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Engaging Leader™

174: Managing Willpower for What Matters Most

Willpower is the ability to control yourself to determine your actions. It allows you (and your team) to accomplish what matters most to you — solving a business problem, losing weight, cornering the market, getting out of debt, etc.

To control many of your actions, you can use selected disciplines to build a powerful habit. But to control other actions in any given day, it requires the power of will — a vital part of the self-management that’s necessary for leadership and personal success.

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Engaging Leader™

073: 14 More Ways Leaders Re-charge Their Batteries: How to Increase Energy, Improve Mood, and Manage Stress

chargebatteryFollowing up on the previous episode, Jesse and his wife Erin discuss 14 additional tactics to increase energy, improve mood, and manage stress. These re-charging tactics may not all work for you, based on your personal wiring and season of life. Pick 1-3 tactics to try this week or month. Keep what works, discard what doesn’t, and try an additional tactic or two later.

For additional details and links regarding these re-charging tactics, visit Jesse’s blog post 28 Ways Leaders Re-charge Their Batteries.

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If you like our show, please rate us on iTunes. That makes a huge difference in helping more people discover it. We love to know your thoughts about this episode. Please submit your comments below! You can also email comments to Jesse at [email protected], subscribe to him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

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Engaging Leader™

072: 14 Ways Leaders Re-charge Their Batteries: How to Increase Energy, Improve Mood, and Manage Stress

How Leaders Recharge Their Batteries | EngagingLeader.com | Photo courtesy of depositphotos.com (29853585).As leaders, we are wired for action, for serving others, for carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. But we need to invest in re-energizing practices; otherwise we risk “killing the golden goose” by sapping our health and/or losing our passion.

Jesse and his wife Erin have noticed that it can be particularly difficult to keep our batteries charged in the winter. Among the many reasons: less sunlight, harsher weather resulting in less time outdoors, and more temptations for unhealthy eating and drinking. Over the years they have researched and experimented with tactics to increase energy, improve mood, and manage stress. They are now ready to share their findings!

In this episode, Jesse and Erin discuss 14 re-charging tactics they have personally found effective.

For additional details and links regarding these re-charging tactics, visit Jesse’s blog post 28 Ways Leaders Re-charge Their Batteries.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

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If you like our show, please rate us on iTunes. That makes a huge difference in helping more people discover it. We love to know your thoughts about this episode. Please submit your comments below! You can also email comments to Jesse at [email protected], subscribe to him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

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28 Ways Leaders Re-charge Their Batteries: How to Increase Energy, Improve Mood, and Manage Stress

How Leaders Recharge Their Batteries | EngagingLeader.com | Photo courtesy of depositphotos.com (29853585).In 2006, Google became concerned that their highly intelligent, passionate employees were burning out.

The effect on Google was significant: illness, lost innovation (even though people still worked long hours), and turnover. In 2007, the company experimented with training 15 director-level Googlers on healthy energy management. Based on the results, Google began expanding the program to other employees; by 2013, about 7,000 Googlers had completed The Energy Project training course.

If Google – widely acclaimed as a high-performing, data-driven company – believes personal energy management is a high priority, what about you and your team?

Like many leaders, I find it more difficult to keep my batteries charged in the winter (and especially during the holidays). Among the many reasons: less sunlight, harsher weather resulting in less time outdoors, and more temptations for unhealthy eating and drinking.

Here are the re-charging tactics that I have personally found effective over the years:

