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Opinion

How to manage personal energy for business success
Josefine Campbell

January 2nd, 2024


I used to be quadruple national jiu jitsu champion. What I learned from my Sensei about managing and preparing for a battle, I have also found extremely useful for coaching and training executives in multinational corporations.

Author, speaker and executive coach, Josefine Campbell. Photo: Lars Schmidt

We all know how it feels to leave a meeting feeling drained or, alternatively, to get an energy boost from collaborating with someone else.

Most managers have consciously or subconsciously been trained to assess three factors when decision-making under pressure or constraints: time, quality and money.

But one aspect is missing: personal energy. 

It defies logic to exclude personal energy from the equation when managing today’s workplaces. When we are loaded with energy, we become more engaged, more productive and our results improve. When we lack energy, then misunderstandings, stress, and conflicts more easily arise. 

Understanding personal energy via Nordic culture and jiu jitsu
Manage personal energy for business success, the subtitle for my book, is a line I wouldn’t have come up with, if I hadn’t been part-Danish. 

It is not like I celebrate everything about Danish work culture; in many ways, the science of leadership is most progressive in the USA and UK. But, when it comes to wellbeing and managing personal energy for business success, Scandinavians benefit from a more collective attitude to team building. This culture of inclusion makes it far easier to address the personal energy of a team or organization.

But to be honest, I must admit that it is not a purely Scandinavian approach. I used to be quadruple national jiu jitsu champion. What I learned from my Sensei about managing and preparing for a battle, I have also found extremely useful for coaching and training executives in multinational corporations.

The jiu jitsu way, combined with Scandinavian team spirit, forms the basis of my coaching method. 

Brain energy is business energy
In most corporate workplaces, the brains of the people working there are the biggest asset of the business. The brain runs on energy, but most organizations treat people as though their personal energy is an infinite resource. It is not.

Concurrently, many people act as if performance will be the same whether people are energized or drained. It will not.

Let me give you an example. It’s common knowledge among mergers and acquisitions (M&A) specialists, who buy businesses to merge them, that the synergy they can realistically expect rarely matches the deal’s potential.

As you read Arlene’s story below, try to discern what steals energy, and in turn synergy, from the merger.

Exhausted execs
A director named Arlene experienced the bare minimum of synergy from a business merger when political power struggles destroyed the teams’ cooperativeness – leading to conflicts that devoured staff and leaders’ personal energy.

The acquisition process had taken months and had required all executives to put in extra hours and effort on top of their otherwise high performance. The acquisition felt like an eight-month long exam. It was draining. Then, after the acquisition, the real work began.

“Although a strategy and a new organization plan had been drawn up, it wasn’t clear in practice who should do what and which jobs would be safeguarded,” Arlene said. “The executives who should set a standard and make matters clear to us seemed exhausted or run-down. So, they did their job badly, and they were blind to what was happening lower down in the organization.”

My perception was that they were tired – and perhaps fragile too. The difficulty in such a situation is that there is seldom time to regenerate after a merger. Instead, executives must get going with the demanding job of creating synergy and getting the newly formed organization to function.

The sale does not offer respite
Before the acquisition is set in stone, the process of selling a business can be exhausting for the sellers.

There’s often a lot at stake: they move from one grueling situation to another, constantly having to prove to the new owners that their investment is a good bargain. There is often a so-called ‘earn-out’ in the contract, meaning that the final payment they receive from the sale depends on the company’s subsequent performance in, for example, the two years after the acquisition.

Later, when I talked with Arlene’s leaders, who belonged to the selling business, it strengthened my belief that the time spent selling the business had worn them out.

Losing employees is losing knowledge
They had become so focused and drained that they discovered too late that their own organization had become fragile. As a result, they lost a large number of their best employees, and with them, some of the knowledge they had sold to the new owner, which they needed to get full value in their earn-out.

Learning how to optimize your personal energy is one of the first rungs of the ladder in our leadership development processes. Without energy, it’s tough to attain self-development, assess challenges from other points of view, or deliver high-level performance, as Arlene and her colleagues should have.

In their case, it was normal not to prioritize personal energy. However, it’s sad that a lack of energy is the reason many valuable employees involved in an acquisition become so worn out that the new business owner loses them.

Do not neglect your more precious business asset
It defies logic for organizations and businesses dependent on mental capacity to neglect this mainstay – especially after investing large sums of money in it.

If capital investment funds and business owners not only optimize the businesses they buy but also boost and replenish the mental, creative, and collaborative capacity of the workers in those businesses, there’s a good chance they will see an increase in value after a short time.

Looking at it in reverse, we lose mental capacity when we wear out the personnel. This is very costly in many ways. An investment in the mental capacity of your employees is an investment in your most precious business asset.

Filled with case studies and tools, my book Power Barometer explains in detail how you can enhance your personal energy when managing or collaborating with others, and become more mentally agile and productive. 

About

Josefine Campbell

Author, speaker and executive coach, Josefine Campbell coaches, trains and advises leaders and talents in global organisations such as Novo Nordisk and the Carlsberg Group. Her expertise lies within leadership in the modern work-life. She has +20 years of business experience and is a former External Lector at Copenhagen Business School and quadruple national Champion in jiu jitsu.


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