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Expanding and Managing Energy for Greater Productivity, Engagement, and Health

There’s a human energy crisis in the business world. Managers and employees have endured the worst economic downturn in 60 years. The demands on our energy are at an all-time high.  Everyone in the workplace is under constant pressure to perform. We are asked to do more with less--to be more productive and to reach greater levels of profitability.

The result is a steady deterioration process for many employees.  As the demands on our energy far exceed our supply, it leads to fatigue which, among other things, makes us irritable and uncommunicative at home and at work. This behavior negatively affects our family relationships and we begin to resent work. The cycle continues and our engagement level at work falters and becomes progressively worse.

Eventually, this leads to a toxic level of disengagement.

This is an all too common scenario. To meet the increasing demands, many individuals sacrifice their health, family, and personal happiness. The most critical resource we have as human beings is our energy, and most of us fail to manage it effectively.

How can firms reverse the tide? The Human Performance Institute (HPI) has a proven approach based on 30 years of experience in high-performance arenas in the fields of business, sports, law enforcement, medicine, and the military.  Our experience includes working with corporate executives, world-class athletes, FBI agents, special-forces personnel, nuclear operators, and air traffic controllers.

Manage Energy, Not Just Time
Many businesses focus on managing time.  What we discovered at HPI is that leaders need to focus on expanding and managing energy—not time. It’s not the time you devote to your work or family that brings real value, but the energy you bring to the time you have.
When employees are experiencing lots of negative emotions such as anger or fear, they can be likened to gas-guzzling energy-inefficient cars. That’s a real problem because nobody has energy to waste. It’s simply a demand and supply issue.
Taking Care of Business
What we’ve found is that effectively managing energy requires training like an elite athlete—not an athlete in sports but a corporate athlete. How employees take care of their bodies has a significant effect on their ability to perform in high-stress environments. The bottom line: Taking care of your body is taking care of business.

Ample physical energy provides the foundation, but today’s workers need their full and best energy. They need to expand and maximize their energy to perform at their best and stay fully engaged at work and at home.  Beyond being physically healthier, every worker needs to be:

• Emotionally connected so that positive emotions dominate in the work environment.  
• Mentally focused on the task at hand with a positive mindset.
• Spiritually aligned with the work mission.

By taking this holistic approach, you can achieve your full and best energy. This is what it means to be fully engaged.

A Success Story 
We’ve used this approach with a variety of firms to

• Help their employees live more productive, healthier, happier, more balanced lives by managing their health risk factors and using their energy to become more engaged.
• Create a great place to work for their employees.
• Help generate lower health care costs.

Recently, for example, we worked with Citi Smith Barney to train 80 of the firm’s top financial advisers. Working with CEG Worldwide, a financial services consulting firm, we developed a new internal training program for Citi Smith Barney called Vista which included our Corporate Athlete® Course.

The goals of the Vista program were to help advisers attain physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being so that they will put more energy and enthusiasm into their work and personal lives.

The Corporate Athlete® Course started with a physical evaluation. Advisors were tested for cardiovascular fitness, body composition, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar. This is important because physical energy is generated by the correct balance of glucose and oxygen. To promote efficient oxygen transport, you need to exercise.  In order to maintain the proper level of glucose in cells, you need carefully regulated dietary intake.

The results of the tests were alarming—a wake-up call for many.  When the results were announced, one participant described the experience as “one of the most profound moments I’ve ever witnessed. It was an epiphany.”

This was the beginning of a holistic multistep process in which participants evaluated how they could improve in life and at work. Key elements of the program included: 

• Articulate your ultimate mission. Define where you need to invest your energy to achieve a successful home and work life.  
• Evaluate yourself and face the truth. Where is your energy invested?
• Develop a 90-day Training Mission to make changes.
• Articulate Your “Old Story.”  How you think about a task—your private voice—will affect how you approach a challenge.  The tone and content of your private voice will determine your success or failure. Thinking in a negative way about a challenge will make you less likely to succeed.   
• Create Your “New Story.”  Develop a more positive “script” for your private voice going forward.  World-class athletes and people in high-stress jobs—such as military pilots—avoid thinking in negative terms.  For them, a challenge is an opportunity to stretch and grow. 
• Embed Supportive Rituals. Athletes sharpen their focus and maintain concentration by developing supportive rituals. For example, a basketball player may dribble the ball exactly three times and take a deep breath before each free throw. Going through this type of ritual process grounds your new story in behavioral reality.
• Create accountability and support at work and home.  

Six months into the year-long pilot, early results showed participants out-performed a Smith Barney peer group in key areas such as revenue, assets under management, and client acquisition and retention. Citi Smith Barney was so pleased with the results, it recently introduced components of the Corporate Athlete® Course firmwide.

The Time Is Now
As the economy recovers, many firms have a critical mass of employees who are toxically disengaged. Those firms who invest in their employees will be positioned to take full advantage of the economic rebound and gain a sustainable edge.  By taking a more holistic approach, firms can create a great place to work, generate lower health care costs, and most important help employees live more productive, healthier, happier, and balanced lives at home and work.


About the Author(s)

Jim Loehr, Ph.D. Jim Loehr, Ph.D. is a co-founder of the Human Performance Institute (www.hpinstitute.com). He is the author of 15 books, including his most recent, The Power of Story. He also co-authored the bestseller The Power of Full Engagement. Dr. Loehr’s science-based energy management training system has been chronicled in leading national publications including the Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Fortune, Newsweek, and others. He has also appeared on many national TV shows, including NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Nightline, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the Oprah Winfrey Show.