I’m Going on A Hunger Strike Unless…

Timing is everything!

When I was the Operations Director down in St. Petersburg, FL for the Southeast Regional Service Center for First American (later changed to CoreLogic), we had a team of employees over in India that assisted our people in processing our work.

As time went on, they became even more valuable members of our organization as they picked up on the intricacies of the work, resulting in fewer errors & rework, higher productivity & much improved overall quality.

We regularly communicated with them several times every day, in addition to our formal status conference call.

Actually, we worked with & through their supervisors, a young man Vishwas Amin & his second-in-command, Padma.

They were both bright, eager to please & dedicated supervisors. But Parma seemed incredibly loyal & dedicated…perhaps too much so (if that’s even possible).

I’d remember there were times when only Padma was on the daily call as Vish was taking a well-deserved vacation.

But when I started to really think about it, I couldn’t ever recall Vish being on the call by himself & saying that Padma was out of the office.

One day, I asked Padma, “Is it just my imagination or perhaps, my poor memory, but have you gone on vacation yet this year? You always seem to be on our calls.”

She admitted that she hadn’t yet taken time off this year…and I wasn’t pleased.

While I certainly appreciated her incredible work ethic & undying loyalty to us, my people’s work/life balance is important to me.

I don’t manage robots nor lead a bunch of machines. I deal with people and as leaders, we’re responsible for ensuring that they’re strong & healthy in terms of the complete person, not just the one that comes to work.

I want our employees to take the time away from the office that they’re earned & so richly deserve.

I want them in the best physical, mental & emotional shape possible so they’re truly able to give their best at ALL times!

I want them working incredibly hard…and playing just the same way.

Padma just recently reminded me what I told her after she admitted to not taking any time off so far that year.

Thinking quickly on my feet & trying to find something with which she could relate (culturally), I blurted out, “Well, then, until you do take some vacation, I’m going on a hunger strike!”

We all laughed!

(For those not familiar with Indian history…

In September 1932, the Great Indisn lesdet, Mahatma Gandhi, began a fast unto death to protest British support of a new Indian Constitution that would separate the Indian electorate by caste. Over the course of time, he was famous for his “pacifist resistance” against British rule, which helped avoid a great amount of violence as he gained the unending love & respect of his people.)

She promised me that she would, indeed, go out on vacation as soon as feasibly possible.

She fully realized that everyone needs time away from the office to refresh one’s batteries…to relax & reenergize, mentally & physically…and to return with work with renewed vigor & drive.

You’re not “being disloyal” nor “not giving your all” when you take time away for yourself. You’re taking care of the #1 priority in life…yourself!

You can’t take care of others until & unless you take care of yourself, in all ways. In addition, your time away serves as an excellent opportunity for your people to grow & develop in your absence, allowing them to assume additional responsibilities outside their normal realm of duties.

You have to think of the long-term impact of all your actions. You should be preparing your people to run the ship without your actual presence in the office.

That helps build greater depth within your organization, better prepares your team & your people to handle unexpected organizational or business changes, and makes your group more agile & better able to think on their feet & for themselves which is an important element of team & individual growth.

There were many times in my career than I wished I’d listened more to what I preached to others.

Apparently, I wasn’t really good at following my own advice.

At Citi, I started off with 4 weeks of vacation time annually from the very beginning. And Citi was a “use it or lose it” company.

You couldn’t save, or bank, unused vacation days.

With management approval, you were allowed to “carry over” a maximum of 2 vacation weeks to the following calendar year…but they had to be taken by March 31st or they would simply disappear.

And beginning with your 15th anniversary (I believe) & every 5th year thereafter (20, 25, 30, etc.), you were granted an extra week for a total of 5 weeks!

Invariably, I seemed to carry over 2 weeks of vacation almost every year of my career. (It would have been more each year, but the max carryover was 2 weeks.) And then, when I would carry over any time into the following calendar, I’d be up against, by far, the busiest time of the year…the dreaded First Quarter! You had to use your carried-over vacation time by 3/31!

I’d often find myself waking up on, like, March 25 & saying to myself, “How do I take 10 vacation days before month-end, especially when I’m currently underwater with deadlines approaching, a ton of month-end tasks in front of me & little time to breathe?”

Over my almost 30-year Citi career, I easily forfeited a good 40-45 weeks of unused vacation time!

And, no, you couldn’t get paid for them nor “lend them to someone”. (I learned about that policy when I joined Lehman Brothers where several members of my staff “donated some of their vacation time” to a fellow employee who was “seriously ill” & wasn’t getting paid.

As it turned out, she never returned to work & when my people found out that she had actually started a new job in Colorado several weeks earlier, they were furious!

And rightfully so. She played on their generosity when it was apparent that she wasn’t as sick as she let on to be.

Gotta hate people like that. That’s exactly why Ms. Karma has such an incredibly-busy schedule.)

Always remember, in order for you to be able to take of others, be it at home or at work, you hafta take care of yourself FIRST & FOREMOST!

Just like when you’re traveling on a plane with a young child & the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, you must put your mask on first, before attending to your child. You won’t be able to help them if you’re gasping for air yourself!

So, please, always take care of yourself!

As always, thank you so much for listening!

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