Avoid The Mistakes Made By Cameron And Clegg

As demonstrated by Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in February this year, embarrassing blunders can occur even at the most senior level of government, with leaders dropping the ball in terms of holiday cover. Whatever the size and structure of your company or organisation, planning for success in spite of disruptions to regular running, is essential.

So how can you get right what Downing Street got wrong? This article will help you to make certain that when pivotal members leave the office, chaos does not rule and that everyone is aware of their role.

In order for your company to run smoothly with employees absent, it is crucial that none of your staff members are indispensable, in line with the truest definition of the word. No company should be dependent on any one person and their skills or knowledge. If, when looking at your own business, you find that this is the case, you need to commit to take action. It is fundamental to ensure that experience and knowledge are shared with more junior members of staff, not hoarded away by a few select individuals. Sharing the collective expertise is essential.

Some senior members of staff may fear training other staff members to perform the crucial tasks that they currently take charge of, worrying that they are setting themselves up to be replaced by a newer model. This is not the case. By training your employees to be as competent as possible, the outcome will be an enriched, successful environment that all can contribute to. The implementation of a support structure to improve team performance in this way is the key to avoiding the mistakes demonstrated by Cameron and Clegg's office.

You should devote a little time to developing clearly planned processes. This will make it easier for employees to fit in to any department within your business and allow them to follow simple structures that can be learned quickly. You should also prepare your staff members to perform tasks outside of their immediate area before the need arises. In this way, if someone departs unexpectedly (due to illness or accident, for example), your company is prepared to cope with the loss. You should be approachable and open to queries.

Developing a coaching culture within your company will allow your staff members to feel more confident when the time does come to fill someone else's shoes, whether temporarily or on a more permanent basis. They will feel competent, prepared, and able to ask questions in order to improve their contribution to the overall staff performance. Creating this sense of corporate community is important. If you encourage people to help one another out in the interests of the business, you create a supportive environment geared towards success. Staff productivity can soar in spite of absences.

With good processes and planning in place, long overdue business trips and deferred holidays suddenly become an option.

This kind of performance coaching culture ensures in advance that somebody will always be ready to capably cover your role while you are away. Not only this, it will ensure that nobody ends up feeling isolated or overwhelmed, junior or senior, no matter who is enjoying two weeks in Italy or three days at a rock festival.

By giving your staff such performance training, you can allow yourself to enjoy a real holiday, with only essential phone calls to or from the office. If you open the channels of communication well in advance of your departure, your staff will have fewer questions by the time you actually leave. If your trips are often for business purposes this can be especially helpful, as it will let you keep a clearer mind and a clearer schedule, enabling you to make the most of your time, researching new products or consulting with clients.

Perhaps even more importantly, your holidays should be relaxing!

If you still have to run your business remotely, then there's probably still more to do to put in place the appropriate processes! You should be able to walk away and enjoy some downtime. A little performance coaching could alter your whole business, not to mention the potential it has to transform your holidays into well-deserved breaks.

Prepare for departure…

Preparing for departure doesn't mean checking flight departure times or baggage restrictions. Your focus should be on preparing the office before you go by setting clear expectations and guidelines. Set out clearly the procedures and situations for when you should or should not be contacted, for example. Establish and agree with your deputy which of your authorities will be passed over for the course of your absence and which decisions are not to be made without consulting you first. Encourage questions before you leave in order to ensure a more peaceful trip and a trouble-free return.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your holiday...

Competent and flexible staff members not only reflect well on your business, they are the driving force behind it. For the unprepared company, organising holiday cover can be a nightmare. For those who have been more proactive in their planning though, this time of year provides a great opportunity for the development of certain promising individuals, allowing them to step up to a new tier of performance. Providing people with the opportunity to try new tasks, even only on a temporary basis, can be great for their morale and their confidence when they return to their old role and if they later advance within your company.

So, what can you do if you are soon to fill the shoes of a superior?

The smartest thing you can do is to plan. Prepare yourself and be aware of what will be expected of you before it is expected of you, to allow you to excel.

Depending upon the size and nature of the company you're working for, you may be performing the duties of both your new temporary role and your old role simultaneously. If you're covering both roles, it's important to ensure that your old role receives enough attention to keep it ticking over. If someone is filling the role for you, ensure that you have prepared them to take on your duties, and be ready to assist them with any issues which may arise unexpectedly.

You should also devote some time to improving your influencing and time leverage skills. It's easy to assume that your boss does nothing, but underestimating their role in this way will set you up for an immediate fall. The further up the ladder you go, the more you will need your people skills, organisation, and management capabilities. Asking the right questions is crucial too. Make sure that you make the most of these opportunities to develop and demonstrate your skills; they're too precious an opportunity to waste!

Kind regards

Laura Ashley-Timms - Chief Operating Officer