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Out of Our Minds
Friday, April 14, 2006 11:21 AM
Loving Your Work -- But Not 365
Kevin Salwen on Health & Wellness

Maybe the Michael Eisner "I'll never take a vacation" model is falling out of favor in the wake of the former Disney CEO's forced resignation.  Today, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott announced he is taking his first time off since 2000.

Six years without a vacation!  That's nuts.  At a minimum, it tells staffers that Scott believes he is so critical to any and all operations that they can't run without him. More seriously, though, it's not healthy to his own psyche or methods of managing. Our batteries need to recharge, our thoughts need to be taken to a completely different place. Maybe Scott is able to do that over a weekend or an evening tennis game or a 15-minute coffee break, but I doubt it.

Two interesting sidenotes about his vacation: First, he is taking a full month off. Second, that's considered so unusual that it merits analyst comment and triggers speculation that Scott's job is in jeopardy. What a crazy society we live in.


Monica Ricci - 5/7/2006 11:24:21 AM
It's all about balance and as Curt said in his comment, when you're recharged, your focus, productivity, and creativity are increased. Covey's 7th Habit is Sharpen the Saw, and it makes perfect sense. A dull saw can't effectively cut a tree, and if we are the spring from which our life's results eminate, draining that spring dry certainly doesn't make sense. My husband and I love to travel and we typically take several short vacations every year (4 day weekends) rather than one long one. We find that frequent travel is wonderful not only for our businesses but for our relationship. ~Monica
sfrewerd - 4/16/2006 3:19:02 PM
I remember being a newbie in the corporation where I was enslaved for years; the mindset at the time, and still remains most likely, is that in order to receive a decent raise each year you'd better not take any 'extra' time off; forget performance. Life doesn't work that way, and I remember hoping that no one else in my family died the next year so I could get a good %. Yes, 'what a crazy society we live in'
Julie - 4/15/2006 10:08:43 AM
If Lee Scott is upset that the press has noticed that he is (finally) taking a vacation, he shouldn't be; he dug his own grave on that one. Leaders who tie themselves to their offices for six years and then decide to take some time off are, well, newsworthy. As an investor, I'd be interested in knowing, for example, if a CEO who, after years of listening only to the Board of Directors and EVPs, suddenly decided to meet "the people" of his company (yes, his) on some elaborate world-wide tour of operations. Leaders do that kind of thing, you know, and I think investors and potential employees deserve to know what kind of leader is driving each public company.
George - 4/14/2006 12:16:31 PM
Besides the "type A" factors you mention (remember that "A" also stands for "arrogant"), the infamous "Puritan ethic" is at work. Puritans believe that life is all about hard work and self-denial irrespective of whether it's either "healthy" or "productive." It's one of the foundations of American culture, and it explains why work addiction is the only form of addiction that's considered "virtuous" or "heroic" rather than a shameful moral weakness. While a large part of the culture of overwork is the result of fear and debt, the Puritan ethic underlies it as well. That's probably why the analysts assume that if a high-powered CEO takes a vacation it must be because he's about to lose his job. Yes, it's indeed a crazy society that could do a lot better if it abandoned the most pernicious aspects of the Puritan ethic-- the insistence on unhealthful quantities of work (much of which may not be productive) and also the hypocrisy that inevitably accompanies "moral" pronouncements.
Curt Rosengren - 4/14/2006 11:26:19 AM
When I think of how my focus and productivity shoots up after taking some time off, I can't imagine being at the helm of a huge organization like that without a break. It almost seems irresponsible, both to employees and shareholders. Can they really perform at the top of their game without time to revitalize? Doubtful.


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