Work Energy: Know Your Sources & Your Kryptonite

Know the Source of your Work Energy & Your KryptoniteWhen I worked in the corporate world, I was the not-so-proud owner of an 8×7 foot cubicle that I often referred to as my cell.  Nothing works better at sapping my enthusiasm, energy, and engagement than the gopher existence so common in companies today.  Some didn’t mind this work environment.  I couldn’t stand it!

On a typical day, one might find me in any of the myriad sitting areas around the company headquarters, diligently plugging away at my project du jour.  In later years, when the company, in an effort to improve its culture, transformed a large seating area into a quasi-coffee shop environment, that became my favorite haunt when when not in meetings (I even scheduled meetings there whenever possible).

Not everyone was happy with my penchant for avoiding my cubicle, however.  On numerous occasions, my manager demonstrated his distrust in my work habits, as he opted for a “walk-through management,” a.k.a., “butts in seats” style of management.  “It’s just the way I manage,” he would explain.  “I need to see you working to know that you are…..”

This post isn’t about empowerment, trust, or micromanagement, though.  Instead, it’s focused on recognizing where and when you individually find inspiration and engagement in your work.  For me, I simply know that I work very poorly when placed into a controlled and uncomfortable environment.  Conversely, when I can choose where I work, whether that is from a coffee shop, a couch hidden in some corner of an organization, or my home office (or even a cubicle, when it is on my terms), I am unbelievably efficient.  I can accomplish a ton.

(Of note, if managers are unable to hold people accountable for results, not simply butts in seats, this will be difficult….)

Better yet, if given the choice to also work when I choose, I do even better.  My favorite work time (my kids tell me this comes from my military years of midnight reconnaissance patrols) is throughout the night.  Sitting down at 10:00 p.m. (that’s 2200 hours, girls), I can easily get 6-8 highly focused and productive hours accomplished.

Unfortunately, in much of the work world, we don’t have the flexibility to choose the whens and wheres to get our work done.  Additionally, we’ve excepted work cultures with an abhorrent number of truly pointless meetings, filling up our days merely for the sake of seeming busy.  I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again.  I’m a firm believer that most organizations could focus MUCH MORE EFFICIENTLY with only 10% of the meetings currently scheduled.  More information sharing and updates could be provided solely via other media, and meetings could instead be dedicated to quickly making key decisions (with decision makers coming prepared with pre-read material read).

Adopting this approach to work cultures, individual employees (at all levels of the organization) would be freed up to determine for themselves how, when, and where they would accomplish their work project and tasks.    Organizations would quickly understand the power of this approach in engaging and empowering employees.  The results would be unbelievable.

So, take some time to figure out where and when you work best.  If necessary, talk it over with your boss.  Explain to them your idea for working even more effectively.  Chances are, they’ll be intrigued by the idea of getting more productivity and will be willing to at least let you test your theory.  Who knows….it could be a turning point for you and your organization!

3 thoughts on “Work Energy: Know Your Sources & Your Kryptonite

  1. Couldn’t agree more. For myself, if I don’t make it out in the field, preferably to do at least a little “real” work every few days, I go incredibly stale. Interestingly, writing the blog helps too, maybe because it lets me back off and take a longer view.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with this post! I, too, had a “must see you to know you’re working” manager there. I would see you around in the various areas and feel envious, because I didn’t even feel I could do that without drawing disapproval. In the end, her distrust is what ultimately lead to my departure. Some corporate cultures are just not ready to take that leap of faith that employees will be professionals who should be held accountable for results rather than hours in a cube. When I realized that sitting at my desk at the right times was more important than what I produced, I became completely disengaged. If companies would trust that they made the right decisions in hiring, coaching, and engaging employees, they could spend a lot less time focusing on “attendance” and more on advancing the business. But that also requires an acceptance that not everyone is productive or motivated in the same ways, at the same time, by the same things. In doing research on the topic a few months back, I found the Results Only atmosphere of companies like Best Buy (corporate in MN) to be quite fascinating and desirable. Time will tell which methods will win out, but it’s taken years for organizations to understand that the workforce is changing…hopefully it won’t take quite as long for them to see that the way work is conducted also changes too.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with this post! I, too, had a “must see you to know you’re working” manager there. I would see you around in the various areas and feel envious, because I didn’t even feel I could do that without drawing disapproval. In the end, her distrust is what ultimately lead to my departure. Some corporate cultures are just not ready to take that leap of faith that employees will be professionals who should be held accountable for results rather than hours in a cube. When I realized that sitting at my desk at the right times was more important than what I produced, I became completely disengaged. If companies would trust that they made the right decisions in hiring, coaching, and engaging employees, they could spend a lot less time focusing on “attendance” and more on advancing the business. But that also requires an acceptance that not everyone is productive or motivated in the same ways, at the same time, by the same things. In doing research on the topic a few months back, I found the Results Only atmosphere of companies like Best Buy (corporate in MN) to be quite fascinating and desirable. Time will tell which methods will win out, but it’s taken years for organizations to understand that the workforce is changing…hopefully it won’t take quite as long for them to see that the way work is conducted also changes too.

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