In our last post, we looked at ‘old wine in new bottles’ for the concept of self-management and concluded it is a different blend that creates a different experience and not at all old ways dressed up as new things.
One aspect of our lives and particularly our work, is our energy. We have physical energy – brought about by the need to move, our organs to function and to think; fuelled by food, exercise and inspiration.
Energy = more than carbs
We know from our schooling of the process of turning food into energy that floods our living systems with glucose, protein and carbohydrates. We also know how our psychological and spiritual energy is fuelled by events, thoughts and feelings we have.
Take the advent of change in any organisation. We may have developed patterns and a rhythm to our work based on the hours we travel, the peak concentration needed in our work, the attendance to the needs of customers and colleagues and generally, the reserve of fuel (psychological, physical and spiritual) that we have.
Then some senior leader steps into a large-scale meeting with us all and says ‘We have new investors who have purchased our company and they need us to perform in a more efficient manner so we are restructuring.’
What happens to us in this situation is a mixture – let’s call it a psycho-physiological reaction. We are nervous about what this will do to our rhythm; what it may mean to our holiday time; our pay and conditions; our relationships with colleagues; the hours we may have to adjust to and learn new things. This may create a state of anxiety.
Before we know it, things are – or seem – tougher and we become frustrated and a little disenchanted. We find we are working harder and our physical energy depletes more quickly. We take work home, we are lost to our friends at the weekends and we become dour and miserable.
This vicious cycle is what affects a lot of us. And it is very difficult to navigate through and use to our benefit.
Self management – an energy source
Now take another version of this scenario.
The same senior leader steps in and says that the company is about to change how it operates and would like to invite all the employees to own a stake in the company and become and employee-owned, and very much self-managed organisation. There will still need to be some reviews of process for efficiency, but these will be co-created by us all. We will have the chance to build our company and belong to something we have a physical, monetary stake in as well as be the recipient of the other benefits of working such as pay and holiday time.
Our reaction may be totally different. Some may still be nervous but the overwhelming sense of this message – same conditions/outcome; new ownership and efficiencies – is one where you play an active part. Where you get to shape what’s around you. Where you get to be active in the agenda of change.
We’re more likely to be excited, curious, hopeful, challenged – but perhaps in a way that does not mean we are ‘slaves to the rhythm’; more we are musicians in our own orchestra.
You may still take work home, and be a little obsessed about things but you have a new dialogue with your friends about what self-management and company-ownership is like. They be envious of your influence and you feel good they recognise the privilege (and challenge) you have.
Whilst this is semi-fictional, it is also at the heart of what self-management brings: Influence.
In self-management systems, you are not the passive recipient of others whims; you are the architect of your ways of working. You do not have some dominant and unforgiving manager; you have challenging but equally self-directed colleagues to negotiate and partner with.
When we have looked into teams who perform well together there are several key traits that exist in that environment which are manifested in a different form of energy. Not energy to comply, fight, resist, adapt or force yourself into a rhythm, but one where you create three types of musical score to be the soundtrack to your way of working:
Agency; Application; Attention.
Agency – in that you are your agent of change; you have agency to change things; and you can act in an agency capacity with your teammates and colleagues.
Application – you have a different way to apply yourself to your work and relationships. Your way. Not a cookie-cutter, generic sets of circumstances. You have to be applied to make it work not just in the tasks you perform, but the way you perform them and how you apply the systems you create/co-design.
Attention – you will find yourself not just working but thinking about how you could best do your work. You may also pay more attention to what you want from the work you do beyond the compliance and the results. You will pay attention to how you feel about your work, your sense of accomplishment, achievement and ability to shape it to your desires and preferences, in conjunction with those of your fellow agents.
So with self-management in our minds, we will explore on 5 November at Competo’s 14th Future of Work event, just how much we can analyse, design, engineer or own sense of agency, application and attention to create workplaces where energy flows and people flourish.
There is musicality in a lot of what we do on this planet. When it comes to working, we will explore the jazz-like improvisation technique that we know as self-management.
Conductorless performances for an energising concerto of the future of work.
Founder and Chief Energy Officer – PTHR and key note speaker at 14th Competo event