RefuelHow are you feeling . . . right now? Are you energized and ready to take on the world? If so, wouldn’t it be nice to know how to maintain that full tank of motivation over the long term? And if you are not feeling so great about your own energy level, or that of your team, perhaps a few tips on how to refuel and get your passion back on track are in order.

Tony Schwartz has written extensively on fueling an organization’s potential, and has identified four basic energy needs that, when met, lead to higher performance: renewal (physical); value (emotional); focus (mental); and purpose (spiritual). That seems pretty self-evident, right? When we are well rested, appreciated, and can focus on things that we are passionate about, both our energy level and our performance are likely to improve. You might be surprised, however, at how much of an impact these factors actually have on fueling performance.

Schwartz, together with Christine Porath, conducted a survey with the Harvard Business Review which demonstrated that when even one of an employee’s basic energy needs has been met (that is, their tank is ¼ full), there is a 30% increase in their ability to focus and a nearly 50% increase in their level of engagement. If all four needs are met — when their tank is full — the engagement levels increase to 125%! In addition, the study indicated that when all four energy needs are met, there is a 72% drop in employees’ stress levels.

Addressing your employees’ basic energy needs isn’t costly. It doesn’t require implementing a complex new program or require a huge allocation of time.

  • Encourage your staff (and model the behavior yourself!) to take 10 – 15-minute breaks at regular intervals where they physically step away from their desk or other work environments.
  • Express your appreciation to others — in detailed, specific ways. Get creative in letting others know you value their efforts.
  • Take steps to reduce interruptions when working on a project. Encourage your staff to put the phone down and ignore the ping of email to increase their focus.
  • Find ways for staff to spend time doing the things that they do best, or find enjoyable, or that make a positive difference.

Renew. Value. Focus. Purpose.

Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual.

Where is your energy level running? How about that of your staff? If the tank is running a bit low, maybe it’s time to step away from the computer and take a few minutes to refuel.

White Space

White SpaceHave you ever looked at a report/newsletter/publication of one type or another and at first glance it looked so overwhelming that you simply put it on the stack . . . you know the one . . . the stack of stuff you’re going to go through when you have time, even though deep down you know that you will never really get to it? Yeah, that one. So what’s the difference between the things that go in the stack and those that you actually read/respond to? My guess is white space. Really! White space makes things more appealing, more approachable, less intimidating. It allows you to breathe. (I’m not making that up . . . it’s a legitimate design philosophy!)

So how much white space is there in your leadership?

Do you come across so bursting at the seams with ideas/plans/stuff that you overwhelm people? Do they put your ideas “in their stack” to deal with once they get through the crisis of the day, but never really get back to it? Are you surprised/frustrated/disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm you receive for what you are sure is an awesome plan? White space.

White space doesn’t mean you dilute the idea, simply that you give it room to breathe . . . to hear what others are thinking about the plan, and how it might impact the other 57 things on their plate at the moment. White space gives focus and importance to the things held within it. White space may mean that you carve out dedicated time to discuss a concept rather than dump it on someone in a drive-by conversation. It may mean that you give people time to ponder and reflect before you ask for their input. White space requires distillation. It’s easier to include every detail rather than boil an idea down to the most important elements. White space requires discipline, and it makes an impact.

And what about you? Do you allow yourself white space? If you’re going full tilt 24/7, when do you have time to learn, to reflect, to renew? How many times have you had a great idea in the shower, or when you were “goofing off” or letting your mind wander. White space. How long has it been since you carved out time for letting your brain breathe? I’m not talking about vegging out in front of the TV or losing several hours to social media. I mean getting outside, or diving headlong into a good book; learning something new or cooking a gourmet meal. The great ideas are in there, just waiting for you to slow down enough for them to unfold.

And all it takes it white space.

Leadership Lessons Born in a Manger

Nativity Scene

How many leaders today could even fathom their impact being felt throughout the world for more than 2,000 years? Truly, from the most humble of earthly beginnings came the greatest leader that any person could strive to emulate. In this Christmas Season, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, it seems most appropriate to reflect on a few leadership lessons born in a manger.

  1. He was humble, yet would not be deterred from his mission. Twenty centuries later, Jim Collins would describe this as Level 5 Leadership — a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. Jesus set an unreachable bar in terms of knowing it was not about him, but it was up to him. Just because the bar is unreachable doesn’t mean you and I shouldn’t strive to follow his example and make sure the focus stays on the what, not the who.
  2. He never lost sight of the big picture, or the importance of little things. Here was a man who clearly knew how things ultimately needed to unfold. In spite, or perhaps because, of that he took time for the little things — an individual conversation or blessing, a meal with friends — that would forever impact those he touched. How many of us either get consumed by the what-ifs, or distracted by the details, and ultimately diminish our impact?
  3. He recognized, and built on, the gifts and graces of his team. With all due respect, it was a rather motley crew that he called to serve as his disciples. And then there was Saul (before his conversion to Paul). Seriously, who among us would bring someone who was persecuting us into the fold? And yet, Jesus saw the gifts and graces within each of these souls. Are we as leaders willing to look beyond the safe bet, the likely candidate, to build on the potential hidden in unlikely wrappers? How might we extend our mission reach if we took that risk?
  4. He took time to renew his spirit. I know, I know, we don’t have time to step back . . . demands are coming from every direction . . . our staff are seeking guidance . . . a deadline is looming . . . Um, hello, Jesus had to deal with, among other things, 5000 hungry people, a panicked staff, and two loaves and fishes, and yet he still found time to be by himself. If the Son of God needs time for rest and renewal, do you think maybe, just maybe, we mere mortals could improve our performance by taking a deep breath every once in a while?

Clearly, I am no theologian . . . but I do consider myself a student, and one who has barely scratched the surface of the many leadership — and life — lessons born in a manger so many years ago. As you listen to the carols, and perhaps walk past a nativity set, I hope you’ll take a few moments to reflect . . . not only on the babe in the manger, but also on the rich lessons His life holds for all of us who are called to lead. May you and yours have a most blessed Christmas Season.