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Barry Salzberg

Barry Salzberg

Barry Salzberg is CEO of Deloitte, LLP. He also is a member of Deloitte’s U.S. Board of Directors, the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Global Executive Committee, and the DTT Global Board of Directors.

Unplug So Others Can Too

If there is one lesson I have learned in the "always connected" PDA era, it is that if the leader can't unplug, nobody else will. And performance may suffer.

Still, telling your people to unplug can be tricky--especially in a high-performance culture like ours dedicated to client service. And as difficult as balance is to achieve in good times, it is all the harder in a downturn environment.

For example, just prior to the July 4th holiday weekend of 2008, we launched an internal campaign called "Freedom Unplugged!" It began with a message from me, urging people to really step away from their PDAs and have a real holiday--just as I was.

But what a difference a year can make. This year, in the grip of the downturn, we've been sending an additional message, namely, of the vital importance of being there in the trenches with our clients.

Still, it's important to not lose sight of other meaningful parts of life. In that sense, the message is essentially the same: Stay charged and focused--but don't forget to recharge. To that end, plans are in place for me to recharge soon.

And in that spirit, here's my recipe for a low-stress vacation:

First, have a good team around you--people whom you trust to know when to contact you and when it can wait.

Second, prepare in advance as much as you can, especially by crossing off your list anything that might otherwise weigh on your mind. As just one example, I have a major speech coming up in September. It is my goal to have a complete draft in hand--before I leave.

Third and finally, e-mails are a given on vacation, but a leader needs to establish clear boundaries and expectations. Generally, I make it known that I work for about an hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. Throughout the day, I monitor emails on my PDA, but only respond if there's an urgent need. Knowing things are under control allows me the freedom to truly enjoy my time away.

Career-life balance begins with the leader. So, de-stress. Take a vacation--a real vacation--so others can, too. Then, along with the smiles and tanned faces, notice the boost in performance.

By Barry Salzberg

 |  August 11, 2009; 7:14 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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As principal of an ad agency that just opened it's doors (rp3agency.com) it's tempting to agree that I shouldn't unplug on my upcoming vacation. Unlike many other agencies, we're pretty busy right now. But we have to stay fresh to maintain our creative edge. Fortunately, our strong team and scalable staffing model will make it possible for me to do just that. Ironic that the structure we created to add value for our clients also benefits our people.

Posted by: RP3Jim | August 13, 2009 10:56 AM
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I think that if you are the CEO having 2 hours of checking up on company progress is essential. Being able to take the rest of the 22 hours a day to do something else and really have a vacation is great.

Posted by: cwatkins2 | August 12, 2009 11:48 PM
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So you advocate for leaders to "unplug" by example, and then you happily admit to doing nothing of the sort when on vacation?

I can only assume you wrote this while enjoying one too many margaritas on the beach.

Posted by: MikeJC | August 12, 2009 8:41 PM
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I have to agree with others on this board. Working two hours and checking email throughout the day is not unplugging. Truly relaxing is when you leave all of your techie toys behind and actually unplug and relax. If you can't do that, then why take a vacation?

Posted by: az_david | August 12, 2009 7:57 PM
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I think CEOs should stay at home one to two days a week also, so that middle managers will allow their employees to work at home or telecommute. Also, someday people like BBCROCK will realize that there are other things in life besides work, which his VP apparently already has learned.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | August 12, 2009 7:55 PM
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>>Upon his return he refused to allow us to continue on the RFP due to conflicting priorities. We could not win an RFP we did not bid on.

But, if he made this decision after his return, why are we screwing vacations??

Posted by: DAKnowles89 | August 12, 2009 5:35 PM
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Refreshment breaks are crucial to permanent employees. If you are still working on vacation, you are not on vacation, and you are not being 'refreshed.'

Posted by: IIntgrty | August 12, 2009 3:02 PM
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Works great if you are in a Big 4 company. For the rest of the world in small businesses, you have to live it every day, even on vacation. Due to cutbacks and the recession, most of us don't have the luxury of someone to pick up the slack.

Posted by: amt4321 | August 12, 2009 2:04 PM
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I always unplug on vacation, and was delighted when, yesterday, my supervisor told me she would be entirely off-line during hers--no e-mail, no cell phone, no Facebook.

And bbcrock, I'm with the others. Maybe there's something missing from your story, but as written, it doesn't sound like the vacation had anything to do with the RFP issue, except that if your VP had nixed it from the beginning, you would have been saved some work that wound up getting scrapped.

Posted by: katenonymous | August 12, 2009 11:19 AM
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bbcrock, your VP cost you the contract, not his vacation.

And, Mr Salzberg, you call that being unplugged? Checking email every day? Of course you are likely making millions a year so I get you have to be in touch. I'm none so wealthy and if team can't handle the work without me for a couple of weeks something is wrong.

So for the rest of us, really unplug, don't check email or phone messages. Just relax and forget about work.

Posted by: datdamwuf2 | August 12, 2009 11:06 AM
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BBCrock, it sounds to me like the problem isn't with vacations, it's with your VP. Mr. Salzberg clearly stated that he was in contact daily with his people while on vacation and he doesn't seem like the type to make things more difficult for his employees. Trade in your leader, not your vacations - we cannot work 52 weeks a year without real time off and expect performance and productivity to remain perpetually high.

Posted by: djzelda | August 12, 2009 5:18 AM
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Mr Salzberg, I truly do not care if my leader unplugs, I care that my customer does.

On the first day of my VP's vacation our federal customer dropped a small RFP out there. It was something I was poised to address. Our VP was out of contact. Upon his return he refused to allow us to continue on the RFP due to conflicting priorities. We could not win an RFP we did not bid on.

Today I sat through a meeting where my customer asked why, by golly, we didn't bid on the $4 million RFP because the companies who did were not truly acceptable but the customer was forced to make a decision.

My VP's vacation cost my department $4 million.

Screw vacations.

Posted by: bbcrock | August 12, 2009 1:11 AM
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