for its well-being is still our responsibility. But as leaders, our focus and energy are best spent on visioning the future and making long-term plans for our organizations, our impact, and our communities. And, when we’ve been ‘in the weeds’ for months, it can be hard to stick our head above their tops and take the long view. When we break free from the office and the busyness of our daily work, we are given the opportunity to take stock and reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what else we’d like to achieve. Time away affords us the chance to think. And though we are not advocating that we spend our holidays thinking about work, the time away gives us perspective and when we do get back to work we’re able to refocus on our mission and see new and/or better ways of achieving our goals.
3) Let Staff Lead
Our time away can also benefit our staff teams. Throughout the year, our teams rely on us to provide vision, major decision making and overall support and guidance. However, while we’re away that responsibility will be on their shoulders. When a challenge arises, they will not have their own leader to turn to; they will have to make decisions and lead their own teams in the best way that they can. Leadership is a bit like a muscle; we’re all capable of strong leadership muscles, but we must be given the opportunity to flex and strengthen them. The more opportunities we provide our staff to build their leadership muscles, the easier it will be for us to take our time off in the future. It’s also a chance to discover if our recruitment and training strategies are working. Do our people have leadership potential? We all know about the leadership gap that’s looming on the horizon. We need strong leaders to take our places when we retire or move on in some other way, and to lead other organizations in the future. Think of it as a professional development opportunity; our holiday time provides a ‘hands-on’ leadership experience for our teams or one or two identified team members. They need the opportunity to test and try out their own leadership. The future of our sector depends on it.
4) Healthy Culture
In most cases, the leader sets the tone and heavily influences the culture of an organization. Though it’s easy to say, ‘do as I say, not as I do’, many of our staff teams will take their holiday cues from the leader. So, if the leader isn’t taking their holidays, then staff members may not either. If this practice spirals, at the end of the year, we may find ourselves in an organization run by people who are completely exhausted and burned out. Is that how we’ll be most effective? Probably not. As leaders, it is our responsibility to help our staff teams not only take care of their work but of themselves, too. When we’re at our best, our organizations are at their best. And, by taking care of ourselves, we’re taking care of the important work we do.
It can be so hard to commit to time away. We worry that the organization will fall apart if we’re not there to save it and keep it on track. But as many leaders before us have learned, strong organizations can survive and even thrive in the absence of their leader for a few weeks. Holidays are meant to be taken, especially during the few short months we have of beautiful weather. So, take the time. It’ll benefit leaders, emerging leaders, staff teams, the communities we serve, and most importantly, ourselves.
As a leader, do you take your holidays? If you do, what do you do to ensure the organization will thrive without you? If not, what’s holding you back? Let us know in the comments below!
Until next time,
This week’s blog was written by Tina de los Santos. Tina brings a diverse mix of nonprofit and business leadership to her role at PLC. Throughout her career she has been passionate about creating engaging learning experiences that support and inspire people’s professional and personal growth. Tina is our chief knowledge sharer and enjoys digitally connecting with other leaders in Peel to help them find great resources and learning tools.