I am traveling this week, spending time at Genius Network to continue to level up my knowledge and skills. There is a really interesting group of guests here, and I will share more on that next week.

But for today, I wanted to bring up a conversation that I overheard (yes full on overheard but in my defense, the couple having the discussion was about 3 feet away) in the Amex lounge at the Philly airport. It was a young couple, on their way to a ski trip. The talk turned to their respective jobs, and the guy was not happy about his current situation. He commented, loudly, that “they are now micro-managing everything”. Hmmmm…I am 3 feet away so let’s have a listen to this one, I thought. “Yeah”, he said, “they got rid of the policy of unlimited vacation last month, and now you have to get approval for time off. It used to be any time you wanted, whenever you wanted”. Interesting, I thought, as I used to have a similar policy at Appletree Answers for our salaried employees. There were times it got abused, but we were able to fix it with some simple rules… more below, but first… He continued, “There is a rumor they are getting rid of work from home, and if that happens I’m out of there!” So now I am really thinking, and paying attention.

First, I am wondering about the type of work. Is it time or place sensitive, or can it be done any time from anywhere? Based on the fact this stuff was getting “taken away” I assumed the latter. But then I started to wonder, why are they taking it away? Could be a leadership change… or a strategy shift… but to me those are the less likely reasons.

I had a guess… and now I am flying to Phoenix still thinking about it and wondering. My guess is there was an “expectation problem”. There were, what in many ways could be, great policies to attract and retain A players, but they were not clear about the rules. Unlimited vacation, at any time you want, is amazing… but it comes with a cost. The cost? RESPONSIBILITY. You cannot up and leave if a customer is expecting something, or there is a project with a bunch of people counting on you, or if you did no work to prepare to take “unlimited” time off… and this all comes back to one of my time-honored rants… Ready?


You can take lots of time off, and at times that suit you, IF you are delivering amazing outcomes. Well-run companies give clear direction to what is expected. A players relish that direction and will fight like hell to deliver, and deserve time to recharge and refresh, as long as they are holding up their end of the deal. These policies work with A players. They attract A players. They INCREASE the productivity of A players! They also make B players uncomfortable, and repel C players. So, either the managers that are devising the new policies are B or C, or their team is B or C, otherwise, there wouldn’t be the impetus to make the change. I wonder which it is?? Based on the attitude, and language, and whining, of the guy I have my suspicions about which one it is… but I will never really know. But there is a lesson in this for sure. To me, that is… be super clear about the outcomes you expect from the team. Do everything in your power to get them aligned, and excited about the goals. Remember, motivation is a myth, you cannot “motivate” anybody, but you can inspire them. And an inspired team will move mountains for you.

So, if you choose policies to inspire, like unlimited vacation, make sure you have a team that can handle the responsibility. If you feel you are forced to take away privileges, ask yourself if you have the right leaders and the wrong people, or the right people and the wrong leaders. It is HIGHLY UNLIKELY you have the right both.

And last, but not least, my favorite one of all. Make sure, make 1000% sure, if you are pulling a privilege like this one. One that everyone sees as their raison d’etre for spending their time at YOUR company, that you are not making the decision because 10 or 20% of the team took advantage of you, and you just said forget it, no more unlimited vacation. Because that, my dear entrepreneur, would make YOU the C player!!

No policy should ever be used to address the behavior of the bottom 10-20% if it is going to piss off the 80% that get it.

That is the fastest way, maybe in the known universe, to tell your A players you don’t really care about them, and you can stand on a five gallon bucket and watch them run away in droves when you do that stuff.

By the way, this is all shared from experience. I was a D player entrepreneur that clawed my way up to C, and did this kind of dumb stuff all the time. It took me a while, too, to learn these lessons. I don’t share from a place of judgment, but rather from empathy. I hope I can save you from some of the stupid things I did! I am pretty certain, that I had employees on their way to ski trips with their significant others, talking about how dumb my company was!!

Founder of the align5 Companies,  CEO of Scaling Up Coaches, and Serial Entrepreneur

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