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Generating personal energy

September 8th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Creating meaningFinding meaning in what you do in your personal and work life is a critical factor in not only well-being but also performance. For one person, this meaning may be spiritual, for another, family, or a goal. But in each case, it rests on a set of values and a purpose – looking for the personal meaning in all situations. By aligning personal meaning and doing what matters most, you can create a focus and source of energy that can help you cut through much of the chaos around them. A purpose-driven motivation also results in higher levels of sustained energy, increased interest and confidence, as well as greater persistence and creativity. People who make meaning for themselves by using concrete goals and strong value systems protect themselves from being overwhelmed even in the most extreme sorts of adversity.

Here are a few tactics you can consider using to create meaning in your day to day life:

  1. Focus on your personal values
    A good way to start is to ask yourself what values is so important to you that you would teach it to your children as the basis of a happy life. Define these values, write them down and tell others.  Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, recommends asking yourself, “If I inherited $20 million, would I spend my days the way I do now?” and “If I knew I had only 10 years to live, would I stick with my current job?” Once you know what your values are, explore the links between your personal and your workplace’s values and see whether they are aligned.
  1. Have a plan for the future
    It is easier said than done, but try to orchestrate your life around meaningful things. Take the time to think about the next phase of your life and how you will imbue it with meaning. Identify the direction your life has taken and make course corrections to get you where you would like to be.
  1. Connect with your sense of purpose
    Remember that you cannot do it all – prioritise so that you can spend time doing what matters most. Be intentional about building in opportunities to reconnect with what is meaningful to you. Regularly choose one thing in your life that does not matter and that hinders you and discard it. Know your strengths – identify the things you do best, those you enjoy most, and those that give you the most energy at work, and capitalize on these strengths. Experience your work as an expression of your creativity and find ways to use the strengths and abilities that are unique to you
  1. Spend time developing relationships
    Build deeper relationships with people. Identify your most meaningful relationships and devote time to them – reconnect with important people from the past, especially those with whom you engaged in meaningful activities. Ask people how they are doing and really listen to their responses; find out what motivates them and ask about their values and concerns.
  1. Take it easy
    Learn your limits. Pay attention when you feel that you had enough and do not exceed your limits without rest and recovery. Take regular breaks from work, eat or drink something nutritious or take a short walk.  Make time for yourself to reflect every day and make this time away from the needs of others.

Don’t spend your time – invest it instead

August 4th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Time managementTime management is an investment in results, where time is your capital that is strategically invested in activities with the most potential for return. Managing time is about generating results, but real results are not achieved using the traditional approach such as rigid schedules, lists, and hyper-organised work environments. Those who effectively manage their time, use what they want to achieve as a guidepost for determining which activities to invest in and whether and how to make changes in direction. They don’t spend their time – they invest it instead. Additionally, they reserve some of their time for investment in energising activities, such as reflection time, that help them to achieve and maintain their focus.

The standard approach to time management is to increase efficiency and get more done in less time. However, efficiency does not always equate with effectiveness, and even if it does, there are few ways left for most of us to gain efficiency. By approaching time management as an investment in being effective rather than being efficient, one can be more assured of generating business results as opposed to getting a lot of things done in less time. From this perspective, maximising time investment requires identifying critical goals and objectives, and maintaining focus on those activities that achieve them.

Being purposeful about investing time requires focus and energy. The first step in getting focused is to develop an accurate picture of how you currently invest your time. There are three things to understand: your critical business and individual goals, what activities you currently invest your time in and how well those activities pay off in terms of your goals and objectives. Energy has to do with the internal fuel that drives the ability to not only focus, but to get work done. People who are highly effective at investing their time employ practices that help them to create and sustain high levels of energy over the long run.

Effective time managers are able to clearly articulate their business as well as personal goals and objectives and, as a result, are able to direct their time and attention to the critical few activities that will generate results. Moreover, when faced with a competing activity or task, they are able to use their goals and objectives to make decisions about whether and how to change direction. This is then linked to creating and reserving energy and reducing stress by devoting time to specific “energising” activities.

However, none of this happens in a vacuum – and individual effectiveness is enhanced when the people whose work one depends on are more purposeful, and when one collaborates with managers and key stakeholders.

