A Simple Strategy for the Courageous Manager

First, the backstory.

I had back-to-back meetings last week with a client I’ve been consulting to and another I’m coaching. On a group Zoom call, a team member was about 8 minutes late. The firm’s culture is friendly, respectful and transparent, so it wasn’t a big deal for him to say that his 2-year-old had apparently decided that sleep was not a biological necessity any longer, and that as a result Dad got almost none the night before.

A day later, speaking to another 30-something executive about the challenges she was facing, she told me the top of her list was: “Overwhelm.” As if to prove the point, she cut short our call, to pick up her toddler from the two hours of daycare she’d been able to cobble that morning. 

Clients like this are so grateful that they have jobs, good jobs, and flexible managers. But it is really killing them. I honestly don’t know how they do the exhausting magic act (with spinning plates crashing, rabbits pooping in magic hats, and papercuts from the card tricks). 

Here’s my simple strategy for the courageous manager:

Close your office for a single day. That is, tell everyone who works for you:  “I am taking ______ day off and I think you probably should too.” 

I know, I know, there are rules, clients, “essential” this and “totally necessary” that. Heck, some of you work in hospitals and my suggestion is absurd. But for others, make it next Friday or two weeks from today, a Monday: that a young parent (or weary grandparent) will not have to dread for a change! Once in a while, it makes sense let up – both out of kindness AND out of prudence.

I am reading No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. It’s a good read about a great company, written by Reed Hastings, Netflix’s founder and CEO.  Hastings spends an entire chapter on why they abolished vacation rules (see the book title). He and Patty McCord, his chief people officer – of course, there’s a LeadingX2 dynamic pair – debated the strategy for a long while. Hastings says he was literally having dueling nightmares: one, where he was running through the office in a panic, but everyone was on vacation; and the other where no one took vacation because they weren’t allocated an amount, and in this second nightmare they were all frozen in the office from which no one left. But he and McCord adopted the strategy anyway: to treat great employees like adults and to invite people to get away and thus gain perspective, freshness, sleep, etc. And he hasn’t looked back.

He made the crazy move permanent. I’m inviting you to make it for just a single day.  

Last week, Ashton wrote about the power of values.  Well if you and/or your firm has values – like compassion, kindness, excellence, respect, creativity – then you have a foundation from which to give people agency to manage their work with excellence and themselves with kindness, so they can: 

Lead with their best self.


  • When COVID started in March I began making my managers take two days off together. This is usually done before or after a weekend so they are away for four days. They resisted at first, I had to mandate that they take the time. Now the team is doing it every quarter. My staff come back refreshed and ready to tackle their tasks. I would recommend it to all managers.

  • Dan, I hope that you are doing well. I spoke with Jennifer Sunday on a political zoom. It was wonderful reconnecting. Please tell her how delighted I was. You are fortunate to have your mom.

  • >