Took a vacation last week in the Berkshires. If you live in the Northeast of the U.S., you know that the weather was gloriously sunny and summery. I am a lousy vacationer in the traditional sense. All I wanted to do this vacation was catch up on my mile high reading pile. There are so many distractions and demands at work that I never feel that I am focusing enough on new ideas and insights that come from those random odd moments when a new idea jumps from a page into your head. So I took my reading pile and dumped it all into a big LLBean canvas bag and got down to work after stocking the house with food and plenty. I read Jim Collins’ popular new book How the Mighty Fall, several HBRs, BusinessWeeks, Fortunes, Forbes, The Conference Board Review, The Week, and several binder-clipped downloadable presentations and white papers on reputation and leadership that I wanted to review. I can’t say I read everything but I did glance through what was going on in the world of business performance, reputation, public relations, internal communications, leadership, CEOdom, online everything, and so forth. I was pleased with my own personal reading performance and think I mayhave hit on a new idea for vacationing – the reading retreat. I bet there are many people who just want to sit without a laptop or smartphone and kick back with hard print. Maybe I am revealing my age but it sure was easy to concentrate and tumble ideas in my head that might have some sway in the months ahead at home and work. My own reputation might be damaged from my reclusive behavior but I feel rested and relaxed.
In the June 2009 Harvard Business Review, I found an interesting interview with Alice Waters, founder of the highly reputable restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. She has a smart way to retain and motivate staff. Work cultures are critical to reputation-building and Waters definitely hit the right chord with her recruiting method. “The main chefs downstairs each work six months on and six months off, but I pay them for the whole year. Not as much as a superstar chef, but pretty well. When they’re not working at Chez Panisse, they’re in France. One teaches in Bordeaux, and the other goes to Paris. They travel and then come back to the restaurant.” As Waters says, the returning chefs bring back new ideas, new energy and new excitement into the kitchen. When asked if she would keep this idea going despite the rough economy, she said absolutely yes.
Most companies could not afford to pay people for taking half the year off but what is important to note is that job flexibility can do wonders in building a company or organizational reputation that benefits everyone – employees, bosses and customers.