We think of shoestring budgets in terms of finances — we need to achieve an outcome with limited funds and we must find creative ways to pull off miracles. But have you also felt that your energy is also operating on a shoestring?
It’s more than just not having the time you need to do everything you need to. It’s finding yourself in situations where you know if you had the right energy and presence you would sail through as the competent leader that you are but on this particular day you overreacted and fell short of what your team needed from you. If it is hard to look back and not cringe it’s a good thing because it means you noticed!
Unlike our finances (where bargains can generally be found given the right end of season sale), the demands facing leaders today often will settle for no less than a high level of presence and energy to cut through the noise and distraction to get to the source of complex issues. This works well when your energy is available but can be an uphill battle when it is not.
Ask yourself: do you have sufficient energy to meet the expected and unexpected demands of your role or are you operating on minimal reserves? All too often leaders describe themselves as struggling to get through the demands of meetings in their diary and then when the day ends it’s time to start again to finally deal with the necessary follow-through and planning. Even worse, in some workplaces the busy diary is almost like a badge of honour worn with pride and a sense of self-importance. This is not a universal phenomenon however. In countries like Denmark where the 35 hour working week is considered quite standard, people complaining of being constantly busy are more likely to be viewed as ineffective and disorganised.
So how can you start to address this?
First with viewing your energy as a valuable resource to be wisely spent!
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- Are you in meetings that you don’t need to attend (or staying for longer than you need to stay?)
- Which activities in your role do you find energizing and which activities draining and what can you pass on to others to do?
- Can you shift from a time management to an energy management perspective with your diary?
- How does your level of energy impact the people around you (some leaders are more likely to attend to their energy if they know they are doing it for others!).
- Last time you were away, who managed aspects of your role competently and could you be blocking someone else by being so busy?
- What is the balance of your operational and strategic focus for optimising your energy at work?
- Are you still in touch with the joy factor at work and if not how can you restore it?
The next step is to come back to your intention and purpose in your role? Energy is often raised when we feel connected with a larger purpose and cause in what we do.
- Are you managing to include purposeful activity that gives you joy or feeds your sense of purpose?
- What is the most useful energy for you to tap into – is it about calm or it is more about vitality?
- What are your warning signs that your energy is flagging? And what would inspire you to refuel?
And finally our energy is often reflective of the balance between our life and our work.
- Have you identified the right balance of working hours to be at your optimum?
- Are you keeping so busy at work to avoid facing something in your personal life and if so what would enrich you outside of work?
- What resources would help you find your energetic balance and restore a sense of vitality? One person’s kick-boxing class is another person’s yoga!
Does your role and for that matter your life allow you to operate on an energetic shoestring or is there too much at stake and too much to miss?