Human energy is a precious commodity. It fuels creativity and extraordinary accomplishment. It is worthy of active consideration and is especially critical to good leadership. This post from 2011 explores some ways of preserving and generating energy both for leaders and their organizations.
“You are now running on reserve battery power”.
That’s what my laptop informed me the other day. Rather whimsically, I wondered what it would be like if we had similarly obvious warnings built into our bodies with little red flashing lights designed to tell us exactly when we were about to run out of juice.
I don’t expect my laptop to go on forever. I know, from time to time I’m going to have to connect it to a power source so it can build itself up to full strength again. The irony is, I don’t always do this for myself. I suspect this may be true of many of you as well. For some reason, we believe ourselves to be capable of expending unlimited amounts of energy without attending to the restoration process with equal dedication.
I believe that leaders are particularly vulnerable to this kind of energy depletion. Some will say that people depend on them to be there. They expect them to be present to make decisions, lead the charge, and champion the cause. The demands on them are such that there is no time to think about holidays or recreation that doesn’t involve a client, a supplier or a prospect. They can’t afford to be seen as tired or weak and must find ways to soldier on no matter what.
Well, that’s one way of looking at it.
In order for any organization to successfully fulfill its purpose and achieve its goals, it must learn to recognize, nurture, and manage its collective energy. This means that everyone involved, including the leader, must take responsibility for not only the generation of human energy in the workplace, but also its ongoing replenishment.
So, from this perspective, what does it mean for the leader, in practical terms? Well, here are some things that come to mind for me:
My job is to become dispensable
We all like to be needed but we do no one a service if we strive to make ourselves indispensable. If this should happen, it means that as leader, I have not done a good job of training, mentoring, coaching or encouraging those around me. As such, not only will my own energy be depleted quickly but the energy of others who are capable and eager to do more.
I must find ways to create flexibility in how we do things.
It’s easy to follow a well-worn path when it comes to how things are done. The trouble is that the path can easily become a rut and that has a way of sucking the energy out of everyone. Finding, and accepting, alternative ways of working, presents an opportunity to keep the workplace vital and the people in it creatively free.
I must make time for rest and quiet reflection
Some continue to believe that if they are not engaged in doing something, they are achieving nothing. I believe that periods of rest and quiet reflection restore energy and give rise to creativity that cannot possibly come from a tired mind.
I must make room for fun, laughter and celebration
Simply put, a good laugh does wonders for the energy levels in any room. Uncontrived celebrations and fun can do the same. Life and work are full of little absurdities just waiting to be appreciated. Energy soars when people laugh. And it costs nothing.
On a cautionary note there is a cardinal rule associated with this. Laughter at any one person’s expense is unacceptable. It’s mean. And, rather than infusing the environment with energy, this kind of laughter will defeat the purpose by vacuuming it out.
I must remember that I am human
When we are in charge of something, it’s easy to get carried away with our sense of importance. We begin to believe in our own indestructibility. We push through our tiredness; ignore our aches and pains and work through our illnesses.
It’s a mistake. No one is that important. Really.
That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?