HUMAN ENERGY IS THE GREATEST RENEWABLE RESOURCE
The dictionary defines renewable energy as “any naturally occurring, theoretically inexhaustible source of energy, such as biomass, solar, wind, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric powerthat is not derived from fossil or nuclear fuel.”
I was in India last year running some management development programmes at SAP Labs in Bangalore. One group of young managers were incredibly enthusiastic and threw themselves into the programme with passion and high energy, and were thrilled that we were going to have a follow-up session the next morning. When I told them that the only way we could get through the agenda of the next day’s session would be to start at 6.00am, the drop in enthusiasm and energy in the room was immediately visible, as many of them would have to get up at 4.00am to be able to be in the office on time, which meant that they would only get about 4 hours sleep that night. The relief in the room was immediate and visible when I told them that I was just kidding and that we would actually be starting at 9.00am.
I pointed out to them that if instead of saying that they would have to get up at 4.00am to attend some management training, I had invited them to have breakfast at my hotel with me at 6.00am, and that my special guests would be Aishwarya Rai (Miss World 1994) or Shilpa Shetty (stunning Bollywood star), or even more importantly Sourav Ganguly, India’s most successful cricket captain ever, they would have reacted totally differently.
Instead of the immediate drop in energy there would have actually been a palpable surge of energy and excitement, and that instead of worrying about only getting 4 hours sleep most of them would have spent the night sitting wide awake in my hotel lobby to make sure that they were at the breakfast on time.
Human energy is a wonderful, renewable and almost limitless resource.
We live in a world beset with energy issues, struggling with our dependence on fossil fuels and our nervousness about nuclear power, yet not moving quickly enough to replace these with sustainable energy sources, resulting in ever climbing energy costs. As a result most companies have implemented major programmes to cut their energy usage based on their commitment to being good citizens and their contribution to “save the planet”, and the simple truth that it makes really good business sense to save money on energy use. For example, I am aware that SAP has a programme to cut their energy costs by 50% by 2015. As a shareholder I heartily approve of this initiative.
As a frequent traveller, I do however find it a source of amusement that hotels ask you to reuse your towels to help the environment, rather than the fact that they have worked out what it actually costs to wash a towel every day, and it makes seriously good business sense to save money wherever you can. The latter reasoning would actually convince me more to not drop my towels on the floor after use.
I find all these moves to save money on energy use highly laudable, and it’s one of the reasons that I serve on the boards of both Carbon Guerrilla and PE International, both being companies that are focussed on helping their customers to achieve this.
What I don’t understand is that so few companies have programmes to try at the same time to increase the energy outputs of their people, as the returns to the business could be even greater if management understood how to harness this limitless source of energy.
Whilst I do not question its importance I am not talking specifically just about passion in this instance, as I have seen people who can show awe inspiring passion for 2 hours every week while lounging on their sofa in front of their TV to watch their sports team play, but who show very little real energy in their lives.
I am also sure that there are many people who can show passion when talking about their employer, particularly when things are going well and the share price is strong, and that there are a lot of people who work more than the required weekly hours as defined by unions and/or government, but energy is more than about working long hours and having pride in one’s company.
The challenge is … How can a manager build the sort of energetic commitment that most people can exhibit which results in them having no problem getting up at 5.00am for something like a round of golf, but then struggle to get out of bed on a workday ?
How do we create, sustain and build up the same high level of excitement, fun, pleasure, commitmentand feeling of achievement at work that people can find with little effort outside of it ?
I have always believed that the only role of management is to create an environment where people can be unbelievably successful, in whichever way that individuals variably define “success”. However this means that we have to be able to create a work environment that people find as attractive as their leisure alternatives, which means they need to be able to get up on a wet Monday morning in the depths of winter and think “thank goodness the weekend is over and I can now spend 5 days at work”.
I have only 3 criteria that serve as a starting point for this state of nirvana.
The role of management is to ensure that people are able to achieve these, as only then can you have the springboard to develop the passion, engagement and commitment in your people which will then give you a chance to harness the unlimited energy source that exists in humans.