How will your team perform if you are not in the office?

Back to the last summer, it was the middle of August, the heat of the summer holidays. Yet, I was working hard in my office. My schedule was full of coaching sessions with tired, stressed out managers up to their ears in work and they all seem not to have time to enjoy the sunny days. How did this happen? 

It’s quite often that they are so absorbed in the whirlpool of their business development, competing with others, working with fastidious clients, dealing with problems and conveying non-managerial tasks, that it’s been a while since they last had a proper holiday. Moreover, they try hard as they might not pay attention to the warnings of their families and friends, as well as to the signals their bodies indicate. In most cases, these signals simply remind you to recharge your batteries. However, people tend to overlook them until it gets too late and then the moment comes when these signals become far more than just warnings. 

If you ask those people why they are not with their families on a well-earned holiday, here are the most usual answers you will get: “No time for this. There’s so much work to do” or “Half of my team is on a holiday, I need to be in the office” or “No work will be done effectively if I am away”.

Do you think they have considered any of this at the time when they were setting up their business or climbing the managerial ladder? Probably not. 

Dear managers, answer just one simple question in order to establish an accurate organizational diagnosis: 

“How will your team work if you are not in the office?”

Version 1: You feel guilty for leaving your office but you allow yourself to have a five-day high-speed holiday. You enjoy the sea from a distance because your colleagues in the office would not stop calling you with all those questions and problems. And on top of that, you spend the rest of the day in front of your computer in the hotel room. 

Everything that could have gone wrong has happened – even the things that you thought were okay in the first place. Your absence makes your subordinates feel insecure and doubt all the decisions they need to take.

The holiday is finally over. You go back to the office with relief because everything will be under your control again. Contrary to what you have thought, there is not so much work done for these five days. The good news, you are in the office now and everything will be fine. Your colleagues are also much calmer now that you are with them. 

Diagnosis: Micromanagement. This is the most certain way to limit the potential of your business to where your personal boundaries lie and eventually lose control over the situation. 

This happens due to lack of experience or because of the urge to control everything and everyone, as well as your wish things to happen the way you want. Under these conditions, your subordinates do the best they can to avoid taking responsibility and they strive to get away with the least engagement possible by transferring their tasks to you whether you realize it or not. During the day you are dealing with all kinds of problems and this gradually turns into the working routine of the whole team. It’s no wonder that there’s no time left for thinking about business development strategy. 

Version 2: You are aware of the fact that sometimes you need to slow down the pace in order to be able to speed up after that. You spend time planning your holiday. You also devote time to yourself and your loved ones. And most importantly, at one point you actually stop thinking about work.  

You’ve been guiding your subordinates towards improvement in the decision-making process. You have taught them to feel responsible for their actions and for the consequences that will follow but still, they know that they can always rely on your help if necessary. You’ve learned how to delegate the tasks properly and now you have to control the execution of the key moments only. Your subordinates take responsibility for their actions. Well, they may make a mistake every now and then but their personal and professional improvement is obvious. They are motivated to look for new ways to better themselves and their work and they always surprise you with some innovative ideas. You don’t worry at all because processes in the office are taken care of, they are functionally structured and people carry them out – after all, it was them who took part in their creation.  

The holiday is over. You go back to the office and you realize that everything has been functioning perfectly in your absence. They have been doing so well that you even start wondering whether they need you at all there. Yet, you don’t think about that for long. You’ve had a good rest and now you can focus on planning a new strategy for business development. You have mastered this skill and this is the exact reason why you are the manager. 

Diagnosis: Effective management. Congratulations to you and your team! They are lucky to have you as their manager. You are most probably a good leader but don’t ever stop improving yourself. 

In which version of the two did you recognize yourself or your manager? How was your holiday? How will your team operate if you are not in the office?