  • Eating right. Nothing impacts energy more than how you eat. Finding the right mix of foods (especially protein, veggies, fruits, and limited starches) that supports your specific metabolism can mean the difference between distraction, overwhelm, and sluggishness on the one hand, or focus, creativity, and action on the other hand. One of the best resources I’ve found is the book The New Me Diet (though the writing could be better, the concepts work.)
  • Moving more. Some years ago, I looked forward to a few drinks at the end of the work day to relax; unfortunately, the effect only lasted an hour or so. Then I discovered that getting some exercise provided a relaxing (and paradoxically energizing) effect that lasted all evening. Here are four types of physical activity that make a difference for me:
    • Walking. Perhaps the greatest stress reliever is walking 20-60 minutes each day. Furthermore, walking resets your metabolism resulting in healthier energy levels and improved weight. Steve Jobs famously used walking as a preferred way to hold meetings. Don’t think of walking as exercise; think of it as boosting energy, metabolism, and creativity.
    • High-intensity short workouts. Although I’m a marathoner and triathlete, I’ve come to the conclusion that long workouts are much less impactful on my health than high-intensity, short workouts. It’s amazing how 20 minutes can relieve stress, boost energy, and improve metabolism – with the resulting lasting for many hours. I hate these workouts because they are so hard, but I love their efficiency and results. I typically do three high-intensity works each week, alternating between cardio intervals, strength circuits, or a cardio/strength mix depending on my mood.
    • Long run or bike ride. I still like to do a long (1-2 hours or even more) run or bike ride about once a week. There is something about endorphins and solitude that is incredibly relaxing and re-energizing.
    • Stretching, yoga, or similar activities. The older I get, the more I discover that bad things happen when I don’t do proper stretching 1-3 times each week. Many middle-age people mistake these pains and injuries as signs they should stop their active lifestyle; I thought the same thing after some ankle and knee issues, but I learned that five minutes of stretching solved the problems. Twenty minutes of yoga, once or twice a week, goes even further and seems to improve my mood and energy.
  • Sleeping. It’s the most-underrated performance booster. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night is the #1 risk factor for burnout. And in The Energy Audit survey of over 148,000 people worldwide, 59% said they don’t regularly get at least 7-8 hours of sleep and/or often wake up feeling tired. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep restores your body and mind, and (assuming you don’t eat for at least two hours before bedtime) resets a healthy metabolism by giving your body time to burn fat.
  • Eat-Move-Sleep virtual cycle. “These three elements – eating, moving, and sleeping – build on one another,” says researcher and bestselling author Tom Rath . “As a result, working on all three at once is easier than focusing on one area in isolation.” Harvard’s Russell Sanna called them the three pillars of health.
  • Sex. You didn’t really need me to remind you of this, did you? Seriously, it can be difficult to make time for sex. Sometimes one or the other spouse isn’t quite in the mood. My suggestion: for the sake of your relationship and your energy, commit to at least a “quickie” X times per week (where X is determined based on your personal needs). It’s a wonderful secret of marriage romance that quickies often transform into memorable times together.
  • Light. The effect of natural light on your energy levels is surprising. Despite proving it to myself over and over again, I tend to discount the enormous impact of light on my energy levels. I try to get at least 30-60 minutes outside every day. In the winter, I make it an even bigger priority on sunny days, and I also run a Phillips goLITE on my desk for about 30 minutes each morning.
  • Supplements. I use ADAM™ Men’s Multiple Vitamin. I also take Vitamin D; in the warm months, I take 1,000 IU per day; in the cold months, I take 5,000 IU per day. During winter months, I also take one daily capsule of Moodlift Complex, a Shaklee product that I buy through a family member (though probably any quality source of St. John’s wort would be effective). During stressful seasons of life, I also take natural supplements to support healthy adrenal and thyroid functioning.
  • Alone time. Some people need more solitude than others; I find that my energy drains if I spend too much time interacting with others (especially electronically). Channel your inner-introvert and spend some time in nature, in self-reflection, reading, creative writing, etc.
  • Flying with eagles. I also get low energy if I don’t spend enough time with people I call “eagles” – energetic, optimistic people who love to kick around new ideas with me. Erin and I enjoy double-dates with couples who are mutually energizing. In addition, I periodically have breakfast or lunch with business, church, and community leaders whose energy I plug into (and vice versa).
  • Travel or other ways to change the scenery. Sometimes, I just can’t get my mind off work. In those moments, even a couple days around home doesn’t work; everything I see reminds me of something that needs to be done, and my energy just won’t re-charge. Unless I’ve recently been doing a lot of business travel, I’ve found that 1-3 days away can be a big energy boost. For me personally, it’s most energizing to travel with one other person (such as Erin or one of my kids) rather than alone or with my whole family.
  • Unplugging completely. The effects of 24/7 connectivity have been well documented. First, there’s the feeling of “always on” and the apparent obligation to respond to everyone who contacts you or shares a Facebook update. Second, there’s the artificial light that works against the circadian rhythms. Whether for a day, a weekend, or an entire vacation, re-charge your batteries by avoiding things that require their own batteries.
  • Vacation. I know of one executive coach who advises clients to take a week of vacation every six weeks. It’s during those times away, he says, they get the ideas that end up making them millions of dollars.
  • Volunteering. Getting the focus off yourself, and investing in the lives of other people, can be surprisingly re-energizing.
  • Coaching. Leadership can be isolating. It may feel difficult to talk frankly about problems facing you, either with people at work or with loved ones. I find it liberating to talk to someone with experience and coaching skills to help me sort through issues from an outside perspective. (If looking for an executive coach, consider our podcast guests Tom Henschel, Achim Nowak, or George Bradt.)
  • Short breaks. Brief mental breaks help you stay focused on your task. According to The Energy Project, intermittent renewal fuels higher productivity. After working an hour or two, take a 1-5 minute stretch or stroll around the office. Half-way through your day, take a 20-minute walk or nap
  • Learning something new. I personally get jazzed up when I learn a new principle or skill. This can be particilarly stress-relieving if it’s not related to my work –for example, one winter I took guitar lessons, and the next winter I took karate lessons.
  • Re-establish routine and healthy habits. Sometimes when my energy is low, I notice that I’ve fallen into a lifestyle that feels a bit chaotic – for example, after a lot of business travel, or after a week or two off at Christmastime. By re-committing to a consistent bedtime and waking time, I start feeling better after only one day. Other routines that make a difference are healthy meals, exercise, and setting boundaries on work times.
  • Limiting stimulants (like caffeine or sugary foods/drinks). If I notice myself drinking more coffee or soda, or snacking, it’s usually because my energy feels low. Paradoxically, these crutches actually make things worse. I remind myself: sleep is the new caffeine.
  • Limiting depressants (such as alcohol). Again, these are crutches that don’t actually help in the long run. I remind myself: exercise is the new alcohol.
  • Smiling and laughter. Don’t take yourself or your work too seriously. Even God isn’t panicking about all the world’s problems. Lighten up, share some humor with others, and enjoy the journey.
  • Stopping. This is really hard; as leaders, we tend to favor starting and doing – not stopping. But simplifying your work and life can be powerful. By saying “no” to things that have creeped onto your to-do list, you can say “yes” to the things you are most passionate about. What do you need to stop today?

