Date: 4/13/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” – John Wooden

This qualifies as the understatement of the year, but we live in a world that changes at an almost unbelievable rate. It’s at the point where sometimes it feels like there’s no way our brains can keep up. And sometimes they probably can’t.

One of the things I’ve seen more and more over the past couple of years is a trend among some businesses to be so aware of the changing world around them and the impact it could have on their organization that they don’t spend a lot of time focusing inward. What I mean by that is they try to do all these new and innovative things – which is great – but they forget to try and do anything well. It doesn’t really help you to do all these wonderful new things if you do them all poorly.

There are certainly some businesses that do the opposite. They’re so scared of all the change that all they do is focus on the things they’ve always done and doing them at a very high level – even though those things are no longer what they really should be doing at all.

But more of the businesses I’ve been fortunate to work with don’t have that problem. The people we’re around are more likely to be running in a hundred different directions at once. Every year they sit down and list all the things they attempted as though that in itself is an accomplishment. But when they’re really honest with themselves, they realize they didn’t actually achieve much.

If you read this space even semi-regularly you know I’m not suggesting that change is bad or that you shouldn’t try and be innovative or that you should just stick to the same old things you’ve always done and everything will be fine. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that you cannot be good at everything, so don’t try.

Make the best evaluation you can and settle on the handful of key things that are critical to your success. Then work to become great at those few critical things. None of us has the time or energy or talent to do much more than that. So don’t try.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | 1 Comment

Date: 4/6/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” – Aristotle

Someone recently clued me in to an organization called The Energy Project. If you’re interested, click here to get to their web site. The gist of it is this: a huge percentage of people are disengaged, beaten down, unproductive, etc., and as leaders of organizations we’re not focusing on the right things to improve the situation. We’re not focused enough on the things that human beings need in order to be sustainably productive – physical needs (to rest and renew), emotional needs (to be cared for and valued), mental needs (to be empowered to set boundaries and focus), and spiritual needs (to find a sense of meaning and purpose in their work).

I’m not going to regurgitate all the statistics that The Energy Project has accumulated. You can read that for yourself. As I tried to absorb what they were saying, two things popped into my head. The first was, “Well no kidding.” None of it was altogether surprising (although the data they supported it with was startling). It makes sense that those things have an impact on people.

The second was, “So what can we do about it?” Like anything else, knowing is only half the battle. We actually have to do something. But what?

Probably lots of things. But here’s the best place to start: with yourself. It doesn’t do much good to hammer away at your staff that they need eight hours of sleep when you show up every day with five. It doesn’t do much good to preach about the importance of honest feedback when you blow up at everybody who challenges you (and so on). Like everything else, an energized organization has to start with you.

Are you getting the things you need to be sustainably productive? Do you take breaks, work out, & eat healthily? Sometimes when we get busy those kinds of things are the first to be sacrificed. Do you find a sense of meaning and significant from what you do? Sometimes as leaders when people ask us that we just answer “Yes!” without really thinking about it. But think about it: Do you really find meaning in your work? Maybe you used to, but somewhere over the years that went away.

The point of this conversation is this: Make sure you’re not so focused on technical things or activities or plans that you forget the things that people really need in order to produce. Too many leaders focus on the traditional stuff and think that the idea of energy and what creates it would be just a nice bonus. The opposite is true. Yes, you need technical skills and tools and all of those things – but you’ll never be able to create the organization you want without meeting the real needs. And if you don’t meet those needs – good bye energy, good bye success.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | 3 Comments

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