3 important lessons I learned about leadership on holiday


Nothing teaches you about your own leadership skills - or lack of them - better than leaving your team for a week. If you’ve done a good job the business should run as if you were still there. If not, things will probably start to crumble pretty quickly, regardless of how capable your team is.

Last week I was in southern Italy in a very beautiful house in the mountains. Everything about the property was perfect except the internet connection. Combine that with demanding two-year-old twins and you can see why I didn’t manage to do quite as much work as I’d planned to while I was away.

For poor Liz, Rosie and Sam - who were left holding the fort back home - this made for a bit of a hair-raising week. They coped brilliantly but the experience highlighted a number of learning points on my part. For the benefit of other business owners I thought it might be useful to share them in this week’s blog post.

1) Handover notes reduce everyone’s stress levels

Both Liz and Rosie have been on holiday over the summer. Both of them, being organised people, left handover notes. These proved invaluable to me in those moments when I needed to deal with a situation that one of them had previously been leading on. On the other hand, I’m a much more reactive sort of a person and tend to be more ‘big picture’ than ‘fine detail’. As a result I didn’t think to leave handover notes. Suffice to say, this did not enhance my team’s sense of being in control while I was away.

2) Hiring proactive employees is the best decision you can make

Thankfully, they don’t hold a grudge. Instead of grumbling about the stresses of the last week they made a plan. A plan which they presented me with during our team meeting on Monday. As I listened I was filled with an enormous sense of pride and gratitude. Their ideas included new systems, improved processes, and a reshuffle of their hours to ensure more even staffing coverage over the week. I have no doubt that these changes will vastly increase our efficiency, not to mention leaving me more time to work on the business rather than in it.

3) In a small team, traditional job titles aren’t all that important

One of the changes we’re looking at involves our roles and responsibilities. Without boring you with the details, the overall result is that the new system will play to people’s strength rather than keeping us in boxes dictated by our job titles. So for example, Liz will be doing some editing and also helping with project management, despite her official title being Operations Manager. When you’re just starting out it often makes sense to blur traditional lines and create a structure that works for your business and your team.

I never expected to be a leader. As a writer I always thought I’d have a solo career. But I’m learning that leadership is not about complex theories and management qualifications. It’s about observing and listening to and learning from the people you’re responsible for, trusting their expertise and prioritising their needs.

For one thing, it makes good business sense. As Richard Branson said, “If you look after your staff well, they will look after your customers.”

But for me it’s so much more than that. My real reward came in the form of a text from Liz after work: “I’m feeling very excited about work. Honestly I’ve never enjoyed a job like this before. Genuinely look forward to each working day.”

It really doesn’t get better than that.

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Want to read more? Try this - 5 important lessons I learned at Entrepreneurial Spark

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