Are Breaks and Vacations Really Worth It?

I love going to the beach. On a nice sunny day, I could sit on the beach for hours and just watch the ocean. I enjoy listening to the waves crashing on the shore and hearing the birds as they fly by. If I start to feel hot, I love standing in the water and letting the waves hit my body to cool off. Then I can go back to sitting and relaxing in the sun. It’s a simple rinse and repeat formula. And during all the time spent at the beach, life is great. That is, until I check my email.

I could sit at the beach all day.

Once I start scrolling through my email I can feel the stress weighing on my shoulders. It’s like being woken in the middle of the night by having a cold bucket of water thrown in your face. There’s a sense of panic and worry as I think about all of the things I need to do when I get back to work. The task list starts to pile up almost as high as the list of emails and messages that I have to read and respond to. Then I inevitably ask myself, was even worth it to be away in the first place?

If I didn’t go away or didn’t take a break, I wouldn’t have to deal with being behind or playing catch up. In fact, I wouldn’t have to make the mad scramble to finish things before I went on vacation just so I could go on vacation. I mean that all seems logical right?

Well it appears that Arianna Huffington might have a different point of view, as she expressed in her open letter to Elon Musk. What Arianna pointed out made a lot of sense. People aren’t machines, sleep is a necessity to function at a high capacity. We can’t be plugged into an outlet and take a power feed all day (regardless of how much coffee we drink).

True to form though, Elon did reply back via Twitter (at 2:32 am) stating that taking time off wasn’t an option, pointing out that “Ford and Tesla are the only two American car companies to avoid bankruptcy”.

And so here we are at the crossroads, who is right? Is it the one that is advocating for a better work/life balance, or is it the one that is working hard to ensure a business has a future? I don’t know if there’s a right or a wrong answer.

My family also enjoys the beach, and I enjoy spending time with them.

But here’s what I do know. In life there aren’t many guarantees. I’ve been at a company that was on top of the world, only to have it come crashing down and eventually becoming a shell of what it once was. I have seen friends give everything they have to companies only to be rewarded with their walking papers when push came to shove. I have seen people dedicate their lives to a business only to have it fail due to things beyond their control.

What we can control is how we choose to spend our time, and what we make priorities in our lives. I have a family, and “families that play together are happier”. But in order to play together, I have to make the time. So in the end, for me, breaks and vacations are totally worth it. What about you?

Making the Case for Well-roundedness and Experience

Have you ever passed off an ask or a task to someone else because you didn’t know how to do it or just simply because it wasn’t your job? While I’m sure we all want to manage our workload so that we are not overwhelmed, the lack of diversity in skillset or the unwillingness to learn new skills just might come back to haunt you.

Basketball is a favorite sport of mine, and over the last couple of years there has been a change in the way teams have built their rosters. There’s a high value in players that can play multiple positions and do different things, and the “specialist” players are now finding it hard to get any time on the floor. Players that can play multiple positions and do different things provide teams flexibility and the ability to adapt to other teams. Offensively and defensively there are less weaknesses.

This sort of thing has been playing itself out in the corporate world for a while now, or at least that’s what I believe. As budgets continue to shrink, people are being asked to do more with less. If you’re able to bring multiple skills to a job or an organization, the higher in value you will be. Be wary if you find yourself in a position where your skillset only allows for you to do one thing. And be realistic about that, as much as I’d love to say that I have the skills to be a sports agent, if I don’t have the experience it won’t really matter.

And speaking of experience, it’s sad to hear about companies that seemingly look to force older workers out the door simply due to age. Being a well-rounded employee with multiple skills doesn’t happen overnight, skills are something that you acquire through learning and experience. If you’re looking for a digital marketer that can write, create and edit digital content, and lead strategy, you’re going to look for someone that has actually done something in those areas. Not just someone who says they have or says they’re knowledgeable simply because they took a course.

