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Have a Real Vacation

by Leadership Participant

I hope that everyone is taking advantage of the summer weather. My reflection for this week has to do with taking actual vacations from work in just as meaningful and purposeful a way as tackling a major project or presentation. This is a new approach to vacations for me because recently I have become rather half-committed to cutting ties with email and thinking about work while away.

Last week my wife and I attended the Winnipeg Folk Festival. This is exactly what it sounds like–a bunch of really laid back hippies camping and hanging out listening to folk music for a few days up in Canada. I turned off my smartphone and focused on spending time with my wife and being present in the moment. It had been almost a decade since the last time we went to folk fest and we both wondered if we could recapture that carefree experience. It turns out that like so many other things in life–you control the environment of your experiences more than you may believe. So we decided to be carefree and we were.

This brings to mind an article that ran in Forbes this month Taking That Vacation Could Help Your Career by Jack Zenger. Basically in countries where executives take the most vacation, they work faster, have more of a quantity focus and are more impatient to delays. The article draws a link between being refreshed, working at a faster pace and thereby being more efficient–so pace was the primary focus. The authors did some light-statistical survey, which you can also take

Now that I am back to work, my final reflection is: Why spend such effort hiring excellent people, training them, encouraging their leadership and judgment, and cultivating external business relationships if you don’t extend faith and trust in them to be out of touch for a few days? Walking away from your staff and business partners with the attitude that they have it covered tells them that you have trust in their abilities. I am thinking of how being comfortable to totally disengage for vacation relates to how confident I am about succession strategy in my organization once I am no longer here. 

So maybe the Europeans cover as much or more ground by using a Rest completely, Sprint fast, Rest again approach vs. running a series of marathons. So I will try to make sprinting hard more a part of my work / home balance, and continue resting just as much when on vacation.


Peter J. Angelos
University of Minnesota Duluth