How, or even whether, finance executives “unplug” while on vacation has been a hot topic this summer. 

In June, CFO.com reported survey results from Robert Half Management Resources

More than two-thirds, 69%, said they typically check in with work at least once or twice a week during their summer vacations, only a slight dip from the 74% tallied five years ago. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed check in at least once a day and sometimes more. Only about a quarter said they don't check in at all.

With only 26% of CFOs reporting that they unplug totally on vacations, Accounting SmartPros listed five tips to help finance executives plan their unplugged getaways.

Interestingly, a tweet from one of my followers in mid-summer said this …

My wife and I, on vacation, kids asleep, sitting on the couch, & what are we doing? Checking our Twitter feeds on our phones!

Although they weren’t “working,” they weren’t unplugged either. It describes our new culture of constant connectedness which is somewhat anti-socially social. 

Our poll at SmartBrief for CFOs last week asked about being unplugged during vacations. It apparently struck a nerve with that audience, eliciting a very high number of responses. While the numbers were quite similar to the RHMR survey, I found the 25% who said they were really just working in a vacation environment very telling.

That response may speak to a bigger story … and that is succession planning. The most brilliant of leaders are always grooming their successor (and I by no means am implying anything here). While this doesn’t preclude a CFO from having to handle a major issue while on vacation, it might allow him to feel confident that short of a “true emergency,” he, his company, and his career are all on solid footing while he’s incommunicado. And that security and freedom to totally get away can be a much needed refresh and recharge for finance leaders today.

The truth is that ensuring you have a well-groomed successor, rather than being a threat to your position, actually frees you to make the next move in your career, adds to your leadership skill set, and looks great on your resume. 

With Labor Day and the end of summer right around the corner, what can you put into place today that will allow you to have a fully, unplugged mental health holiday on your next vacation?

CFO Wiring

Ernst & Young recently conducted a study of 669 senior finance professionals in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa focused on the DNA of a CFO. I’m wondering how much different these results would be if America had been included in the survey.

For example, our poll this week at SmartBrief for CFOs asks this question around a statistic pulled directly from the E&Y study: 73% of surveyed CFOs see their role as a destination. Only 10% aspire to be a CEO. What about you? Right now, the numbers are virtually tied. Register for the Brief and add your vote.

But here was something else that really jumped out at me:

Describe the essential ingredients of a leading CFO and guidance for the aspiring CFO. 75% of respondents do not record having a fellow CFO they admire, which might be a reflection of their historical lack of focus on external profile building.

Very few role models. I see that as a pretty powerful statement around two key issues for CFOs …whether foreign or domestic.

Networking … CFOs historically have focused on doing their jobs, not building a network. Today, networking is key for the strategic, operational CFO corporately and for his career. If you are a regular reader I know you know this … the definition of networking is who knows about you, not who you know. Are you a subject matter expert? Are you credible? Are you admired? Do the people who need to know about you actually know about you?

Mentoring … Mentoring others, and being mentored, is a great way to become known. 

Grooming future tribesmen is good for your company and great for your resume. Those rising stars bring a wealth of fresh air to the table, and you might even learn something from those younger, tech-savvy whipper snappers.

And there is great value around you seeking out a mentor. It doesn’t matter how old you are or even where you are in your career. There are always things to learn from others who bring different experiences and wisdom to the table. The icing on the cake is that when you are being mentored by a person of influence, you have access to his network. As your mentor, it is in his best interests to help you be more successful. Part of that success means introducing you to the people in his cone of influence (network).