Leaders, you have to let your team members personal time be their personal time. Unless there is an absolute emergency that requires immediate attention, respect and honor their personal time.
I had leaders early in my career who expected me, and others, to be on call any time they felt like they wanted something done or to talk to someone. Even in a high-intensity environment like a startup, where some degree of personal time infringement is to be expected, a leader who makes it the norm instead of the exception is eventually going to find themselves with a team that resents them and that begins to pull away. The only thing that any business leader really has is their team. Yet, too many business leaders treat their team as the least important and valuable thing to them. One of the surest ways for a leader to make their team feel de-valued and unappreciated is to infringe on the team’s personal time.
Everyone needs time to recharge. Leaders who insist on infringing on their team member’s personal time aren’t getting the best thinking or work done during this intrusive time anyway. Just because a leader can infringe on their team’s personal time doesn’t mean they should. In fact, this isn’t leadership at all. This is command and control in the worst manifestation.
Leaders shouldn’t even ask team member’s what they will be doing with time off. It might be well intended for a leader to ask a team member what they will be doing with some upcoming time off, but leaders should let their team members share what they will be doing if they want to share. Leaders who inquire about how a team member will be spending their time off are forcing them to reveal personal information they might rather not be sharing. When a leader asks a team member how they will be spending their time off it can feel controlling because of the imbalance of power involved. In some cases, the team member would rather not share their personal plans but could feel obligated when asked by a leader. Maybe a team member is going to climb Mount Everest or maybe they are just going to take a few days to refresh by reading some books, it doesn’t matter and isn’t the business of a company or a leader to know.
Text, Slack, and other always on communication channels have made it easy for business leaders to get and keep in touch with team members quickly and easily. In some cases, too quickly and easily. A negative aspect of instant, always on communication tools is the perception of immediate response. First, leaders have to be mindful not to reinforce the perception of instantaneous response. Second, leaders have to understand that these tools of instant communication are also a means of distraction. Leaders who are constantly bombarding their team members with always on, instant response messages actually make their team members less productive, not more productive. Leaders will drive a wedge between themselves and a team member if the leader blows up the team members phone while the team member is supposed to be unplugged.
Team members unplug to recharge. They also have lives beyond work. Leaders need to respect a team member’s time away from the company and let unplugging truly be unplugging.