Overcoming energy drainers

July 23rd, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Overcoming energy drainersLow energy levels, caused by internal and external factors can have a negative impact on multiple levels and can leave us demotivated and frustrated. Although most of the time we can control our energy supply, we often continue with our habits that leave us drained rather than being focused on energy boosting activities. Some of the most common energy drainers include:

1. Multi-tasking

Contrary to a popular belief, multi-tasking is not an effective way to get things done. A study found that people suffer from something like a writer’s block each time they switch from one activity to another, requiring them to take time to “reset” their minds. The more complex the task being switched to or from, the higher the time cost involved in switching. Even very brief distractions add up. An effective way to overcome this issue is to stop doing activities that don’t generate a return on investment for results, estimate how long it will take to accomplish an activity and block dedicated periods of time for it in your calendar and train yourself to focus on the task at hand during time-blocked periods.

2. Lack of clear goals and conflicting priorities

A lot of work gets done without the benefit of clearly defined goals and objectives. But, without clarity, it is difficult to know whether the right work is getting done and without a clear focus on goals and objectives priorities easily conflict. To get more focus, list your goals and objectives as you understand them and highlight conflicts among them. Then make yourself reminders – post your business and personal goals and objectives in a place where you can see them, or choose representative artwork or other objects to place in your office space as a reminder.

3. Over commitment

People over commit for a variety of reasons: they don’t want to disappoint others by saying no; they feel they have no choice but to commit; they have an unrealistic idea of current commitments or of what is involved in the new commitment– to name a few. Being overcommitted can quickly lead to burnout and exhaustion. Saying no in an appropriate way does not communicate that you are unwilling; rather, it communicates that you are responsible and take your commitments seriously. Avoid the automatic yes when asked to make another commitment. State that you need to check your other commitments and time frames before you can give an answer. Before committing to anything, be sure you have a realistic and detailed idea of what the commitment entails. Don’t say yes when you mean no.

4. Distractions

We are constantly bombarded by distractions and interruptions in the workplace. Think of these events as forcing the mind into a multi-tasking mode, with each event either preventing or breaking concentration. The result is time lost to constant task switching. To eliminate distractions, find a quiet place to work on projects that require concentration, set aside specific time periods for specific activities, and discourage interruptions and save e-mail and voicemail checking for the transition time between other tasks.

5. Lack of Organisation

“Everything in its place and a place for everything” is a good energy-boosting adage. For some people, organisation means files, drawers, cubbies, neat stacks or no stacks at all, and a complete lack of clutter. For others, organisation simply means knowing where to look and being able to find what they need right away – for them a neat desk is alien. The point of organisation is not to fit someone else’s definition of “organised,” but to have what you need in an easily accessible place. Recognise that disorganisation is an energy drain and organise yourself in a way that makes sense to you.

6. Lack of reflection time

Failing to reflect is a vicious cycle that leads to less time for reflection, because without reflection time, it is difficult to know whether one is working on the right activities; it may even be difficult to have a clear idea of what one’s goals and objectives really are. A lack of time to reflect, refresh, and rest can also lead to stress and work overload. Use an existing activity such as regular workouts, walks, gardening, or another hobby as an opportunity for reflection or find a coach or mentor. This doesn’t have to be someone you hire; it could be a manager, colleague, or friend outside work. Set aside specific time periodically to reflect on your work, self, long-term goals and objectives, and so on.

7. Sense of meaninglessness

An important source of energy for many is the pursuit of meaningful goals and objectives. As we become busier and busier, however, it is easy for meaningful goals to be displaced by urgent things. The longer this goes on, the more stress one feels. To re-establish your goals, build fun activities into your schedule. Set long-term personal goals, but don’t become imprisoned by them. Put them in a prominent place – they will become implicit priority-setters and create a standing, flexible weekly schedule in terms of categories of activities: job, chores, exercise, family, unstructured relaxation, and so on.

8. Perfectionism

The drive for perfection can be very draining. Perfection is an indefinable and unobtainable goal that while it can increase the quality of one’s output, also increases workload. Establish objective quality measures; ask others to help you define “good enough” and identify the point of diminishing returns – that point when you stop adding measurable value by continuing to work on something. Before you “make it better,” ask yourself whether a person whose opinion you respect would notice a meaningful qualitative difference if you invest more time and effort.

How to Align your Team Behind Change

December 4th, 2013 by The Forum Corporation
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In conversations with our oil and energy clients, we’ve been noticing a repeating theme: a strategic shift from an emphasis on top-line growth towards an emphasis on profitability.  So how are these companies effectively and efficiently making this shift?

