Skip to main content
power points

Leadership blogger Ron Edmondson recalls ending a vacation a few years ago only to be asked by a friend whether it had been successful – had it achieved his goals? In the wake of that sobering question – one you may not have addressed – he offers these five possible goals for your vacation on his blog:

  • Rest: Everyone should rest. But do you know how to? Edmondson’s friend leaves his work cell phone with his administrative assistant, assuring he can rest.
  • Reconnect: Vacations allow time to restore relationships with family, friends, and yourself. The pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, Edmondson also says: “On vacation, I talk to God more.”
  • Play: Before knee surgery, Edmondson ran on vacations and now looks for chances to bike. “Playing enhances my mental energies, my creativity, and my enjoyment of life. Making time to play – with whatever you enjoy doing – is a great goal for vacations,” he says.
  • Dream: What’s next for your life? A big question, but one that you can contemplate in moments of relaxation. Also: What are you looking forward to?
  • Rejuvenate: Vacation should help you reengage with your work when you return. You should come back energized and eager. If not, if you come back dreading work, you have failed to vacation properly or could be in the wrong job.

Consultant Michael Kerr, in his e-zine, adds this vacation advice:

  • Don’t schedule anything at work the day before you leave and either keep your first day back appointment-free or tell everyone you are returning to work a day later than you actually are. That provides a free day on either end so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Add a “vacation alert” tagline to your e-mail and voice mail messages weeks before your break so colleagues and clients have ample notice of when you will be away.
  • Decide and communicate your “rules of engagement” with your office. For example: Are you going totally off-the-grid or will you be checking e-mails every three days?
  • Before leaving, create a detailed to-do list and plan for the week you return, so you reduce the potential for mental clutter to travel with you.
  • Don't over-schedule your holidays. After all, you shouldn’t need a vacation after your vacation. “Block off some total down time to let your body and brain fully relax and slow down,” he says.

How to beat Jack Welch at change management

Jack Welch was celebrated as the top CEO of the last century. But Quy Huy, a professor of strategic management at Insead, is less impressed.

He believes there are four types of strategic change and Mr. Welch was really only adept at one.

So instead of duplicating Mr. Welch's approach – a commanding, top down style -- see if you can be more versatile. Here are the four types of intervention leaders should master:

  • Commanding: This was Mr. Welch’s specialty, involving a small group of senior leaders driving change at a galloping pace. “Those at the top expect compliance rather than consensus from their subordinates. They often invoke threats from the external environment as justification for the rapid upheaval. The underlying assumption that the organization’s survival is at stake produces a high-urgency, short-term focus. Success is defined in purely quantitative terms – achieving the maximum improvement in economic performance within the smallest amount of quantifiable time (weeks, months, etc.),” Huy writes in Knowledge@Insead. But he warns the approach is unlikely to accomplish lasting qualitative change in the culture, mindset or habits of employees. Its strength is in making change to tangible properties, such as downsizing people, or rejigging structures and systems.
  • Engineering: This focuses on redesigning work processes, a common example being bringing digitalization to the heart of the organization. The change agents are organizational designers who guide and develop employee skills. “Managers must allow time for employees to adjust to new ways of working, as well as for cycles of revision and refinement to take place. Also, it takes time for change agents to engender trust, such that employees will share tacit knowledge about workplace tasks with them. The engineering intervention should thus proceed at a moderately fast pace, a canter instead of a gallop,” Huy writes.
  • Teaching: This nudges employees to re-examine and perhaps re-constitute their core beliefs, presumably because they are hindering organizational effectiveness. This process is generally led by professionals from outside the organization such as coaches and process consultants. It’s best if the individuals undergoing change have some latitude in the speed of the initiative. Indeed, he warns that if the process is rushed, employees may not have sufficient time to make sense of what is happening around them, and they will only accept the change grudgingly.
  • Socializing: The goal here is to improve interpersonal relationships in the organization. This is best done from the bottom up, led by influential employees who decided to change themselves and can act as role models for other. “Drawing their peers into candid yet sympathetic conversations, they demonstrate new ways of relating while encouraging interlocutors to feel empowered and supported,” Huy explains. It requires authenticity and trust. This can restore stability in periods of large-scale change but is definitely not quick.

He says that Mr. Welch, for all his extraordinary capabilities, was a fairly typical change manager, leaning too heavily on the commanding approach. "Despite talking a great deal about cultural change at GE, Welch never seemed quite comfortable with a 'softer,' socializing style. He often failed to anticipate normal emotional responses to his actions, as when he held workshops with low-level employees, not-so-subtly encouraging them to challenge their direct supervisors – the middle managers. As he later admitted, Welch thereby lost the sorely needed loyalty of many capable managers," Prof. Huy says.

So see if you can do Mr. Welch one better –actually three better – by learning the four approaches.

Quick Hits

  • Every time you assume that others will be swayed by your logical argument, you have likely made a significant, irrational mistake, says entrepreneur Seth Godin.
  • Think twice before you blame others. Research by University of British Columbia Professor Daniel Skarlicki and three collaborators found that “swift blame” by managers can aggravate conflict, erode employee engagement, and stifle organizational learning. Numerous organizational, legal, and psychological factors can motivate managers to engage in blame, but they need to be careful in how they handle that responsibility.
  • Avoid “run faster” goals, says consultant Wally Bock, in which you decide to increase sales without spelling out any changes other than that you’ll do better. Every goal should have a behavioural change associated with it.
  • Consultant Donald Cooper hails Elon Musk, who after hearing about an increase in work-related injuries at his electric car company, announced: “Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and will meet every injured employee as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make Tesla a safer place to work. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform. This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course.”
  • Every successful person has a blind spot, says consultant Roy H. Williams. When their company’s fast growth levels out, they assume the best action is to double down on the things that led to the initial success. But the thing that made you a success will rarely take you to the next level. You need to find and shift into a second gear, building on the initial success with a new approach.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter.

Karl Moore sits down with Cornell’s Chris Marquis to discuss how the economy and environment interact in China

Special to Globe and Mail Update