The idea for this post came from Bill Holston, executive director of a non-profit organization. When I asked Bill for his own experience on re-charging, he added these great tips:

  • Nature. “Getting out in nature is the number one way I re-energize. There are several reasons for this. It forces me not to think about anything else, to reflect on keeping balance, being dry, and not getting lost. It also is a perspective-giver, the grandeur of nature is a great reminder that it’s not all about me. It’s also the best way to experience quiet reflection in solitude.”
  • Journaling. “I combine a journal with my time in nature. This helps me to look back and notice themes and patterns in my thoughts and anxieties.”
  • Art. “My wife and I are subscribers to local theater and try to take in art shows, openings, and other cultural events. These provide networking opportunities for my non-profit and also keep me engaged in areas outside our mission.”

These re-charging tactics may not all work for you, based on your personal wiring and season of life. I certainly wouldn’t try more than a handful at a time – otherwise the pressure to do all of them will actually create stress.

Pick 1-3 tactics to try this week or month. Keep what works, discard what doesn’t, and try an additional tactic or two later. Keep experimenting, and keep notes about your findings. Often I will experience a long period of high energy; later when I need to re-charge, I will have forgotten which tactics were most effective for me unless I look at my notes.

As leaders, we are wired for action, for serving others, for carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. As Google discovered, we need to invest some time and learning into re-energizes practices like these. Otherwise we risk “killing the golden goose” by sapping our health and/or losing our passion.