Taking courses to learn a new skill is great, I highly encourage it, but then those skills need to be applied somewhere so you can build experience. You can achieve this through a number of ways. Maybe the company that you work for will allow you to take a stretch assignment with another team. If you know friends that have small businesses, maybe there is something that you can help out with. Or if you’re like me and you need to brush up on your writing skills, start a blog and write.

The point is, go out and produce. People want to see results, and the more experience and skills that you have at your disposal the more likely you’ll be able to produce more, with better results.

So perhaps being a “jack of all trades” isn’t a bad thing after all.

Could You Phone It In If You Had To?

Before you quickly answer this question, stop for a minute and think. In a perfect world, good paying jobs would be plentiful and expenses would be low, but that’s really not how it works is it? There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and/or a lifestyle that you want to keep, and for most of us, companies aren’t knocking at our door ready to throw gobs of money at us.

Hold up for a minute. Shouldn’t we all just take jobs that we like? Why sign up for a job you don’t like or want to do? Well first off, I don’t suppose many people willingly take jobs that they know they won’t like. Well maybe except former New York Knicks Team President, Phil Jackson. But don’t get me started on him, and that is my obligatory sports reference for this post.

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How long could you stand to be in a job you don’t like?

But in all seriousness, I don’t believe we take a job in something we don’t want to do unless we absolutely have to. Instead, what usually happens is that we’re “sold a false bill of goods” so to speak and the job isn’t what was advertised, or it came with complications that weren’t made known up front.

Also, sometimes jobs we want and would love to have don’t pay enough to cover the bills. I’ve seen people claim that they have the best jobs in the world, that they’re doing what they love and they wouldn’t have it any other way, but then they set up a GoFundMe to ask for help to pay their dental bills. How does that make sense?

If you have a job that pays your bills and allows you to survive, you would phone it in if you had to. And you know what, it’ll show.

As a manager, if you’re not in tune with your team members and you can’t see the signs, you risk losing your team. And talent will find a way to move on. Chances are that if someone on your team is phoning it in, that they’re also looking at options to leave.

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Managers, you have the ability to keep your employees from walking away.

“Josh Bersin of Deloitte believes the cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5–2.0x the employee’s annual salary.” (Huffington Post)

Managers play a key role in talent retention, as we know that most people quit managers, not jobs. “Unsurprisingly, the manager relationship is highly correlated with employee engagement”, says Jack Altman. People will stay in roles that might not be the best fit if they find their relationship with their manager to be positive.

In some cases, it could be best for both parties to move on from each other, but I would suspect that more often than not, simple, honest communication can prevent employee turnover. If anything, you might be able to find a better fit on another team, preventing them from leaving the company altogether and losing the talent completely.

Good Coaches (Managers) Develop Teams Of Players Instead Of Just Relying On One

As a father of 2 elementary school boys, I’m at my share of team sports games, especially basketball games. And as someone who has coached basketball at a competitive (but amateur) level, I enjoy talking to the coaches of my kid’s teams. What I’ve heard consistently is how the coaches feel the game should be fun, and how it’s more about the experience than winning or losing. But what I’ve experienced consistently is that when the games start, that philosophy gets thrown out the window.

At an early level, sports team’s coaches shouldn’t really care too much about the scoreboard. Their job is to make sure the kids have a fun learning experience so that they come back next season to play. That doesn’t mean that game scores shouldn’t be kept, I believe that it’s good to keep score and that there should be a winner and loser, but at an early age it’s more important to grow the players.

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Team members come at all skill levels, all should be developed to the best of their ability.

What usually happens on teams at such a young age is that there is at least one player that is heads and tails above the rest. And this player is going to be the primary reason why the team will be competitive at games. At this point the coach has a decision to make, use this dominant kid to score all the points, or train him or her to use their skills to get the others involved.

When there’s no score and it is practice time, a coach’s decision is pretty easy. There’s no game pressure, no screaming parents, no winner and loser. And all of the coaches have told me they believe in team ball. But once the game starts, a different story plays out.

