Guest post by Dominic Ashley-Timms and Laura Ashley-Timms, co-authors of the new management bestseller The Answer is a Question.
Absence anxiety is a very real problem. Research shows that over 50% of managers globally feel burnt out, which is why it's so important that, as a leader, you feel able to down tools and fully relax for at least some time this summer.
Leadership tips for a guilt-free summer holiday
That's easier said than done. It can be difficult to fully switch off from work. It's no wonder that one study found half of all respondents admitted to 'sometimes' checking their emails on holiday, while 27% said they look at them 'often'.
Absence anxiety can be a sign that you care deeply about your work; but for line managers, it's often because they bear the weight of responsibility for their teams. But taking a break from work is vital for good mental health and can actually improve your work performance. A study by US researcher Elizabeth Scott found that three days after a holiday, travellers felt well-rested, less anxious, and in a better mood.
While it's normal to feel a touch of anxiety as you power down your laptop and set off for the airport, it's important to be able to let go of the reins. The best way to do this is to build a workplace that functions without you, at least for a period of time.
Management should enable employees to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities, not only when under direction. From an employee's point of view, it's dispiriting to have a manager micromanage your every move, which is likely to lead to disengagement. For managers, being able to trust in their teams is better in the long run too, because they can spend less time bogged down in the micro-details of the day-to-day, and more time on the higher-value aspects of their roles instead.
So, how do you avoid falling into the trap of being a 'command-and-control' manager who tells employees what to do instead of enabling them to find solutions for themselves? You can start by learning to adopt more of an enquiry-led approach to management in three simple steps:
1. STOP and bite your lip.
When a team member comes to you with a problem, it can be tempting to simply give them a solution and send them away. This may work in the short term, but in the long term, all they've learned is that you can 'fix' problems for them. So instead of answering, STOP, take a mental breath. This will give you a valuable few moments to THINK about how best to respond in a way that's more helpful to them.
2. Ask powerful questions.
How do you encourage your team to start problem-solving? The secret is to ASK them questions intended to stimulate their own thinking. Simple questions like 'What do you think?', 'Can you tell me more?' or 'What makes you think this?' help employees think their way around a problem. It also shows them their opinions are valid, helping them grow in confidence. This approach doesn't just benefit employees but the whole business.
Successful companies work collaboratively from the bottom up by tapping into the diverse experience and expertise of the entire workforce.
3. Give appreciative feedback.
Another management 'trap' is only giving feedback when it's needed. If you've helped someone to achieve a RESULT from taking an action on their own, make it a point to give them some appreciative feedback. Regularly making the effort to give feedback normalises the process and fosters open and honest conversations between the manager and employee. It also helps both of you identify strengths to build on.
That way, performance appraisals become part of the ordinary working day rather than something to be feared. This focus on continuous improvement is a powerful tool for helping employees be their best selves.
Integrating these three simple habits into your everyday management practices helps create an inclusive, solutions-led working environment that will ensure your department runs smoothly, not just when you're on holiday ...