Vacations = Innovations

Vacations = Innovations

A difficult thing for Americans to do is take a vacation. According to a 2016 Glassdoor survey: the average U.S. employee, who receives paid vacation, has only taken about half (54%) of those days in the past 12 months. This includes Team Leaders and the occupants of the C Suite! Why? Two reasons:

  1. Fear: Employees, including Leaders, believe taking a vacation will be perceived by their boss (clearly not a leader!) as a lack of commitment to their job and the organization and
  1. Lack of Trust: Leaders don’t trust their Team to be able to function for the 10 days (the ideal period of time for a vacation) they are going to be removed from the operation (if you aren’t going to be removed from the operation – disconnected from emails, texts, calls – it’s not a vacation!).

Of course, the first reason – fear -should be enough to cause anyone working for that type of organization to begin sending out their resume. And the second reason – lack of trust- should be enough to get those leaders fired for their failure to develop a High Performance Team, which, by definition, functions quite well without the controlling hand of the Team Leader.

Unfortunately, not taking a vacation has a negative impact on both the employee and the organization.

  • For the employee, they lose the opportunity to enjoy their family and friends, fight burn out and return to the work environment re-energized.
  • For the organization, it loses the opportunity for innovation. To illustrate, I coach a Regional Manager for a national distribution company. While on a recent vacation he was introduced to Uber and used it extensively to travel around the cities he and his wife visited. In a coaching session he told me when he returned from vacation he started to think about the possibility of using Uber to make deliveries to customers. Perhaps not an innovation in some industries, by in his industry definitively an innovation. Will it actually work? He has no idea but he will be testing it to see if it can work.

Now I’m sure some on you are saying Bill could have had that same “aha” moment without being on vacation. And while I agree its possible, what normally happens at work is “improvements” – making the existing process to get things done better – occur, but “innovations” – a different way of doing things – seldom occurs on the job. Why? Because “being on the job” requires we fight the daily fires with the tools we have. And no one wants to consider a different tool when using it could get cause them to get burned by the fire they are fighting.

Being on vacation – if its done correctly and Bill did it correctly by disconnecting from work – on the other hand gives the mind the opportunity to consider things, including how a person/team is doing what they are doing to accomplish their goals, without the pressure of the daily fire alarms. This results in innovations that improve the Team Members, the Team and the Organization.

The Bottom Line: So listen up America! Take your vacation – all of it! You’ve certainly earned it. Enjoy being with family and friends. Enjoy a different view when you wake up in the morning. Do something different, somewhere different for 10 days. And maybe, just maybe, when you are laying on the beach, reading an escape book, having that second margarita, an idea will come to you that will make your job and your Team’s job easier, more productive and more fun. I could be wrong – but I’m not.

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