Executive leaders in Fortune 1000 oil and energy companies are scratching their heads on how to execute this simple transition. After all, companies are still providing the same goods and services and serving the same clients. The critical transformation that needs to be made relates to an organization’s employee base and its understanding of two important questions:

  • What does profitability mean in my job?
  • What changes must I make accordingly?

One of our clients, a provider of oilfield services & products, realized that in order to see this through, a fundamental disruption in their workflow processes would have to occur. As we poured over their organizational chart, which had become flatter over time, it became apparent than mid-level leaders were serving as the bridge that could influence up to upper-level management and manage down as something akin to a union rep for lower level employees.  They could translate organizational changes into language that individual contributors could understand.

This would have been one of the more straightforward projects to execute had our client not also been facing the challenge of motivating and retaining young talent within their organization, a common problem in the oil and energy sector.

When we analyzed this client’s organizational chart and workflow, we realized that fewer than 25% of their employees had access to mentoring or coaching. If a company wishes to implement a major disruption in its workforce and change the thinking that drives its culture, then this lack of mentorship won’t work.

So Forum partnered with this client to implement a mentoring program throughout its ranks. We also focused on the core tenets of clarity, unity, and agility as driving principles behind our client’s growth and successes.

Clarity in vision across all tiers of the organization. Employees need to be clear on what their job means to the organization, and how they can most productively contribute to a greater vision.

Unity in collective action. As tiers and divisions are aligned, the workforce becomes ‘greater than the sum of its parts’, and operational synergies are established where dissonance once existed.

Agility in reaction and response. As an organization shifts its fundamental focus (such as shifting from top-line growth to a targeted strategy), it is imperative that teams are able to collaborate across divisions, that employees are equipped with the skills to respond to dynamic market conditions, and that units are able to shift direction smoothly to minimize opportunity cost.

For this client in the oil and energy sector, a combination of clarity, unity and agility, and the appropriate skill sets and competencies in leadership, enabled a smooth transition that is translatable to any company going through a transition.

For another story of how one company successfully made a strategic shift, check out our recent webinar, Fostering Behavior Change to Create a Lasting Business Impact.

Leverage Other Departments for Team Growth

October 2nd, 2013 by The Forum Corporation
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Wendy Axelrod Photo Nov 2010In this fourth and final post in a series published on, Wendy Axelrod, Associate and Executive Coach in The Forum Corporation’s resource network, discusses how managers should look outside of their departments in order to leverage growth opportunities. She asserts that employees will display new energy when projects extend their frontier.

Do you have any real-world examples of how your company equips managers to put development directly into people’s work on a daily basis? We welcome you to share your comments below, or join the discussion via Twitter and Facebook.

Leadership is all about Sleeping and Giving Up

August 29th, 2013 by The Forum Corporation
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I recently had the opportunity to hear Arianna Huffington speak at HubSpot’s Inbound Conference.  She spoke on a number of topics during her address, but she had three points on leadership that really struck a chord with me.

  1. Leaders would do better to act like gazelles: When gazelles see a threat, they run and run until the threat is gone and then they graze.  In current workplaces, we are often running all of the time, and not taking the time to graze.  We eat lunch at our desks, we leave the office but check our email until we fall asleep, and we do this as a badge of honor. We brag about this and feel superior to those that don’t do those things. But why? Are people more efficient when they are working 24/7? Research points to no. This leads to her second point.
  2. Sleep is a leader’s strongest weapon: An exhausted leader isn’t a good leader and neither is a burnt out one. Taking the time away from work to relax and renew one’s energy and brainpower will lead to better decisions and more efficient work. This doesn’t just refer to sleep at night. Many leaders throughout history, including JFK and Winston Churchill were known for taking naps, and no one thinks less of them because of it.
  3. Don’t be afraid to quit: When something is not working, leaders need to know when to throw in the towel.  Whether it’s a project, a new hire, a strategic initiative, etc. a good leader needs to be able to recognize when it’s not going well and have the courage to end it before it gets worse. It is always tough to admit a mistake but people typically have more respect for someone that owns up to mistakes and attempts to right them quickly than someone that lets a problem fester.

It’s not just a leader’s responsibility to hold themselves to these points, but to also create a workplace culture that encourages this for employees. A culture in which people truly unplug from their work in the evening and are encouraged to recognize when something is failing and to fix it is a better workplace for all employees. 

