Are You an Effective Leader?

EmployeesFor far too many of today’s convenience store executives, finding the time to unwind or take a family vacation is a difficult task. But not making the effort could have a negative impact on the business.

By John Lofstock, Editor.

Did you know 61% of employed Americans expect to have to do some work while on vacation? According to a recent survey by research firm TeamViewer, it’s true. This reality is why so many executives approach vacation with mixed emotions. You’re excited about the quality time with your family and hopeful that this will be the year you’re able to truly unplug.
But there’s also a dull sense of dread as you stress about how you’ll ever get everything done beforehand. You’d love to be part of the minority of people who just cut all ties with work for the week, but as a convenience store executive dealing with everything from competitive threats to government interference, you know that just isn’t a reality. Or is it?
Brian Moran says it absolutely is, and not only that, it’s essential.

“Successful people work with great focus and intention, and they play the same way,” said Moran, coauthor along with Michael Lennington of The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months. “When they’re working they’re really working, and when they’re vacationing they’re really vacationing. Rest and rejuvenation are the other side of the success coin.”

But planning is extremely important. You must be purposeful about how you spend the time leading up to your vacation. “The reason people end up working from their hotel room isn’t that they just have so much to do that they can never take a break. It’s that they aren’t working with intention—and thus, they aren’t executing effectively,” Moran said.
Being intentional about how you spend your time is the heart of the authors’ message. Our ability to do so impacts not only business profit sheets, but also the quality of our personal lives.

“Many of us spend our days reacting to problems rather than proactively moving toward our goals, and that’s how we end up feeling pulled in a hundred different directions,” Moran said. “And of course, it’s also why we find ourselves in so much trouble when vacation time rolls around.”

Moran offers a new way to think about time and how you use it. In a nutshell, plan your goals in 12 week increments rather than 365 day years. When you do so, you’re far more likely to feel a healthy sense of urgency that gets you focused. Whether you’re a business leader or just an individual seeking a better work/life balance, you’ll get far more done in far less time—and you’ll feel a lot less stressed and a lot more in control.

Below are a few essential tips for what you can do right now to make sure your vacation is truly a time for rest and relaxation.

Picture the perfect vacation. Whether it’s spending hours on the beach with your kids or romantic evenings out with your spouse, you should have a vision that will drive you through the hard work you’ll have to get done before you hit the beach.

“Vision is the starting point of all high performance,” Moran said. “It is the first place where you engage your thinking about what is possible for you. The more personally compelling your vision is, the more likely it is that you will act upon it. It is your personal vision that creates an emotional connection to the daily actions that need to take place in your business. Once you understand the link between your vision of the perfect vacation and your work, you can define exactly what you need to do to make that great vacation happen.”

Create a pre-vacation work plan. Moran emphasized the benefits of planning how you use your time via 12 week increments. He explained that working from a plan has three distinct benefits. It reduces mistakes, it saves time and it provides focus. Planning allows you to think through in advance the best approach to achieving your goals. You make your mistakes on paper, which reduces miscues during implementation.

You can keep control of your day through time-blocking. Basically, you block your day into three kinds of blocks—strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks. A strategic block is uninterrupted time that is scheduled into each week. During this block, you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no emails, no visitors, no anything. Buffer blocks are designed to deal with all of the unplanned and low-value activities—like most email and voicemail—that arise throughout a typical day, while breakout blocks provide free time for you to use to rest and rejuvenate.

“Breakout blocks bring up an important point,” Moran said. “Even in the frantic rush leading up to a vacation, you should allow yourself some down time. Always working longer and harder kills your energy and enthusiasm. Even before your vacation you need to schedule time to refresh and reinvigorate, so you can continue to engage with more focus and energy.”

Don’t go it alone. It’s likely that out of your network of colleagues and friends you aren’t the only one who is hoping to have a work-free vacation and is currently working frantically to make that goal possible. And if that’s the case, team up with them. The peer support you receive will be invaluable in your pursuit of the perfect vacation.

“Your chances of success are seven times greater if you employ peer support,” Moran said. “In working with thousands of clients over the past decade, we have found that when clients meet regularly with a group of peers, they perform better; when they don’t, performance suffers. It’s that simple.”

But there is a caveat, he added. “Who you associate with matters. Stay away from victims and excuse makers. Treat that mindset like a deadly, contagious disease,” Moran said.
Isolate yourself from modern day distractions. In our modern world, technology can be a major distraction. When you’re focused on executing your pre-vacation plan, don’t let smartphones, social media, and the Internet distract you from your higher-value activities.

“Some spontaneity is healthy, but if you are not purposeful with your time, you’ll get thrown off course,” Moran said. “Allow yourself to get distracted by emails, social media, or the latest viral video while you’re working on your pre-vacation plan, and before you know it, you’ll be on your vacation, stuck in your hotel room negotiating contracts and talking to vendors while your family is playing on the beach. Learn to isolate yourself from distractions when there is important work to be done.”

The retail business is hard and family time is precious, Moran concluded. “Don’t ruin it by giving your BlackBerry all the attention. You need that time to rest and rejuvenate so that when you do go back to work you’re ready and committed to making great things happen. And you and your family deserve that uninterrupted time together. Set your vision, make a plan and stay the course. When you’re relaxing on the beach, you’ll be so glad you did.”

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