If You’re Doing It All, You’re Doing It Wrong

This post by Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, first appeared on Forbes.com

Vacation is a great time to disengage. The distance can not only help you reset your relationship with your devices and all that they hold for you, but disconnecting from your office can also shed some light on how good a manager you really are.

Maybe we can’t go completely off the grid, as Baratunde Thurston writes about in Fast Company, (a vacation story I recommend highly, by the way):  “I have left the Internet. I’m on vacation. That means no social media updates, responses, check-ins, likes, taps, pokes, noogies, tickles, or head locks. I’m going to practice looking people in the eye and not checking my email.” But we can at least let our business carry on without us and get stronger from the process.

Recently, the New York Times ran an interview with Christopher J. Williams, CEO of the Williams Capital Group, in which he admits that one mistake he made in his business was staying at the “granular level” for longer than he should have, which meant he spent less time managing. “Whenever you don’t know what to do,” he said, “you revert back to what you know, which is, ‘Let me do it because I can get this done.’ ”

Williams might have gotten a job done faster, but at the cost of not developing his employees. Because when you let other people watch you work, that’s what they become good at—watching you work. And that means you’re spending a lot of money on professional spectators.

Too busy looking down to look ahead: As a manager, executive, or business owner, it’s our job to lead, to create teams that can optimize the potential of our vision. Otherwise we’re not being the best, we’re being the bottleneck. As a wise mentor and consummate entrepreneur told me long ago: “Just because you can do something well, does mean that you should.”

Secrets of Letting Go: For people who over-identify with their need to control, letting go will create stress at the outset—but I believe that initial stress is worth pushing through, compared with the stress that comes from letting nothing go.

  • First, be patient and give some time and space.
  • Second, trust your people and assume the best will happen until it doesn’t.
  • Third, better be ready to re-direct when something doesn’t go as planned. Remember to re-direct but not jump in.

Wondering if this is you? One way to gauge it, says Williams, is this: How many calls do you get when you’re on vacation? Because if you get a ton, it may be a sign that you haven’t developed your team fully.

Williams said, “Some people love to know they’re needed constantly, and that people have to call them. Unfortunately it’s common, but it’s not the best for the organization. I found that when I’m on vacation and getting calls and constant e-mails, then I must not be doing as good a job as I should to make sure that the group can perform without me.”

Maybe you don’t mind the poolside calls. But you have to ask yourself honestly, how much of that is due to their need—and how much of it is yours?