What have you found to be the most effective ways to re-charge your batteries?

Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast and managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. If you know anyone who would benefit from this information, please share it!

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Are You an Energy Leader, or an Energy Drainer? Test Yourself.

Are You an Energy Leader, or an Energy Drainer? Photo courtesy of DepositPhotos.com (alexkalina #1011294)In his upcoming book Die Empty, (releasing 9/26), Todd Henry explains the importance of establishing a personal “code of ethics,” which is a set of lenses that defines how you engage in your work. One of Henry’s own ethics has been “Energizing.”

I would add more energy to any situation than I took away. I would refuse to be an energy drain. – Todd Henry, Die Empty

I’ll bet you can think of many times – probably very recently – when a leader drained energy from you, or from an entire roomful of people. As a leader, have you been guilty of this?

Successful public speakers know they must be the “energy leader” in the room. Regardless of whether their speaking style is quiet or bold, they learn to serve the audience in a way that adds energy. As a result, the audience is inspired and challenged to take action – they leave with a light in their eyes. As a people leader, isn’t it just as critical that you are an Energy Leader, rather than an Energy Drainer?

Self-Assement

Think about your most recent meeting: what you were thinking about, what you were doing, and how the other people in the meeting were responding. For each of the following six questions, decide whether you were an Energy Drainer or Energy Leader; then place one point in the appropriate column.

Energy Leader Self-Assessment | EngagingLeader.com

Add up the total points in each column. Did you score more Energy Drainer points, or more Energy Leader points? How can you improve your energy leadership?

Three Myths about Energy Leaders

There are three misperceptions that prevent many people from even trying to be an Energy Leaders.

  • Myth: Only extraverts can be Energy Leaders. As Akim Nowak explains in Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within, there are many ways to add energy that have nothing to do with being extraverted or the center of attention. Nowak’s book provides five “power plugs” to help anyone do just that.
  • Myth: Being an Energy Leader involves pouring all your energy into others, with the result that you become personally depleted. For most of us, leading can involve interactions that leave you exhausted. But that should be the exception. Nowak’s book can help you learn to change the nature of most interactions to mutually energize you and others. To make up for the times that do de-energize you, identify practices in your life that will keep you energized, and make time for them.

I draw energy from people. Lots and lots of it. And I draw energy from my thoughts [occasional solitude, writing, walks in nature, reading a book]. Lots and lots of it. – Achim Nowak, Infectious

  • Myth: Energy Leaders give but never take. Energy Leaders draw energy from others, but they don’t drain energy from others. That’s an important distinction. In astronomy, a black hole is a gravitational monster that prevents any matter or energy (including light) from escaping. Don’t be a black hole!

Six Ways to Be an Energy Leader

To be an Energy Leader rather than an Energy Drainer, these six steps are a great place to start:

  • Focus on other people, rather than yourself.
  • Focus on making a difference in people’s lives.
  • Be fully present by focusing on the “now.”
  • Talk less; view your role more as listener and facilitator.
  • Look into other people’s eyes, especially when you are speaking.
  • Be curious and ask genuine “learning” questions.

Question: What are other ways to be an Energy Leader? And what would you add to the self-assessment above: are there other marks of an Energy Drainer or Energy Leader? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast, host of the Game Changer podcast series, and managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. If you know anyone who would benefit from this information, please share it!

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Doing Less, Thinking More, Leading with Greater Impact

Recently, I was struck by a similar emphasis from three different thought leaders.

asian businessman

Leadership is about the courage and discipline to think things through for ourselves and the moral courage to stand up for what we believe to be right. Self-knowledge can only be gained through introspection, frequently in solitude. Reading books rather than email, for reflection as much as conversation, and for as much solitude and focus as it takes to discover who we are and what we will stand for.
~ Terry Pearce, from Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future

Many of us work in organizations and cultures where there is a bias to action and “doing things” continuously. Sadly, taking time to think is becoming a lost art – yet many of us benefit from it tremendously when we take the time to do it.
~ Dave Stachowiak, from Seven Ways To Stop And Think

Humans, it is said, are the only animals that speed up when lost.
~ John Busacker, from Fully Engaged: How to Do Less and BE More

Do you need to slow down, stop trying to do so much, and spend more time thinking and reflecting? Perhaps if we all did this, we would be have greater impact with the actions we do take.

Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast and the managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

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Formula for Leading Human Energy

In most endurance races, I push myself to achieve a breakthrough performance. Preparing for a successful race requires weeks and months of focus and discipline. The actual race performance requires energy management. Of course, the same is true of leadership.

Jesse Lahey and Marty Lahey - Formula for Leading Human Energy | Engaging Leader

Race day. All of my training, physical conditioning, and nutritional management has been focused on this moment to achieve my targeted outcome.

Races are opportunities for breakthrough performance. For a week or so prior to the race, I taper down my workouts to ensure my body isn’t sore or worn out. In the hours leading up to the race, and during the race itself, I follow a specific nutritional program that I’ve discovered through trial-and-error to help me avoid intestinal surprises and renew my energy through the end of the race. And at the starting line and along the race course, I engage with spectators, volunteers, and other athletes — feeding off their energy and feeding them energy in kind. This combination makes race-day different from a normal workout — a moment of intensity, adrenalin, and fun that’s so important to my long-term, overall health and progress.

In most races, I have zero energy as I cross the finish line. I’ve left everything on the course, with nothing held back. For the first few minutes after finishing, I’m spent, empty — standing in place with a weak, goofy grin.

In some races, however, my goal is not my personal breakthrough performance. As others have done for me, sometimes I throttle back my pace to keep friends company and help them achieve their own goals.

In my most recent race, my dad and I ran a half-marathon together on a hot, hilly course. For the first mile, we chatted excitedly as the bunched-up crowd of runners slowly spread out. For the next couple of miles, we were quieter as we finished warming up, found our pace, and regulated our breathing. Then we chatted and joked for a few miles, pointing out the sunrise and the views over the nearby water. For the remaining 7-8 miles, I focused on leading the energy for Dad.

I don’t have the energy formula completely figured out, but I think Einstein was onto something when he said:

E = mc2

In physics, Einstein figured out that energy (E) equals matter (measured by mass or M) times velocity (measured by the speed of light squared, or C2).

In the dynamics of leading human energy, Matter is the “what” that matters … a worthy goal, a common vision, targeted results, relationship with people, a higher purpose. Velocity is the speed of progress toward that purpose.

E = mc2

Human Energy = What Matters x Speed of Progress2

Dad’s goal for a finish time required a pace that he’d managed before, but it would be tough to achieve it this early in the season, on a fairly difficult race course. At certain points in the race, it energized him when we discussed race specifics in support of that goal … How was our posture and form? How did our performance so far compare to last year’s race and other events? Wasn’t it going to feel great to complete the race so much earlier in the morning than last year, before the day became so hot?

At other times, Dad seemed more energized by discussing topics that distracted him from the race … business, politics, family. At many moments, it helped to point out a beautiful view and express gratitude that we were able to enjoy such a gorgeous location. Sometimes, he clearly just wanted to be quiet; for several long stretches, he preferred me to run ahead for a while so he could be alone.

For the last two miles, Dad was a trotting zombie. In contrast, I became aware that I was enjoying the rare experience of approaching the finish line still bursting with energy. I waved back to spectators and gave them high-fives. I cheered for the bands who were playing for us. I delighted in the views of the long beach and endless ocean. I cheered Dad on moderately, hoping my encouragement would energize him rather than annoying him.

At last, we crossed the finish line. I posed for a photo and high-fived everyone I saw. Dad stood in place, with a weak, goofy grin. He had beat his stated goal, performed much better than he had allowed himself to imagine, and only missed his stretch goal by seconds. Soon, he felt rejuvenated and spoke with conviction about how my support had made all the difference.

“A leader helps people make things happen they wouldn’t otherwise accomplish,” he said. “A leader keeps the vision in focus, keeps the energy high, and won’t let you give up.”

 

Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast and the managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.