I’m Recommending You Take A Break (again)

As I write this, I’m also considering what I need to pack for a vacation.  Rejuvenation and rebooting is critical for us to operate at our peak performance, we all need to let go of our daily stresses.

What is the most effective way to do this?  I’ve written before on the need to pick great employees and get out of their way, a vacation is a natural extension of the philosophy.  I’m overjoyed to say that keeping great people around helps me every day to be better, and never more so than during our getaways.

Rejuvenation requires us to stop working, while I know that completely uncoupling from our job is impossible for many of us but getting as close as possible is critical.  People at work need to understand your value, and this is will become apparent when your away.

Your family also needs to understand your commitment to them which is never more evident than when you put your phone down (or better yet, leave it in the room) and engage/laugh with them.  This will recharge you in ways that work never will.

To do this, schedule critical only work events around a very small window while your away.  If necessary, check your email only during this time, and respond to only the most critical, preferably with a timeline to re-address when you return.  If at all possible shut down checking completely and relegate it to the Airport on the way home if necessary.

Let every one of your critical people know you will be gone.  This seems obvious, but limiting the amount of possible email while your away and empowering your employees to handle things while you’re out will solve a huge chunk of your need to check in.  They want you have a good time and will self-regulate to a certain extent.  When they can’t:

Designate one person that can call you.  I know that things can blow up, but someone you trust to understand the difference between a mild disaster that can wait and a full-blown fallout issue should be the only person who can interrupt family, and even they must understand that your phone might be on lock down in your room.   Choose someone you wish to empower and have faith in.

These are simple ideas but putting them in place will help you get more from yourself while away, give more to your family when you’re with them and give back to the people at work when you return.  Let the scheduling begin.

What are you really good at?

It’s the time of year where everyone wants you to lose weight, get your head straight or be a better person.  I’m not smart enough to tell you what will make your life better or your waistline smaller, but if I might, I can offer one small piece of advice about life in general?

Stop trying to be better at things that you’re genuinely really bad at.  Stop failing (in work, life, whatever) and using the same toolset to try to do it better.  If you’re not a communication king and prefer being introverted, stop listening to people that tell you to get out there and be more social.  Focus on using your introverted toolset to be a better person.

If swimming is something you cannot do (I am water challenged), stop thinking that swimming is something you should keep doing, do better, and get rewarded by becoming Olympic quality.  It’s better to know you’re not a great swimmer and move on to things that you can do at a high level.

I’m not saying don’t fail, actually, quite the opposite. Failure is critical for growth.  A better model for failure is to use your experiences to put yourself where your strengths are, and if you then fail, your abilities and new experiences in that area will help you grow from this failed event far better.

I’ll quit swimming, but add cycling.  I’m not great, or even particularly good, at basketball despite being 6’4” tall, no matter how many people assume it’s my sport.  I’ll give it up for baseball (well, softball at my age).  Now when I fail a climb on a bike,  I’m doing so in a sport that I can actually improve at.

Failing within the areas you are good at makes you stronger and more knowledgeable, failing in areas that you are genuinely not good at is just frustrating and counterproductive.

I’m also not saying that you should not try new things or that you should avoid getting better at everything you try.  I’ve written before about the benefits of expanding your skillsets well outside of your comfort zone. https://wp.me/p6fUbB-98

Perhaps the reason we don’t take this approach at work is that we are never really sure what we are good at, or perhaps not ready to admit it.  To many of us are trying to fit in at work in whatever peg hole we have been placed, trying to mold ourselves into the perfect person for the needed job.  We feel not fitting that peg could put us in a precarious position (BTW, it will/should).

I finished up Ray Dalio’s newest book “Principles”, his take on this is clear.  Define and utilize the strengths of your employees, your bosses and yourself.  Place all of these people in jobs that will utilize those strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.  Know people’s strengths, be radically honest about it with them and use them in the proper ways to benefit both them as well as you in their management.

Another Dalio tool, he’s very proactive in pointing these tools back towards himself as both a manager and an employee.  This is done by surrounding yourself with bright people that are willing to question you and be honest, another common theme in my blogs.

Dalio lists a couple of ways to find these strengths, many are hardened with time.  Myers Briggs, Team Dimensions Profile and the Workplace Personality Inventory all have been used by Bridgewater over time and are great (I have taken 2 of them).  If you looking for a personal assessment tool that is designed to help lay people make sense of their assessments, I have another for you.

Gallup (yes, the polling people) have designed a new tool to address a person’s strengths and weaknesses.  The Clifton Strengths Center is well laid out, easy to follow and the end result is a pretty impressive set of tools to understand the data.

Once you take the test (yes, there is a fee) and define your top 5 strengths (they will define 34 traits for a larger fee) you can even watch videos of people in jobs utilizing these strengths to their advantage.

I found the information well laid out and practical, but when I watched the videos describing the strengths used in the workplace this information was brought into a much tighter focus.  I’m not qualified to say it’s perfect (it’s not), but as a baseline it will be a perfect starting point for people on this journey.