Do you think that in today’s world, a workplace that follows Arianna Huffington’s tips is possible or is it idealistic? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Four Tips To Keep Employees Engaged During the Summer

August 9th, 2013 by Forum Corporation
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Summer is in full swing for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and while that’s good news for everyone, businesses have to grapple with the fact that many of their employees will be plotting about how often they can take off early on Fridays to hit the beach.

It’s more than a hunch that summer weather saps productivity and employee motivation. Research shows that both employee productivity and engagement decrease as the temperature rises. The optimal temperature for maximum productivity is between 70 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit, which feels more like Spring or Fall. .

Creating a work culture with highly-engaged employees is a hot topic right now because research shows that engaged employees are happy, more productive, and are more willing to go the extra mile, which has a direct impact on the bottom line.  Overall, just 30 percent of U.S. workers are “engaged” in their jobs, although that number has gone up slightly since the Great Recession in 2009, according to the most recent Gallup Employee Engagement Index.

Besides monitoring the thermostat, savvy employers can help keep their employees’ heads and hearts in the game – when they’d rather be elsewhere – by taking these four steps:

1. Keep it Fun: Work doesn’t stop during the summer, deadlines must still be met and projects completed, but that doesn’t mean that warm weather should be ignored either. Offering up summer-related perks and activities, including the classic early-release summer Fridays; ice cream truck visits once a week and summer outings will help keep employees motivated during the summer, but still feeling like they’re taking advantage of the warmer temperatures.

2. Be Flexible: Even if summer hours aren’t in the offering, try to accommodate employee vacation requests, even if they’re last minute, as most staffers will ask for time off this time of year.  A 2012 survey from Harris Interactive found that Americans did not use about 9.2 days of vacation, up from 6.2 days in 2011. Rested employees are far more productive at work, so encourage workers to take those summer breaks.

3. Foster Year-Round Engagement:  No matter what the weather is, employees who feel as though they work in a culture where they’re trusted, respected and where their unique contributions are valued will be highly motivated to excel at their jobs. Savvy employers know this and are always evaluating their tactics to make sure the proper systems are in place to create a positive work culture.

4. Don’t Forget Training: Training opportunities should not go by the wayside just because a large percentage of the office is off on vacation during June, July and August. Employees who are constantly building up their skills and knowledge will be more engaged and happy that they’re getting the training they need to advance in their jobs. Perhaps an all-day offsite in a gorgeous location with a business expert can combine training and summer fun.

In the end, managers should check-in with their team leads to get their thoughts and take the “engagement temperature” on how to best engage their employees and liven up the office when everyone would rather be outside. That’s the most effective way to foster engagement and drive business results in the slower summer months.

Take a break – and switch off!

July 4th, 2013 by The Forum Corporation
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July is upon us and for those of us in Europe this marks the true beginning of summer (even if the weather doesn’t quite agree).  Many parts of Europe effectively shut down for a month while everyone heads off on holiday.  However, a new study by the Chartered Management Institute this week found that only one in two UK managers will take a holiday this summer, and those that do take a break will be working whilst away.

It was a great report but I suspect many read it with one eye on their ‘million and one things to do’, list – trying to recall the last time they had a proper break – or on a beach somewhere supposedly switching off from work.


This survey highlights how companies and managers are still not focusing enough attention on the importance of maintaining a well-rested workforce that’s happy, healthy and more positive towards their work.

We’ve seen study after study showing the impact of stress and sickness absence on the bottom line. According to a report in June last year by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), sickness absence cost employers around £6.5 billion a year.

The cost of workplace absence to businesses is such a problem that, in the UK, the Government has recently announced proposals for employers to get tax relief of up to £500 per worker to pay to use third-party providers to tackle sickness absence.

But the key is to treat the cause and not the symptom.

By engaging with your team regularly – either through one to one’s or an employee engagement survey – you can find out how they’re feeling about their work before it’s too late and they end up on long-term absence.   Are they taking enough time off or do they appear overworked and stressed?

Numerous studies have proved that engagement has a direct, positive and measurable impact on key performance metrics such as absenteeism, employee productivity, loyalty and retention.  According to the CIPD you can increase your business income by 19% if your staff are highly engaged as they’re happier and willing to go that extra mile. If staff are happy in work then it helps drive commitment, motivation and business results.

By creating a culture that encourages staff to take a break and tries to accommodate holiday requests, even if they’re last minute, will go a long way to making employees feel valued, appreciated and more likely to enjoy their job. Check if they need support to get actions finalised before they go away. Help them to focus their time properly and prioritise workloads – so they aren’t working an extra eight hours a week to get work wrapped up as the CMI report suggests.

