The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not. It is our most precious resource.
Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement.
Do you often find yourself saying, “I don’t have time for this?” Many times this is a true statement. We run late, we’re double-booked, we lose track of time, etc. Aside from those situations though, do you use that phrase when you really mean something else? I hear myself using this phrase in my head when I sit through a meeting that I feel holds little value; when I look at the stack of paperwork on my desk that needs attention; when I think of calling technical support for a computer issue that I can’t solve on my own; when I think of returning phone calls to people I don’t want to talk with; and the list goes on. What I really mean when I say, I don’t have time, is that - I don’t have the energy!
When will we ever have enough time in the day for all that life requires of us? I think I hear a collective chuckle and a one word response – never! Yet, I know there are days when I feel boundless energy to accomplish heaps, and other days when I can barely muster the energy to introduce myself. When you wipe out the physical factors of sleep, nutrition and health, it all comes down to what brings actual enjoyment. When we enjoy something – we have energy for it. For example, I love getting an email from a client. It doesn’t really matter what’s in the email (unless it’s a cancellation) and it doesn’t really matter what state of fatigue I’m in. I almost always have the energy to respond and to respond quickly. I like to proofread things. If a client or a colleague sends me a draft of a proposal, curriculum overview or a communication that needs to be reviewed, I’ll drop other things I’m doing to respond. I have energy for this type of thing -- maybe it’s because I like to be helpful or maybe I just like words and I want to see them strung together in a way that maximizes the message and the credibility of the sender. I find enjoyment in these types of tasks.
What do you find enjoyment in? I will ask my clients this question and often get global responses that suggest they don’t know. Sometimes they say “I haven’t had time to think it through”. Hmmm. Or I’ll hear them say something generic, such as, they like to help people solve problems, or see a project through to completion. And yet those very same problems and projects end up draining their energy in more ways than one. Finding the specific things that bring you energy is important, especially when you find yourself running on empty with little time to get it all done. The secret is to not look for more time. The secret is to look for more of what you enjoy!
Do we show appreciation or do we just recognize? I just finished a book by Chapman & White called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. It’s a quick read that provides the reader with a chance to identify which form of appreciation they prefer in the workplace. The language preferences are:
1. Words of Affirmation – words of praise are important to you. The preferred way of receiving that praise may look different; as some want it privately and others (like me) prefer it publically. About half the people involved in the research identified affirmation as a primary appreciation language.
2. Quality Time – having focused and uninterrupted time with a colleague or supervisor is important to you. When people don’t give their time to you it sends a message that you are not valued. (I have historically struggled to give this type of appreciation.)
3. Acts of Service – when people pitch in and help you get work done you feel appreciated. Being part of a team where the work is shared and others notice your work by helping get it done is energizing. (This is how I want to be least recognized as I’d rather just do the work by myself.)
4. Tangible Gifts – you want the goods! Those gift cards, movie tickets, small tokens and gifts send a strong value message to you and mean more than mere words. (I won’t say no, and yet, this type of recognition doesn’t carry as much weight for me.)
5. Physical Touch – according to the research, this is the least important form of appreciation in the workplace and no one identified it as their primary language. (I was disappointed to read this because I actually think this might be my preferred form.)
Similar to the majority – I want to hear affirmations. I want to
know the work I do matters and I like to get it verbally, in writing, publically or in private. I will eat it up in any form it comes. I struggle with criticism or silence so I long to hear words about my value. When you add touch to those words, I can feast on that feedback much longer. I love a warm hug, a hand on my arm as I’m being told something, and when someone squeezes my shoulder in a meeting or grabs my hand to emphasize a point, it sends a strong positive message. I don’t have issues with personal space and I long to connect with people through touch. Since this is a language I enjoy – I have to be careful in how I reciprocate it. Not everyone likes to be touched (hard to imagine...)
The most important thing about this book, and accompanying assessment (www.mbainventory.com), is that appreciation needs to be individualized. Appreciation, unlike recognition which is performance based, is very personal and most welcomed when sent in the preferred language of the recipient. How do you send appreciation? Is it based on how you want to receive or have you found ways to make it individualized and situational?
Recently I was in a conversation with a top executive who needs to lead significant culture change in his organization. He recognizes the changes required will disrupt current employees who have gotten quite comfortable with the status quo. They have a tolerance for things that don’t quite work well and in essence have turned a blind eye. Their tolerance impedes them from initiating new ways of doing things. This leader is noticing everything with a new eye and is so uncomfortable with what doesn’t work well, he is prepared to upset the culture and declare a new vision, values and set of behaviors. As a leadership coach I share a combination of worry and excitement for this new initiative.
The excitement needs little explanation – we need energetic, courageous leaders who will declare expectations, confront reality, say what needs to be said and then lead with passion and conviction. The worry stems from what I’ve seen to be true when leaders declare and initiate disruptive change, yet don’t stick around in their leadership positions to sustain the change.
The average leader in a non-profit industry stays in their role 3-5 years. school superintendents have a career span of 2-3 years. Sales industry leaders stay just an average, stark 18 months. Our transient nature as working adults provides lots of freedom and multiple career paths and yet the constant turnover in leadership creates a steady and unsettling churn in organizations. If organizational change doesn’t feel welcome, employees now talk about “outliving” the current leader and waiting them out. One may hear employees say, “Give it time and things will change back, or "This is just another program – it won’t last.” Sound familiar?
Sometimes leadership requires more courage than just taking a stand, declaring change and upsetting the status quo. Sometimes the most courageous thing a leader can do is stay. This requires a commitment many individuals may be reluctant to make, and yet anything else risks sustainment. The next best thing a leader can do is be sure they aren’t the only one carrying the torch of change. Be sure others in leadership are just as committed. Change should never be connected to a single individual.
As a coach, the first question I ask a leader who is about to engage in difficult organizational change is, "Who is with you?" The second question I ask is how they feel about being there for another 7-10 years! Change takes more time than some people are willing to give. When a client is able to realize this, we can have realistic conversations about the type of change they are initiating and what makes the most sense from a sustainment point of view.
Carrie Arnold, PhD, PCC, BCC
Principal Executive Coach & Consultant for The Willow Group (Writer, Reader, Trainer, Facilitator, Wife and Mom)