Sabbatical: Relax, Refresh, Renew, Reflect.

Very few employers offer Sabbaticals to their employees.  Even fewer in the non-profit sector.  I feel fortunate to work for an employer, in the non-profit world, that sees the value in Sabbatical, and is willing to make the financial investment in its people.

When I came back to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group as CEO 23 years ago, I asked several Board Members who offered Sabbaticals to their longer-term employees, why they did so and what results they had seen.  Overwhelmingly, I was told that it was to reward hard-working team members for the time they had invested in the company’s success.  Less of a retention tool, and more of a recognition tool.

Our Board of Directors approved my recommendation that we offer Sabbaticals to all full-time employees after their first seven years of service.  More recently, we amended our Sabbatical policy to add future times off after each additional five years of full-time service.  This recognition and reward is not only for the CEO, or the C-Suite, but for each and every member of our team.

For the Leadership Group, our policy allows for a full month of paid time off for the Sabbatical, plus up to two additional weeks of paid vacation time, should employees wish to tack on the additional time.  In a small organization, in addition to the financial investment, our concern was how to still achieve our goals when a valuable teammate is away for an extended time.  Fortunately, the concerns were unfounded.  As valuable as each of us are to the success of our team, I believe we are even more valuable when we have had a chance to change the day-to-day routine for a longer segment of time.

So what does it mean for our organization and for me personally?  I am writing this blog having just returned from Spain, where my wife, children and I were on my third Sabbatical from the Leadership Group.  Four glorious weeks.  The four “R’s” of my Sabbatical were:

Relax – Yes, it was possible to sleep more than 5-6 hours per night!  Yes, even with three children, my shoulders came down from their perch somewhere around my ears.

Refresh – With such a talented team at the Leadership Group, I was able to think about other aspects of my life; outside of my work.  In Madrid and Barcelona, that included nearly four hours each day of Spanish Immersion School with our older daughter Jessica and my wife Leslee. Yes, Jessica was much more proficient in Spanish than I am – which I believe she secretly enjoys!

Renew – Time spent in the Picasso Museum.  Exploring old churches.  Jogging through the park.  Carrying our two-year-old son Jacob on my shoulders.  Holding Siena’s hand as she danced around the Plaza Mayor.  An occasional date night with Leslee.  Learning another culture.  Meeting new people.  The sense of renewal in body, mind and spirit was palpable.

Reflect – Four glorious weeks of direct deposits of time invested in family and friends are in the memory banks. Four weeks reflecting on life – family, faith, friends, philanthropy and community.

I return to my professional life next week ready to take on our tough challenges with renewed energy and purpose. Thank you Silicon Valley Leadership Group!

– Carl Guardino, CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group | August 16, 2019