You can beat a bad team if you have one good player that is simply just much better than everyone. But you can’t beat a team with average players if they all play together. And kids, like adults, get frustrated when they’re losing. And when they get frustrated, they get selfish. As a coach, if you don’t take control of the team and enforce teamwork, it’ll never happen. Players know when you say one thing but mean another.

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You can only rely on one player for so long, good teams rely on all players.

I’ll never forget those conversations after a game is done where the coach will tell me that my kid played well, but he hardly got the ball. My son has asked me why he doesn’t get the ball when he’s been told he’s played good defense and passed well. As someone who has coached teams, I will never undermine my kid’s coach, so I just tell him that there are other ways to have an effect on the game. And then I do practice with both of my kids at home.

If you’re coaching an elementary school basketball game and look to rack up the points, are you really there for the kids benefit or for your own?

My kids are fortunate to have parents that take an involved interest in their sports development. I am in no way under the delusion that either of them will be professional sports athletes, but we do want them to be the best that they can be in whatever sport they choose to play. But my point in saying this is that I know that there are parents that cannot be as involved in their kids sports as they’d like. And so it’s really on the coaches to develop the kids as best as they can. And that means it might be the difference between winning and losing a game.

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Invest in your player’s development, and chances are they’ll want to play for you again.

Before this season my son had a coach that encouraged the best player to get others involved, and while it might have been a frustrating experience at first for that player, the game results were proof that the strategy worked. Other players that were not as talented were able to step up in games and score points and help win games against better, balanced teams. And in the end, each kid got better.

To put this in context as a corporate professional employee, a good manager works to get their team in a position to best accomplish the team’s goals. Relying on one employee heavily over the others will let you achieve the small, immediate goals, but it won’t work for larger, bigger projects. Every team member must carry their weight, and if they cannot, the manager needs to be able to get them to a place where they can.

Develop teams of players and they will be back to play or work for you. Constantly rely on only one, and eventually you’ll be left alone.

Set Your Team Up For Success And Keep Them Motivated

Coaching basketball is something that I will always look back on fondly. As a coach it’s fun to come up with sets and plays that will help the team win games. But in order for those sets and plays to be successful, the players have to execute them properly. In the end, it all comes down to having the players buy into your plan, and motivating them to be better than their abilities.

Some of the best ways to keep players motivated is to give them ownership and responsibility for their roles on the team, and make sure that they’re in roles that are suited for them. You can, and should apply this same logic to business teams too.

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Giving team members ownership of their roles makes them invested in the success of the team.

The San Antonio Spurs are a world class professional basketball organization that consistently puts a championship level team on the court each year. Juggling talent and egos is no easy task, but the Spurs seem to have a handle on it and teams around the league look at the them as the standard for consistency and excellence.

Coach Gregg Popovich is at the center of the Spurs success, and while he will be the first to defer any praise to the players and the front office, it is Coach Popovich that the players want to play for. Coach Popovich “doesn’t give orders, he assigns responsibilities. And this is the ultimate sign of respect.” (GQ.com)

Giving responsibilities to the players gives them ownership, and this makes the player invested in the team. A personally invested team member will be more motivated to get the job done well as they have more of a personal connection to the job or role.

But allowing the players to take responsibility is only part of it, Coach Popovich “sizes [the players] up, accepts them for what they are, and entrusts them with the tasks suited to them.”

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Give your team roles that best suit their skillsets.

There are a couple of things to unpack here. First, the notion of assigning responsibilities to team members is different from assigning tasks. If all you do is assign your team members tasks, you are not giving them ownership for their roles. Instead, you’re just giving them ownership over the tasks, which gets old and dry really quickly. If you want to motivate your team, give your members ownership of their roles. As a leader, you can set the teams goals, and in some cases even the strategy, but by giving the team ownership of their roles they can set the tasks needed to accomplish the goals. This allows the team members to be invested in their roles and responsibilities.

