Over the last few years, I have become increasingly interested in the role energy plays in resilience. Although the resilience characteristics help people use their energy more effectively when they encounter change, what happens when people don’t have a lot of energy to start with?
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, in their book The Power of Full Engagement, articulate four types of energy that people use to deal with the demands of the workplace: Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I believe that the ability to build and replenish each type of energy is critical to achieving high levels of resilience.
Because organizations need to continually adapt, innovate, and grow, resilience is a key competency for leaders at all levels. I believe that leaders have two important responsibilities with regard to energy. First, they need to build and replenish their own energy to prepare for and recover from the challenges of change. Second, they need to create an environment that helps others manage energy effectively. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to do some coaching and leadership development work with leaders who want to improve their skills in “leading with energy,” and wanted to share some of what I have learned.
Building and Replenishing Personal Energy
The culture in many workplaces rewards long hours and self-sacrifice. This makes it difficult for leaders to find the time for exercise and rest, which are critical to maintaining high levels of physical energy. In addition, options for healthy food are often limited. The leaders who are most successful at maintaining their physical health are those who set aside time for exercise, establish personal boundaries that allow them to rest well, and find creative ways to eat healthy meals and stay hydrated.
To build and replenish mental energy, successful leaders take time to read and explore new ideas. To nurture emotional and spiritual energy, they build strong connections with others and take time for reflection. They recognize when they are depleted and take personal time to recover. To make room for all these activities, people who lead with energy recognize that they cannot fall into the trap of believing that they are so indispensable that they need to spend every waking moment focused on current challenges at the office. Instead, they see that they can give more to the organization, and sustain their performance over a longer period of time when they are whole and healthy.
Creating an Energy-Supporting Environment
In addition to taking care of their own energy, leaders have the opportunity to influence the workplace in ways that help others build and replenish their energy. One way to do this, of course, is to model healthy behaviors, but there are other thing leaders can do as well. These include:
- Designing the workplace to include access to exercise facilities, healthy food options, and plenty of water.
- Setting norms that clearly articulate the importance of individual health and well-being.
- Holding meetings while walking or standing.
- Allowing schedule flexibility to accommodate physical activity, time with family, and informal work gatherings.
- Taking time in meetings to reflect, learn, and connect to a larger sense of meaning and purpose.
- Providing healthy food options at breakfast and lunch meetings and office parties.
- Planning group activities that involve learning something new, connecting with teammates, and/or being physically active.
- Taking time after stressful events or situations to relax, debrief, and deal with negative emotions.
When people have the opportunity to build a strong supply of energy, learn to use it effectively to deal with challenges and adversity, and are supported in replenishing it when needed, they will be much more effective over the long run when working in an organization that is experiencing high levels of change.
I’d love to hear from you! How do you build and replenish your own energy? How do you create a workplace that supports human energy? One of my next projects will be to gather and publish stories of leaders and organizations who are effectively managing human energy. If you’d like to be included or know of others who I should interview, please send me a note.