The hot, sticky days of summer may have you drifting away from your computer screen and looking out your office window in anticipation of your upcoming vacation.

We've all heard about the importance of really "turning off" while you're away on vacation. It's common advice--that in order to really recharge and be more productive and energized when you return to work, you need to let yourself unwind, enjoy your time off, and detach.

But let's face it: It's easier said than done, especially when you're running a business and managing a team. Technology has made it far too easy to scroll through email, jump on "just one" conference call, and tune in remotely to the hum of the workday.

Hurting Your Team?

I believe that you're not only doing yourself a disfavor by staying connected--you're also hurting your teams and those who work for you.

If you reply to some but not every email, your team members are left wondering when they should step up, or if they should wait for you to jump in to answer a question or make a decision. If you sporadically respond to email, the people in the office are left wondering whether they should wait for responses for other matters as well.

Things will inevitably slip through the cracks; your employees will wait longer than they should to make a decision. And they'll be less confident if they think you might swoop in after a dip in the ocean to have the final say.

That leads to a less productive environment.

7 Smart Rules to Follow

Here are some tips that will help empower and enable your teams to succeed while you're away, and they may just make your vacation more enjoyable.

1. Set some ground rules. Set expectations before you leave. If you just can't not check email, make your plans clear to those around you. Perhaps you want to check email just once at the end of the day, and respond to only notes that have been marked "urgent"--or you may not want to respond at all. Either way, make a plan before you leave so that everyone knows what to expect.

2. Delegate. Make sure your team feels empowered to carry on and step up without you. Delegate responsibilities for approvals and decisions to team members whom you trust. And make sure your team knows who is responsible for what. This will not only ensure nothing goes unnoticed, but it will empower people to take more initiative--when you're gone and even after you return.

3. Give yourself a schedule. If you said you'd check your email once a day, stick to it. If you decided to do one conference call, don't add more to the calendar just because you feel you should and you're free. Stay true to the expectations you set.

4. Make an effort not to respond. The more you respond to nonurgent emails and phone calls, the less clarity there is around responsibility. You are on vacation; you should do your best to stay there. Remember that you're helping your team as well as yourself.

5. Trust. There is a reason you work with the people you do; you probably hired most of them. They're smart; you trust them. Remember this, and don't worry about what happens when you take a vacation.

6. Allow for mistakes. Everyone drops the ball at some point, but even that is a learning experience. Allow for mistakes to happen when you're away. It won't be the end of the world.

7. Enjoy your vacation. Really take your vacation. You deserve it. I always feel a bit sorry for the people who constantly check in even if they're on vacation, because they're obviously not having an excellent time.

The leaders whom I respect the most are the ones I never hear from while they're away. Set a good example and go away--preferably where cell service is spotty. And have fun.