Summer is the season of “school’s out!”, cook outs, and vacations. Summer is also the season of warmth, longer days and the period of greatest growth in the natural world around us.
And as leaders we must navigate all of those truths to create a successful summer for our teams, both at work and in the rest of their lives. The challenge, as is often the case in life, is about seeking balance. To create that balance, let’s look at both sides of the summer coin and how to use both to create greater success.
Summer’s a Vacation
Chances are most people on your team will take a vacation during the summer. As a trainer and consultant for over 25 years, I’ve often dealt with this fact in the summer (“It will be hard to schedule anything because everyone’s out on vacation.”). It’s a fact, vacations will happen. So how do we use that as a leader? Here are three ways . . .
Let people really vacation. People have earned their vacation. Let them take it. No expectations, no checking email, no calling in every couple of days. Don’t just talk about work/life balance, live it. Caution: when you tell people this they might not believe that you mean it. How do you change that? Really take your vacation too. People will believe your actions more than your words here. None of us are indispensable and everyone can gain from truly unplugging. Which leads to the next point . . .
Encourage the learning that comes from being away. Ask people about their vacations, and ask what they learned too. Depending on the type and location of the vacation, what they learned might be obvious or not, but with reflection, lessons will be found. If you haven’t made learning a part of your culture, this can be a way to start. What they learned might have little to do with their work, and that is OK. And, it might be true that with some time away, ideas and insights about their work may surface. Make sure you capitalize on these insights too.
Put a little vacation in the workplace. This could mean lots of different things. It could be an outdoor meeting, a game of croquet at lunch, or a lunch time barbecue. Take advantage of all the things we love about summer and integrate it into the work. If policies allow, why not let people have some extra time on a Friday if projects and work are on track? A little flexibility can go a long way for morale and productivity.
Summer’s Not (Just) a Vacation
While people will take vacations, they aren’t gone all summer are they? (I guess I’m not talking to school administrators right now.) So the opportunity is to use folks who should be fresher, because of the vacations, to create great results. Here are three ways to do that . . .
Confirm clear goals/create a summer challenge. Often a challenge is posed or a goal made more important in the last couple months of the year. When that happens, almost by magic, great progress is made. Why wait until the end of the year? Consider greater focus on an existing goal, or issuing a challenge on a new goal or project to coincide with the summer season. Yes, some people may be on vacation, but that also might give the people that are at work a bit more time to focus on such a challenge.
Keep your expectations high. Avoid (and be vigilant of) the excuse that “everyone’s on vacation.” While people are at work, hold them to the same standards and expectations that you do during the rest of the year. The work shouldn’t stop or slow down when the weather gets hot (unless it is 115 degrees and you are a roofing company).
Capitalize on the summer’s energy. Without doubt summer creates a different vibe. There is more daylight, more outdoor activities and generally people are more alive! Recognize this energy and channel it in positive and productive ways. This relates to the “put a little vacation in workplace” point above, but it is more than that. Use the summer as a springboard to even higher levels of productivity and results.
I have not done all of these things as well as I could have in the past. But with you as my witness, and my whole team reading, I’m committing to using these ideas to make this summer our best summer ever.