Prepare well before you take off to learn
The Economic Times, 24, September, 2009
Careful planning and preparation must precede a learning break, says Elango R, Chief Human Resources Officer, MphasiS

Attending a 5-week programme with no time to even see your emails is a daunting thought and nearly derailed my desire to attend an Advanced Management Programme. However, I did spend a good 5 weeks in Fontainebleau, France in INSEAD and I am glad that I did that because it has infused new perspectives and allowed me to be more successful personally and professionally.

However, key to the success of this is preparing yourself, your organisation and family. Here are key preparations that made my 5-week learning break possible:

Manager buy in: CEO/Immediate manager buy in - clearly he/she has to see the need for you to do this and actually sponsor you. I was fortunate that the CEO himself picked this program, filled out the form for me and insisted that I attend it.

Your stand in: Sponsoring is one understanding that you will not be available for crises. For this selecting a leader who will stand in for you 100 percent is important.

Not available: Communicating clearly to your team, peers that you will not be available and your stand in is empowered to make decisions. Put that out of office and clearly say you are learning and not accessible.

Family: Ensuring the family understands why you are doing this and what it means to them - they won't see you for 5 weeks, calls will be brief and will miss some family events.

The most critical and that is why I haven't bulleted this is ‘yourself‘ - do you have the courage to let go and realise that the company will run and do well with or without you. It is always you who will be unable to let go. Look at the black berry, but don't answer those mails…trust me that is the toughest. Finally read the preparation material - if you can't swing it by, you will forever be behind!