What I Learned on Vacation

Copy of my recent vacation
The past two weeks I’ve been traveling with my family through Europe, wonderfully disengaged from work and business mode. It’s the “It’s Monday so it must be Holland, it’s Tuesday so it must be Italy,” type of trip. I wanted to give my brood a sense of Europe in the hopes that they will return later on their own and know what’s most interesting to them.
Along the way I’ve picked up my top 5 Incites to share with you this month.

Dr. Jo’s 5 Leadership Incites Courtesy of Europe:

Peter Drucker

  1. Peter Drucker, one of the top management experts always said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast every time.” Despite the strategic importance of the European Union, it was clear that this union did little to change the culture of the countries we visited. Some used Euros, some refused to take any Euros. But one noticeable difference was how long the meals took. Despite being in tourist areas where there was heavy traffic (meaning faster meals could lead to more income and more people served), Poland and Italy took immeasurably longer than the Netherlands and Switzerland. The American culture of fast food and efficient table turnover has clearly not taken hold everywhere here.I see this again and again with the companies I work with. Before you declare a new strategy and then force people into line with it, first make sure it’s one that your company (or even department’s) culture is aligned to support. If it’s not, better to find an intermediate strategy and shift the culture along with the strategy.
  2. Speaking of culture, I confess I did do some emailing from abroad (despite my hope not to). Then my good friend texted me this HBS article about how emailing from vacation wrecks the company culture. To all my clients and contacts that I emailed, please do as this article suggests, not as I did! (FYI: I did keep it to a minimum most days.)
  3. Although the trip was chock-full of countries and sightseeing, I did plan a restful break in the Swiss Alps. Of course, it turns out there’s tons to do even in the Swiss Alps and we went paragliding and white water rafting. My kids proclaimed these days to be their favorites.  The lesson here? As I often tell my clients, productivity is not just going, going, going. Productivity is also slowing down, taking breaks, and taking a step back to see what’s needed now. In our case, our kids needed some outdoor adventure and thrills. What’s truly needed in your team this summer?
  4. We were lucky enough to enlist the services of a fabulous travel agent to help me plan this trip. I couldn’t have done it without her booking the flights, figuring out the routes and helping me think one step ahead of where I was. Unfortunately, we also had a family emergency towards the end of our trip and my mom, who traveled with us wanted to return home immediately. One call to our travel agent and an hour later my mom was booked on new flights the next day. Could we have gotten her on new flights ourselves? Maybe. It was 9 pm at night in Europe and our hotel Wi-Fi was horrible.There are times when you just need to call in the subject matter experts. While going it alone might have worked, calling in help, allowed us to drop the phone, sit back with a bottle of wine and take care of each other instead of focusing on logistics. Are there times in your work when you’re not using your resources at hand? Not delegating or asking for the help to make your life easier? How could you advocate more for yourself and use others’ gifts?
  5. Last but not least, please have fun this summer! Whether you have kids who have a bit more homework-free time to hang around with, a buddy who loves to explore, or you’re up for a solo adventure – put it into your calendar now. A mentor of mine always said, “if it’s not scheduled it doesn’t happen.” I see that all the time for my clients and myself, you go to every single meeting you have scheduled, but that new bike you wanted to use to get in shape keeps leaning against the garage wall. Put some “hooky days” on your calendar right now. . . I mean it!

Ciao for now!

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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