The Big Leadership Decision
TIME focus? Or ENERGY focus?
The infamous and highly successful NBA basketball coach, Phil Jackson, was once asked about how he won championships. Phil replied with three short words:
“I pay attention.”
High performance is always activated and sustained by the attention of leadership.
Professional drivers have learned that the car goes where the eyes go. They explain that as you ‘round the corner and see an accident, if you focus on the accident, you become the accident. The first move for the driver is not with the hands. The driver’s first move is to force their eyes (their attention) towards open space (where they want to go), and then the hands and the car automatically follow.
Leaders, in 2019 what will you pay attention to? What will you force your focus towards?
Personal and cultural leadership is always complex, so let’s start with one simple key decision that leaders can make to adjust their attention and heighten their focus.
As we travel North America working with hundreds of clients and their teams, we are noticing a trend that has an un-said, un-talked about undercurrent.
We are noticing that leaders tend to organize their conversations around two general focuses. We are calling these Time-Focussed Leadership and Energy-Focussed Leadership. Obviously, these two focuses are not exclusive, but we are observing that company structures tend to prioritize culture and conversations in one of these two directions.
I have been watching this trend with fascination for a long time. More and more leaders are moving their players (workers) away from the 9 to 5 (put in your time) cultural focus, and towards an energy/outcome/results focus prioritization.
Author Tony Schwartz believes that “Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.” Scott Young elaborates on this concept with reference to the individual. I would like you to also think of this concept within the context of your team culture also as you read:
“Energy management, unlike time management, is a cyclical process, not a linear one. Time management, being linear, is simply the process of organizing and prioritizing your day so that you can get the more value in a shorter unit of time. In other words, your goal with time management is to effectively compress, organize and prioritize activities for maximum efficiency.
Energy management doesn’t work that way. Energy works in a similar system as a currency like money. In other words, after you’ve spent it, you need to regain some more before you try to spend again. Otherwise you end up going into a deficit.
Energy deficits aren’t pretty. You know you are in an energy deficit when you are tired, irritable, stressed, frustrated and generally unenthusiastic. Ultimately a check and balance must be made. When your body, mind, emotions and spirit finally declare bankruptcy, you crash and burn out as the eventual price of poor energy management is.
The cycle of perfect energy management is one where you are fully engaged and using all of your resources for maximum productivity, followed by a period of intensive recovery where you regain all of your energy for the task ahead. Is this what most people do? No, of course not. Most people in today’s fast-paced world think that they can short-change the energy recovery process. Going further and further into energy deficit, they somehow believe that these rules of energy management don’t apply to them.”
Reading that passage prompted a key 2019 question for me: are we forcing a cyclical process into a linear structure? Is the energy generation of our culture trying to play out within the linear thinking structure of our day timer, Outlook or Google Calendar?
You may have heard me say in a prior newsletter, blog, or live event that culture turns on language. Cultural language generates huge influence on cultural environment. I encourage you to listen to the difference between Time-Focussed Language and Energy-Focussed Language.
Successful leaders know the importance of their voice in shaping the thinking and conversations of their culture. Fostering metacognition (helping our people think about what they are thinking about) is often best stimulated through questions. Let’s listen-in to the following sets of questions that leaders generate conversations around.
Did you put in your time this week?
Why were you late?
Why did you leave early?
How long will this project take?
When will you close that client?
Are you paying attention to the time you are spending on this week’s project?
When will you be back?
How do you think we could squeeze more production into our schedule?
Can you share a couple of ways that you supplied energy to our team last week?
How are you feeling about our team?
What part of your job do you like best?
What is your sense of our cultural energy these days?
How could we increase positivity throughout the office?
What are you personally doing to keep your energy high?
Did you get to the gym this week?
How was your high energy/low energy ratio this past week?
Time-Focussed questions tend to focus on Past or Future Negative constraints. Energy-Focussed questions usually focus on Future Positive expansion or increasing personal player enthusiasm. Don’t get me wrong! Time-Focus is important, but does it dominate your cultural conversations and influence your structure? And most importantly, does it dominate the leadership conversations that you have with your people?
Most leaders believe that both Time-Focus and Energy-Focus are important. This prompts another solid question to start your 2019: What is our Time Focus/Energy Focus conversation ratio today, and to hit our 2019 plan, what should this ratio look like? In other words, how much focus should be placed on TIME vs ENERGY? Do we focus the eyes of our culture on increasing time management or increasing team energy? And which focus activates the cultural environment that we desire?
In his HBR article, “How a Culture of Silence Eats Away at Your Company,” David Maxfield reports that if cultural environments do not prioritize an open opportunity for cultural dialogue and people do not speak up, people often resorted to the following:
* complaining to others (78%),
* doing extra or unnecessary work (66%),
* ruminating about the problem (53%),
* getting angry (50%).
An over-prioritized Time-Focus might fail to see the importance of opening up cultural conversations, and regarding them instead as soft, petty, unnecessary or time-wasting.
Or, as many of my hockey coaches in the 1970s might have said, “Don’t give me any of that culture stuff; just put in more time, just work harder.”
Listen-in this week to the conversations of your team. Do people talk more about scheduling time than positivity and accomplishment? Are the conversations more about not having enough time to get things done or more about enjoying the team and looking forward to next week’s client challenge?
What will drive the success of your business or team over the next 4 quarters - increasing the Time-focus or increasing the Energy-Focus of your people?