As summer director, you may actually fire someone
By Joost van Lier
As summer director, I was asked more than once, and even now, if I could possibly fire someone during my time as summer director. While the rumours say this is not allowed, management confirmed that it would be allowed if necessary. Sure you don't do this lightly and handle your (temporary) new responsibilities carefully. But what do you do as a summer director? And what do you want to accomplish during such a period? In this blog, I explain!
First some context: the phenomenon of summer management is typical Highberg Digital Transformation. Within our organization, the agreement is that - if you go on vacation as an MT member - you ask one of the employees, experienced or less experienced, to replace you. With this we ensure continuity within the team and there is always a point of contact for proposal requests and projects. This applies not only to MT members but also to management; indeed, they have agreed to go on vacation at the same time, but not together. This creates space for one or two employees to take over the role of director. And, oh yes, for the role of summer director you cannot apply, you are asked by the management.
Because the replacement is during the summer vacation, it is quieter and there is room to put a theme to this period. In recent years, colleagues have focused on different topics: for example, Anne van Esch introduced the theme "Fit for Purpose," Cleo van Engelen put forward the theme "Dare to Fail," and Laura Natrop and Marwan Jezrawi put down the theme #Reconnect after Corona. Myself, together with colleague Jessica Drake-Wetsteijn, put the theme #MakeImpact on the agenda. The special thing about this is that these themes still play a role within our organization.
When I started my role as summer director, I had several goals for myself. First, I wanted to become more familiar with the behind-the-scenes processes that you don't see as an employee. I also wanted to put the topic of Social Impact on the agenda. For example, making impact in my eyes is not only about: People, Planet, Profit, but also about:
- Making an impact on employees by being a fun and inspiring organization;
- By being an organization that is open to diversity and inclusiveness;
- By making an impact on society with the knowledge and expertise we have and also deploy in probono assignments to realize social impact;
- Sharing this knowledge in podcasts, blogs and at conferences;
- But also by reducing our emissions and separating waste.
During the three-week period, Jessica and I spent a lot of time on ongoing business, organizing fun activities, accomplishing a small renovation in the office and paying attention to the #MakeImpact theme.
Activities we organized, for example, were a business vitality workshop, a fun afternoon of electric boat cruising on the Kogerplassen lake and an organic wine tasting.
We also turned one of our work rooms into an inspiring environment. The "living room" space is now the most booked meeting room in the office where bilas are conducted, podcasts are recorded and webinars are facilitated! And, you can also roll out a yoga mat and come to yourself. A space that has been enthusiastically received by many colleagues and is here to stay!
The activities were fun and in the theme of #MakeImpact, but to really put the theme on the agenda, we asked our social partners Stichting Leerkracht and Amref Flying Doctors to stop by. They told us what their 'purpose' is, how they live up to it and how we support them. We also carried out a (free) consultancy assignment for Voedselbanken Nederland. In preparation for our summer directorship, Jessica and I went looking for a social cause that we could help further with their challenges in the field of digitalization. This is how we ended up at Voedselbanken Nederland (VBN) where together with 8 (!) enthusiastic colleagues we developed an information plan for VBN to help them further in the field of digitization.
Embedding the #MakeImpact theme in the organization
As I said, the idea is to adopt a theme and put it on the agenda so that it becomes more important in our organization. Now, more than a year later, I can see that we have made steps in this regard. Almost a year after our summer directorship, Highberg is B-corp certified. Also, one of our colleagues is involved as an information manager with VBN for an extended period of time. In this way we are not helping VBN for a short time, but we are making a long-term commitment together. And we also continue to support the social partners (Stichting Leerkracht and Amref Flying Doctors) in word and deed.
Another aspect that has emerged within our organization and that we are proud to have been able to realize during our summer directorship is that we have introduced that we facilitate colleagues, to a certain extent, to do volunteer work. In doing so, we set two conditions: the colleague also uses his knowledge and experience gained at Highberg in volunteering and the organization where we volunteer must be non-profit in nature.
More than a year on, I look back on my time as summer director with great pride. The thing that struck me the most during this period is the trust you get right from the start. Not only from the management ('go do it, we are on vacation'), but also from colleagues who immediately take feedback on offers seriously and also engage in the difficult(er) conversations with you! This for me was the best thing to experience. And to come back to the first question: no, we didn't fire anyone, with this group of colleagues that was certainly not necessary. But more importantly, we made a real social impact and I am proud of that!