August 29, 2002
Balance in all aspects of a manager's life and mutual respect between bosses and employees may be key to a successful business. Obsession, intensity, burning desire, and high energy are fueled by fun, recognition, income, and the responsible exercise of authority.
Happy people create successful companies. "Everything in moderation" the adage goes. Do you maintain balance in your life? Running a business means running your mind full-time. Obsession with work is a natural consequence of the fear of failure. I understand that.
Get that bid out to the customer tonight. Finish the agenda for tomorrow's meeting. One of these days you'll get the policy and procedure manual updated. The business plan is due next month when the bank wants to renegotiate the line of credit. Oh, yeah, let's get the insurance policies renewed and verify that the payroll withholding was deposited yesterday.
If you run a small job shop, you probably are carrying a fair amount of debt. Balancing debt with positive cash flow, enough work in the shop, and maybe even some taxable profit lead to relaxation and happiness, right?
How do you keep looking at the sunny side and maintaining balance? As a manager, you have a responsibility to take a vacation. I'm not suggesting that you run away from problems, although that's tempting when everything seems to be less than perfect.
There is a right way to take a vacation. You inform your staff well in advance. You prepare them for your absence. You make sure they have a handle on everything that has to be covered while you're gone. In addition, you make it clear that you expect them to meet exemplary standards of professional conduct.
If you're nervous about this, try taking a one-day vacation this way. Next month make it a four-day weekend. Attend a convention—FMA sponsors several worthy events (www.fmanet.org).
You probably won't relax until the day before you return to work, but that's OK. The vacation isn't for your benefit; it is for the benefit of your organization. Your staff really wants to miss you. It will be great to have you back. There's always some little thing that you do so well. They're also looking forward to hearing you say, "Great job, guys!" They want to show off for you. Give them a chance, and they will.
You'll need to launch a few other projects as part of this peace and harmony program. Getting your head away from your desk is just the first step. You'll also be studying your staff and noting that some of them could use a little "kick in the balance."
I'm sure you have a great staff. I don't know of any employee who is purposefully trying to drive his or her boss crazy. Nor do I know of any boss who is trying to run the business into ruin. Yet bosses sometimes do think that their employees are driving them nutty, and employees do sometimes think that their bosses are ruining the companies that they depend on for income. This leads to discord:
Alex's U-joint just fell out of his car. He was on his way back from vacation and will be late getting back on the job. You know that if Alex had showed up on schedule, an order would have shipped on time. Without him, the order will ship late.
You: "Why didn't Alex replace that old junker when it started clanking?" Alex: "Why doesn't that old tightwad pay me enough to fix my junker or buy a nicer car?" You: "If Alex did his job, he'd be paid more!" Alex: "Well, if he set realistic deadlines and prices, we'd make more!"
And so the quibble goes.
The battle could be over attendance, quality, productivity, cooperation, wages, benefits, or time off. Seldom is one person completely right and the other person completely wrong. We all just try to muddle through in the best way we can.
Wouldn't it be great to lead a group that is intensely focused on customer service and business success? A group that is active in community projects (coaching sports, leading scouts, teaching night school), maintains great physical condition, and raises kids who get scholarships to college—that's the stuff that brings zest and zing to the spirit.
Well, Bubba, business success is only one small (although necessary) part of your life. The balance we're looking for is success in every part of life. Obsession, intensity, burning desire, and high energy are fueled by fun, recognition, income, and the responsible exercise of authority.
I'll be fishing in Canada this month. I'll answer your e-mail when I get back.