Tag Archive for: Energy

Rethinking Employee Engagement: What If It Isn’t About The Boss?

I define engagement in the workplace as the desire and capacity of employees to go the extra mile to help their organization succeed while finding meaning and significance in the work they do. There are no doubt bad bosses and toxic work environments that deplete you, just as there are great bosses who inspire you. But engagement is ultimately about energy, not bosses. Our level of engagement is impacted by our level of physical energy, emotional connection, mental strength, and spiritual alignment to a purpose beyond immediate self-interest. Bosses and your relationship to them are just one form of energy. There are dozens of others. If you are committed to being engaged, be aware of your energy and how your perceptions, choices, and environment impact your vitality.

Physical Energy: What you eat for breakfast or lunch affects your energy, as does the amount of sugar you consume, the amount of exercise you get, and the quantity and quality of your rest and sleep. Because energy capacity diminishes with both overuse and underuse, it is important to balance energy outflow with a consistent habit of energy renewal. Energy is not limitless. And physical energy fuels engagement. What are you doing to renew your vital reserve?

Emotional Connection: We all know that the quality of our connections impacts our energy. Be mindful of the people in your life that drain you and those that inspire and sustain you. Be aware of how your perceptions and choices impact these connections. Who you choose to be around, just as how you choose to be around them will affect your energy. Making room for activities that bring you joy, just as making time for people who bring you joy, will increase your energy.

Mental Strength: A pessimistic outlook on life drains vital energy, while optimism is a life giver. It’s good habit to learn to be optimistic. I had to train myself to wake up grateful and positive. Learning to be disciplined, to do the difficult tasks first, to tell the truth, to keep a promise, or to stick to a challenging undertaking when it is easier to give up, are all habits that renew essential energy. Like eating sweets, blaming others might give you a temporary high, but it will drain you of energy in the long run. Personal responsibility, on the other hand, is energy producing. How you approach life will affect your energy.

Spiritual Alignment: Discovering and living in accord with your deepest values, aligning with a sense of purpose, pinpointing your passions, or making a contribution, are all energy enhancing pursuits that enable engagement. A life that is purpose driven is an engaged life. Expanding spiritual capacity requires subordinating our own needs to something beyond self-interest. Those who have found a reason for coming to work – beyond merely completing a task or carrying out a chore or getting a paycheck – are the ones who truly enjoy their work and being alive. Finding spiritual alignment fills you up.

While bosses and your relationship to them no doubt impacts energy, the more we take accountability for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered, productive, and fulfilled we become. Blaming your boss for your lack of energy can be just as much of an energy drainer as having the bad boss to begin with. Maybe it’s time to rethink employee engagement: what if it isn’t about the boss?

INTERCEPTING ENTROPY How Are You Infusing New Energy?

On the way home from a family reunion, my sister and I stopped to visit the old farm where we were raised. We hadn’t been back to our homestead since my parents sold it in 1984.

What we found was twenty-eight years of neglect. Weeds were growing up to our waist. Pastures and fences were completely neglected. What used to be a beautiful retreat center had deteriorated to a dilapidated, collapsing barely recognizable shack. There had been virtually no upkeep to the property or the trails in the forest for nearly three decades. We knew not to bring expectations into our visit, but what we discovered was unimaginably deplorable. While we left with joy and gratitude from reminiscing about a good upbringing and wonderful memories, we also left with broken hearts.

What was illustrated to us that day was the second law of thermodynamics: anything left to itself will, over time, lose it’s energy and break down until it reaches its most elemental form. Anything that is not intentionally renewed will break down. Neglect your body, and it will deteriorate. Neglect your car, and it will deteriorate. Watch TV every available hour, and your mind will deteriorate. Have you ever met someone who allowed their career, creative self, mind, relationships, house, or health to deteriorate for twenty-eight years?

While there’s no immunity from entropy as everything eventually breaks down and dies, you can interrupt it, bring renewal to potential deterioration, and slow the process. All things need attention and care. “Use it, or lose it,” the maxim goes. And you can’t blame bad bosses, an ailing health care system, or your marriage partner.

In his book, “Leadership is an Art”, Max Depree expresses that one of the most important responsibilities of a leader is the “interception of entropy.” Intercepting entropy around you begins with intercepting entropy within you. Research indicates that when you have a habit of renewing your health, mind, and relationships, you are a better leader.

While rotting wood, broken windows, weeds, and overgrown vegetation are signs of entropy in and around a house, here are some indicators of entropy in an organization:

  • A dark tension among people
  • No time for celebration and enjoyment or ritual
  • People have difficulty with words like “responsibility”, “service” or “trust”
  • People see customers as impositions on their time rather than opportunities to serve
  • “Getting the job done” takes priority over meeting the needs of people
  • Entitlement and self-interest
  • Problem-makers outnumber problem-solvers
  • Leaders seek to control rather than trust
  • Pressures of day-to-day operations push aside the commitment to vision and values
  • A loss of confidence in judgment, experience and wisdom
  • People forget to say thank you

A leader must be alert to head off entropy by:

  • Infusions of outside energy. Bring in new ideas, relationships, and new ways of thinking about your problems.
  • Communicating vision in fresh ways.
  • Staying in touch with the people you serve: take time to connect, listen, call people by their name, care.
  • Expressing recognition and appreciation relentlessly.
  • Bringing in passion – for excellence, for people, for the work you do.
  • Taking time in your conversations and team meetings to answer these questions: “What is entropy? How might entropy be evident here?” Discuss the idea that “all things need watching, attending to, caring for…”
  • Replacing entitlement and self-interest with gratitude and service.

What creative ways have you found to counter entropy, either in your life or your organization? If you aren’t mindful and intentional, the weeds of entropy will begin consuming your energy.