February 21, 2018

Wasting energy?

Three senior managersWe all like a bit of freedom—the chance to act on our own initiative. Much of the time that’s a good thing.

Recently, however, I’ve been noticing just how much energy can be wasted if everyone is pulling in different directions in an organisation, even if they’re acting with the best of intentions. The result can be a feeling of overload and not having enough resource. In reality, lots of energy is getting wasted in unaligned, incoherent activity, much of which cancels out.

Yes, the organisation may be short of resource—quite likely it is…

Or maybe it has enough resource, if its participants would agree to a little more alignment in what they do—to sacrifice a little autonomy in the interests of a sensible workload.

An important role for leaders then to stimulate a shared sense of purpose that leads to coherent, aligned activity.

Perhaps that means you.

What’s the difference between a building and a “space?”

Mid sized audienceA building is a building is a building, right? Or is it?

What makes the difference between a physical, inert, very tangible building and a much more intangible, somehow vibrant and stimulating “space?”

Some of the answer will be to do with the objects you have in the physical building and how you control the details of the environment.

These things are certainly important.

More than that though, it must be about the attitudes and energies you bring into the building and how you interact with the other people present—what you put into the room, figuratively as well as physically. Perhaps there’s something about these things being valued in common with other people, at some level.

Maybe bricks make a building and people make a space.

What do you do to make the building you inhabit a “space?”

The part that makes the most difference

Woman reflectingWe spend a lot of time thinking about how to change things around us; how to change our organisation and the people in it.

That’s a lot of work. We tend to encounter resistance and often it takes a great deal of energy to make progress.

The reality is…

Sometimes we’ll get more “bang for our buck” working on ourselves first—making the changes we ourselves could do with making.

Then the chances are other people will be influenced to change too.

After all…

If we’re in a leadership position then we’re likely to have the most influence. People will do what we do.

So if we want something different to happen, doing something different ourselves might be a good place to start.

So you survived the recession…

Worried manSo you successfully steered your business through the recession—a significant achievement which no doubt took a lot of courage, determination and energy, and probably involved a fair amount of pain.

You learned a great deal. You established a tight grip. You had good governance.

You’re going to keep these disciplines going. (We may not be out of recession yet, so that’s wise.)

And yet…

You might need something different now, or perhaps more accurately, something else as well.

You might need some innovation and change if you’re not going to be left behind by more adaptable organisations. And if you need some innovation, you might need to loosen up. You might need to create some freedom.

You might need to find a way to balance disorder and order.

Do you know how to do that?

Getting unstuck

Exhausted computer userA reminder of something simple and perhaps basic but really important, which has certainly helped me…

To succeed, yes, we need a vision and a purpose and goals and priorities and all that.

But when we’re stuck; when we’re down, we sometimes can’t do any of it.

Instead, we need to…

Do something—ANYTHING—that moves us even slightly in the direction we need to go, even if that’s just polishing our shoes or painting our nails.

Then we’ll gather momentum and be able to tackle something slightly bigger. Setting our direction can come later. “Ready, fire, aim” as Tom Peters and Robert Waterman put it in “In Search of Excellence.”

Sometimes we don’t have to be that smart, just determined.

At times…

It doesn’t matter a tiny bit which task we do, as long as we do something.

So much starts with managing our energy. They say 50% of winning is showing up.

What about you…

How do you get unstuck?

Once you’ve decided what matters…

Man thinking…everything else doesn’t matter.

We know the benefit of clarity well enough: Getting clear about what matters in a relationship of any kind, or any other context, means we can focus our energies in the most effective way. Once we’ve decided what’s most important, we can concentrate on that.

All pretty familiar.

At least as usefully though, great swathes of less important matters can be ignored once we know—truly know—what’s most cared about, by ourselves or by other people.

And so we can take all that saved energy and apply it in the most important place, or to the most important relationship.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote, if we are not careful, “Our lives are frittered away by detail.”

Sometimes the benefit of knowing what matters flows as much from what we don’t do as what we do do.

Why some arguments are pointless, and how to improve your world in 2012

The earth from space with the sun risingHappy New Year! May it be a good one for you and confound all gloomy predictions.

Often in an extreme can be found its opposite. As atomic physicist, Niels Bohr said, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” Items can seem to have several contradictory characteristics.

Light behaves either as a wave or a stream of particles depending on the experiment—two apparently mutually exclusive properties.

Bohr also said, “everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real” meaning everything we experience involves sub-atomic particles with a dual nature of mass and energy. In other words, all is not what it seems. Our senses deceive us.

For us…

When faced with an argument, the useful question is often not which “truth” is right, but what makes the opposite truths whole; what is the picture in which they both co-exist?

It’s profoundly liberating to stop trying to choose between competing truths and instead hold them both in balance.

What changes in your life if you decide there is not one right answer to a question but two opposite ones? How much energy can be saved from pointless arguments either as participant or onlooker?

You’ll find…

It’s a fundamental change in attitude—and experience—to expect two answers instead of one.

Even in ourselves, we often know deep down the opposite of our own argument is also true. Yet we make others play the other part in our own debate, and they will. They’ll give us back the argumentative energy we put out.

We can choose a different way…

We can reconcile our own inner conflict. Then we will be whole and peaceful in ourselves and experience a world around us that is balanced and calm. And that in fact is the only way. It’s an energy thing.

Saving our world, if that’s not too strong a word, can only start within—with our own return to wholeness.

And we can see pointless arguments for what they are.

All the best for 2012.

Sometimes words get in the way

Sun and treesWe’re in almost complete silence. The background noise level is very low. We hear a little noise from outside, but not much. The winter sun streams in from the large windows. Everyone is aware of everyone else. Nothing is said. Nothing needs to be said. Connections are made in other ways: By the sharing of an experience, by the sharing of a space, by the sharing of energy. Aspects of personal presence are noticed and acknowledged. Individuals are honored and respected. Much is communicated without words being said. Whether people knew each other beforehand or not makes little difference.


I learned a long time ago that the spoken word is often rather unimportant in face-to-face communication. Tone of voice is more important, and more important than that is what is said by our bodies and our energy.

But now I would go further…

Sometimes the spoken word actually gets in the way, and we’re better to leave it out altogether. Our attempts to articulate what we see, feel and hear are often inadequate and we do better just to show these things. Attempts at verbal communication can distract both us and the other person from what really needs to pass between us.

Sometimes it’s better not to speak at all and leave the space to other forms of communication.