The Holiday Test

Can you pass the holiday test?

First-time leaders often ask, “How do you know you’ve built a high-performing team?” My response? Use the holiday test. You pass the test if you answer yes to, “Can you take 1-2 weeks of holiday?” A holiday should be a proper holiday. A holiday is not a holiday if:

  • You have to respond to an email or instant message;
  • You have to take part in a call or join a video conference;
  • You must provide approval for some activity;
  • You check-in with team members because you’re worried about anything in particular; or
  • You provide support to your team in any way

If you don’t pass the holiday test, consider, “Why not?” Think about what you need in place to pass the holiday test. Here are some ideas:

  • Build an environment where anyone can be a leader – High-performing teams do not wait for permission to act because they have psychological safety, or take action without fear of reprimand and punishment. A team full of leaders can handle any surprises or emergencies while you’re away.
  • Create opportunities for shadowing – You might be the team’s representative in specific meetings. Expose team members to meetings you attend, walking through how you participate so they can take over when you are not there.
  • Use checklists – Human memory is fallible, so write down the activities exclusive to you so the team is aware of all of them. Writing activities down also helps you to…
  • Delegate – When you successfully delegate, you grow others in your team and remove yourself as a single point of failure for that task. Delegate different activities to different people to avoid overloading one person, and to make the most of the strengths, skillsets, and experiences of your team members.
  • Set expectations with others – Other people outside of the team will be used to approaching you on certain topics. Let others know which person they should approach for what topic when you away. Being explicit about who is the contact person for each topic credentialises your team members and avoids surprises.

If you pass the holiday test, congratulations! You’ve built a strong team. If you don’t pass the holiday yet, start working towards this goal. It will be good for you and will be good for your team.

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