Second, you need to fit jobs with the people that have the right skillset. Honestly, this should be the first thing to consider if you want your team to be successful. Do you have the right people to perform the tasks at hand? Finding the answer to this requires you to have conversations with your team members to see if they’re the right fit for the team and for what’s needed. There might not be a whole lot you can do right away if you find that someone on your team isn’t the right fit for what you need, but then consider how to make the best use of the skillset that person has. People are much more motivated when they’re doing something that can contribute positively to the team.

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Is your team frustrated and not motivated? Have a conversation with them and find out why.

Lastly, you have to be comfortable with your team taking responsibility for their roles and completing the tasks they need to complete to achieve the team’s goals. As a leader, that means taking a step back and letting your team do what they have to do. That doesn’t mean that you walk away from the group and come back weeks later. You should still have constant communication with your team, you just don’t need to be a micro manager.

If you’re noticing that your team isn’t very motivated and it feels like morale is low, try taking a look at these three things and look for ways to change the status quo.

An Example Of What Makes Leaders Great

I love the game of basketball, as a fan, a player, and as a coach. I love being able to use the lessons that sports, more specifically basketball, has taught and apply them to other areas of life. Right now we’re able to witness some of the greatest coaches in action, and one of them is Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.

For those of you that follow the National Basketball Association (NBA), Coach Popovich is a household name. He is a great strategist as a coach, building a consistent, championship contending team year after year. But he’s also been responsible for creating the culture for the Spurs organization, and the culture plays an important role in the building of his championship teams.

The Spurs and Gregg Popovich are great examples of leadership and team building is so many ways, but for right now I’d like to highlight this one example of how he dealt with his star player asking to be traded.

I sort of liken this situation to a disgruntled or unhappy employee looking for a new job. And when they’re unhappy, half of the time it’s because of the boss or manager, not necessarily the job or company.

In my experience, when an employee isn’t happy, there aren’t many managers that are willing to have multiple conversations with that employee and then step back and think about how they (as a manager) can change so that they can get the most out of that employee. But that’s exactly what Coach Popovich did.

Coach sat down with his player numerous times, had an open and honest conversation with him and came to the conclusion that the reason why the player wasn’t happy was because of bad coaching. Imagine that. A legendary coach, well respected throughout the league and beyond, admitting that bad coaching is what led to the players unhappiness and decline in productivity. When is the last time you’ve seen that happen in any other profession? Probably never. Or if it did happen, it wasn’t public and it certainly wasn’t made known to the employee it affected.

If you want to be a great leader and your team be willing to follow you and your direction, invest in your team, and remove your ego.

If You Want Respect, Take Responsibility

Respect goes a long way and is a currency that must be earned because it cannot be taken. It can be earned quickly, or over time, as a result of an action or inaction, but it requires proof or a reason. When you’ve gained the respect of peers, competitors, or strangers, you’ve done something to earn it.

Some people think that by attaining a position of power, it should demand respect. But I disagree. Those in positions of power should work to earn respect just as much as everyone else.

Showing respect and earning respect are two different things. I can show respect to someone in authority but I don’t have to respect them. If you’re having trouble figuring out if the people that you surround yourself with or have been given to lead respect you or not, think about who would come to your aid when you’re in trouble, and who wouldn’t.

And before your blood starts to boil when you think about those that won’t back you, stop for a moment and take a step back and really understand why they wouldn’t. Sure, maybe some of them are jerks or they’re simply jealous of you for some reason, but even the fiercest of rivals have been known to have a healthy respect for each other.

Earning respect starts with taking responsibility and owning up to your actions as an individual, and if you’re a leader, manager, or coach of a team, owning up to those too. It means standing up and taking the good and the bad, not just enjoying the success and passing blame for failures to someone or something else.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” ~ Carl Jung