Friday February 25th was my last day of work.
Until June 9th, that is.
I am on sabbatical!
And I’m surprised to see benefits from the sabbatical before even missing my first workday. I think about CCCC a lot, even on vacation. (Webmail is a terrible thing for vacations and Saturday mornings!) However, over the last week I sensed a growing relaxation and mental distancing from work precisely because I will not be away for just a few days or weeks, but for three months. This is not just a pause from CCCC, where work is held over for my return, but a real break from CCCC where I have to trust someone else to carry on for me. It was really neat last week when I first had the thought, “I can do this. I can actually leave for three months and let someone else care for CCCC.”
Here are some benefits of the sabbatical that I’ve already noticed:
- You can’t take a sabbatical if you haven’t got the bench strength to keep the organization moving forward while you are gone. Someone has to step in to take the lead. A sabbatical forces the leader to think about succession planning. If I decided to leave, were hit by a bus or otherwise became unavailable for a long period of time, what is the plan for at least an interim period of vacancy? Does a board member step in? Is there a staff member who can step up? A sabbatical gives the board and the leader a relatively short term but long enough opportunity to evaluate the rest of the leadership team in a realistic but low-risk setting. I have extremely high confidence in our leadership team and that is a huge part of the reason, perhaps even the entire reason, why I can leave with no worries and no need to monitor things while I’m away.
- Over the years, I have gradually slipped into doing more and more of the technical work: doing workshops, traveling to present the regional seminars, writing articles and so on. It was just the natural result of wanting to apply my own giftings and research interests to CCCC. But it means that over the years I have spent less and less time on the high payoff CEO responsibilities of strategy, external relations and culture. Well, since the regional seminars overlapped with the sabbatical, I did not deliver the regional seminars for the first time since 2004. The seminars are about half done now, and they’ve gone very well, thanks to Gil Langerak and Wayne Kroeker who stepped up to do them. What this shows is that there are operational things I do that I do not need to do. The success of the regionals this year encourages me to re-evaluate and be more selective in future about how much operational work I do. I really need to protect my time for those activities that the senior leader should be doing and that only the senior leader can do.
- Filling in for a sabbatical gives the person who is standing-in a really good insight into the world of the person who’s gone away. CCCC operates on the CEO-COO model. I can’t help but expect that when the sabbatical is over, the teamwork between these two roles will be stronger than ever because of the new experiences Heather Card (our COO) will have had and the new insights she will obtain that one can only get by doing another person’s job for a while. Since she is moving from supporting the CEO to acting as the CEO, I am sure she will be learning just as much as I will be. Doing someone else’s job (at any level) can’t help but lead to greater understanding and teamship (if there is such a word). Thank you Heather for the confidence you inspire.
- A sabbatical shows a person that there is life outside of the organization, and I already have the expectation that after the sabbatical I will have much better work-life balance. When I come back I will give CCCC my best of course, but I think it will not be as all-consuming as it has been until now. I will have more of a personal life apart from it.
So, the benefits are already appearing.
My sabbatical plans are virtually as I listed them in a previous post, with the exception that as it worked out I am only doing one spiritual retreat at the end.
For those wanting to design their own sabbatical, I did a post about the purpose of a sabbatical that should stimulate some creative planning.