LEADERS LEAD WHEN THEY ARE IN THE OFFICE – AND WHEN THEY ARE OUT OF THE OFFICE
This past week I was speaking with a coaching client who is preparing for surgery and will be out of the office for an extended period of time. It reminded me of episodes in the past when I took extended medical leave for a detached retina or for a three-week vacation to Australia when our son was studying abroad during his junior year in college.
Leaders are typically focused on preparing their teams for the next project, the next big meeting, the next strategic initiative, or the next agreed-upon priority. These are all important tasks for all leaders, but equally important is preparing our teammates and colleagues for our own extended absences before they happen.
How can we best achieve that goal? We can start by adopting a win-win mentality, planning and executing so that we achieve a win for ourselves and our teammates and a win for the organization in which we work, including our managers and the organization’s wider leadership.
This glass half-full approach includes an attitude that preparing our teammates well and completely will not only reflect well upon them, but will also reflect well upon ourselves as competent leaders. When we take an extended leave, many people may assume that things will go smoothly. However, things only flow smoothly if we devote considerable time, energy and effort to every detail of prioritization and implementation well before our leave begins.
What can we do to help prepare our teammates, managers and firmwide leaders for our absence, whether it lasts several weeks or several months?
Here are a few suggestions for action items we can focus on prior to beginning our time away from the office of the job:
-Build trust with your teammates so they know they can come to you with concerns or doubts prior to your absence and that you do consider them to be trustworthy
-Show your teammates that you are willing to let go of control and allow them to utilize their best judgment while you are gone
-Show your teammates you have confidence in them by repeating optimistic messaging
-Create a process road map for your teammates that will help them navigate through your absence
-Make sure people have been cross-trained in case one of your teammates is unexpectedly absent during your time away
-Name a point person for each team initiative
-Give teammates the name of someone to contact if they have questions or something is amiss
-Review your guidelines for your teammates with your own manager
-Over-communicate with your teammates and your manager about where all projects stand before you take your leave
-Be specific about the dates of your absence and when and how you will be available when you are ready to get back on-line, asking your teammates to respect your privacy
-Clearly and transparently express your expectations to your teammates so there is no indecision or misinterpretaion
-Meet with each teammate one-on-one to make sure they heard your expectations as you intended
-Empower your teammates to make decisions in your absence and assure them you will not be second-guessing them later just because they did something differently than you would have done
-Remind your teammates that it is acceptable to fail during your absence, and that they will not be punished or denigrated, especially because we learn more from your failures than we do from our successes
-Focus more on delegating desired results than on delegating the exact process; as Stephen Covey would say, use the acronym “Dr. GRAC:” Desired Results are a function of communicating Guidelines to Follow, Resources Available, Accountability Measures and Consequences of Doing a Good Job – or Not
Remember that your absence need not be a time of worry or fear. It is within your control as a leader to prepare your manager and your teammates in a timely fashion, with accurate data, understanding clearly priorities and processes, and all based upon a culture of trust.
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