DILEMMA: 'Summer time and the living is easy.' Or so a lot of my staff, customers and suppliers think. Last year we lost momentum in the business over the summer. I thought it was just the slowdown in the market, but it's happening again. The staff work hard the rest of the year and I don't mind them easing up a bit, but it's getting silly. What should I do?
ISSUES: Achieving a balanced approach to the holiday season is crucial. A bit of consideration in this area is a great way to win loyalty. However, rule one is that you have a business to run. With clear objectives for the business and all the people in it, it is harder to lose momentum.
That is, unless you've relaxed the objectives for the summer quarter or you ignore them. If relaxed business is becoming a cultural thing, it may be time to revisit performance management as a whole.
The role of every leader in the business is to energise and set objectives.
So what kind of example are you and your top team setting? Fairness is also key. Are some people carrying the load for others? Lack of fairness is demotivating to top performers. Where is the loss in momentum greatest? Sales, delivering those sales, the supply chain?
If it's sales, think about what the competition is doing. If they're taking a nap too, then take advantage of that and get your sales team out selling aggressively. If it's suppliers, just mention that you're thinking of bringing forward the annual competitive pitch to September.
And if there is low activity in the market as a whole, use the time to get on with neglected projects.
Often, this problem arises out of a lack of co-ordination. Decide how flexible you'll be. The traditional two-week summer shutdown approach had disadvantages but was easy to plan around. Introduce new principles, such as no more than two people from a particular department can take their holiday at the same time.
Consider cultural issues if you have operations in other countries. For example, in the Nordic region where summers are short, it is custom and practice to have a long holiday in the light period and work your socks off the rest of the year.
< ACTION - Sunbathing on the job? Take a cold shower, wake up and see this as a chance to win ground from rivals and shake up suppliers. - Plan ahead. Ensure you and the top team set a good example. - Set basic rules on holiday-taking, so everyone isn't away at once. - If you're worrying because you're working too hard, take a break.