In Change, Leaders

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” – Aristotle

Someone recently clued me in to an organization called The Energy Project. If you’re interested, click here to get to their web site. The gist of it is this: a huge percentage of people are disengaged, beaten down, unproductive, etc., and as leaders of organizations we’re not focusing on the right things to improve the situation. We’re not focused enough on the things that human beings need in order to be sustainably productive – physical needs (to rest and renew), emotional needs (to be cared for and valued), mental needs (to be empowered to set boundaries and focus), and spiritual needs (to find a sense of meaning and purpose in their work).

I’m not going to regurgitate all the statistics that The Energy Project has accumulated. You can read that for yourself. As I tried to absorb what they were saying, two things popped into my head. The first was, “Well no kidding.” None of it was altogether surprising (although the data they supported it with was startling). It makes sense that those things have an impact on people.

The second was, “So what can we do about it?” Like anything else, knowing is only half the battle. We actually have to do something. But what?

Probably lots of things. But here’s the best place to start: with yourself. It doesn’t do much good to hammer away at your staff that they need eight hours of sleep when you show up every day with five. It doesn’t do much good to preach about the importance of honest feedback when you blow up at everybody who challenges you (and so on). Like everything else, an energized organization has to start with you.

Are you getting the things you need to be sustainably productive? Do you take breaks, work out, & eat healthily? Sometimes when we get busy those kinds of things are the first to be sacrificed. Do you find a sense of meaning and significant from what you do? Sometimes as leaders when people ask us that we just answer “Yes!” without really thinking about it. But think about it: Do you really find meaning in your work? Maybe you used to, but somewhere over the years that went away.

The point of this conversation is this: Make sure you’re not so focused on technical things or activities or plans that you forget the things that people really need in order to produce. Too many leaders focus on the traditional stuff and think that the idea of energy and what creates it would be just a nice bonus. The opposite is true. Yes, you need technical skills and tools and all of those things – but you’ll never be able to create the organization you want without meeting the real needs. And if you don’t meet those needs – good bye energy, good bye success.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Stacie Dykstra

    Great post, Matt! You are absolutely correct – energy is so important. I think people often feel guilty for not being “busy” all the time. You feel guilty if you take time off – or guilty if you aren’t doing something considered “productive.” Remember Sunday afternoon naps? They used to be sacred. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!

  • Roger Claypool

    I have to believe all the “electronic tethering” we’ve done to ourselves is a primary cause. For example, many experts recommend keeping your phone in another room while you sleep.

    • Matt Heemstra

      Roger, I agree 100%. We have this feeling that because we’re now able to be connected all the time that we somehow should be connected all the time. We have to get past that…

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