And once staff are away, use the opportunity to empower and develop other employees by delegating tasks in their absence.  This will not only motivate others in your team but offer reassurance to the person on holiday that their work is covered and they can switch off completely.

So, if you’re reading this blog when you’re supposed to be on holiday, then put your phone or Ipad down, relax and take a well deserved break.

Unleash the Power

June 21st, 2013 by Janine Carlson
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No, we are not talking about solar energy or windmills. It is the untapped energy your employees can contribute to the success of your organisation, if they chose to do so.  Of course, it is the “chose” part that is tricky and a hot topic of discussion in South East Asia and many other regions worldwide. The Straits Times, Singapore’s largest newspaper, recently published an article by Cynthia Stuckey, Forum’s managing director, Asia Pacific, giving advice on the topic. Here are a few highlights.

“THE world’s most successful companies have known for years that having an environment in which employees “show up” every day, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well, is essential to achieving the bottom line.”

“Leaders can take actions to enhance engagement and results not through a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but in targeting actions to the specific needs and expectations of their employees.”

”There are engagement factors that allow companies to predict engagement levels…

  • Being encouraged to offer opinions and ideas to make meaningful decisions;
  • Doing satisfying, meaningful work I am good at;
  • Working in an environment that provides opportunities for my family to understand the organisation and the work I do;
  • Feeling that others value my contributions;
  • Working with people who share my high standards of performance, take initiative and accept accountability; and
  • Having opportunities to hear and talk about the organisation’s strategy, goals, plans and activities.”

Additionally, five engagement need profiles were identified and advice for how leaders can drive engagement was provided. The full article is available on The Straits Times to subscribers.

For more information on employee engagement, you can listen to Cynthia’s radio interview on employee engagement that appeared on 938Live or download Forum’s global report on employee engagement. To discuss employee engagement in Asia Pacific with Forum, email, call +65-6505-2050 or visit


Getting Your “R” On

March 26th, 2013 by Melissa Powers
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In my last post I said I would share my secret for being successful in sales as an introvert and here it is…I call it Getting Your “R” on.  This is really more than just the introvert’s guide to success. I see it as the recipe for success in business and life for both introverts and extroverts alike.  It is especially critical during these lean times where most of us are being asked to do more with less.  Almost everyone I encounter is working at warp speed, trying to get it all done, on time and on-budget. That’s okay for the short term, but it becomes difficult and draining to maintain a constant, demanding pace over the long haul.

I call it Getting Your “R” on because I recently had the opportunity to spend a few glorious days at Canyon Ranch.  It was the perfect time-out I needed to re-charge, re-energize and re-evaluate where I was in terms of my physical, mental and spiritual energy.  When I practice renewing my energy levels in these key areas, my mind is razor sharp.  I am laser-focused and am able to be more creative in the solutions I offer clients.  I ask better questions and have more productive meetings.  I am energized and passionate about what I do and what my company offers.  Clients can hear the enthusiasm in my voice.  Simply put, I am highly engaged and have found over time, much more successful.

The key for us as individuals is to respect and honor ourselves and our unique personality styles and what each of us needs when it comes rejuvenating our energy supplies, so we are at our best at work and our personal lives.  For introverts, perhaps Getting Your “R” on is about internal pursuits such as reading, running or reflecting. For extroverts, it may be more about an external focus such as relating and re-connecting with others. One of my favorite ways to re-charge when I am not at the “Ranch” is to spend time with kids and animals for some real play time.  Adults need play, and kids and animals are experts in this area.

By managing ourselves in this fashion, protecting and bolstering our energy we are able to be the best salesperson, parent or chief bottle washer that we can be.  Don’t wait until you take that vacation several months from now – ask yourself what you can do today or in the next hour to give yourself and your brain a break.   It can really be as simple as getting up to get some water, chatting with a co-worker for a few minutes and having a laugh or taking a walk around the block.  I promise you – you and everyone you encounter will be better for it!

I am excited to work for an organization that values this concept.  We recently had a sales meeting in which two very smart colleagues of mine ran a workshop on managing your energy.  There are great articles, references and resources out there for you to bring this concept into your work and life as practicing these principles will reap rewards in both areas.  For some tips to help you tap into your “R”, check out Harvard Business Review’s article Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time and the work that Tony Schwartz has done over the years around achieving peak performance on his website,

So I ask you…what’s your “R” and how can you get it going today?