I recently returned from 3 months adoption leave. As a dad, 3 months away from the office is so rare in agency-land, but with a generous adoption policy as well as a sabbatical program, this is rather commonplace now at my agency and everyone knows to pitch in to cover and make it work. After all, the favour will no doubt be returned in time.

So I left with all the usual apprehensions any manager has for their team. Are they sufficiently staffed? Can they cover my responsibilities as well as their own? Have I overburdened them? Will things simply fall apart?

I knew that last scenario wouldn’t happen. There are enough clever and resourceful people there to overcome any problem that arises. But nevertheless, I offered to use all my keeping-in-touch days and come in regularly.

But a funny thing happens when you’re away for so long. Life goes on. The work keeps coming and business doesn’t stop.

People don't just cover for you and hand things back as soon as you're through the door. People step up. A manager’s extended leave is an amazing opportunity for the people around them to step up, grow and develop professionally, without the safety net or sometimes, the constraint of their manager. It may be frightening to them, but it should also be exciting and motivating.

On my return, the difference was striking. After all, people had learned to live without me. Key team members had embraced their new responsibilities and performed them exceedingly well. It would be unfair to simply go back to how things were, so they can hang onto them. Means I can do something new, too.