Tag Archives: Who Was That Masked Man?

Energy Awareness Month

Never confuse motion with action. – Benjamin Franklin

October is Energy Awareness Month. The suggestion is that we should all take the time to contemplate conservation, renewable energy sources, and responsible energy use. We should be aware of our own energy consumption and should find opportunities to get involved in spreading the word about green energy solutions.

For our purposes let’s focus on the energy it takes to live life and do our jobs. We see people around us who range from being full of energy to those who may need to have their pulse checked. There are work-a-holics, and there are those who are probably allergic to work. From frantic to lazy, active to comatose, engaged to out-to-lunch, every one of us needs to learn to conserve, renew, and responsibly use our energy.

Our energy is the most quickly sapped when we fail to deal properly with stress. We overextend ourselves, we work harder than we have to due to inefficiency, and we take longer to recharge. The real trouble is that if we do not learn to be aware of our energy expenditures in the stress department, we may not realize how worked up and worn out we have become and we will eventually burn out if we do not correct our course.

Burnout is preceded by feelings of being out of control, emotional exhaustion, inability to focus, and poor performance. All of these factors drag us down and compound the problem. One leads to another until we feel trapped and can’t seem to find a way out. Vacation doesn’t help, because we know what is waiting for us when we get back. Straining our mental and physical reserves opens us up to being more prone to sickness, which also adds to the stress.

Unmanaged stress quickly spirals out of control. It affects every area of our life. It influences how we respond to the people around us, sets our mood, manipulates our attitude, and takes away our hope for improvement. Often when we try to deal with stress we end up doing things that are destructive, even though we think on the surface that what we are doing helps.

Then we look to one of two extremes. We either relax to the point that we begin to believe that we would feel better if we didn’t care so much and apathy sets in. Or we seek relief in excitement, be it sports, hobbies, or anything that gets the adrenaline flowing. The danger here is that if we do not deal with the root of the stress appropriately then we will need more and more excitement to cope. And that also accelerates burnout.

At times we do need to take a break and step back for a moment so that we can better see what is stressing us. Sometimes there is not much we can do about stress beyond correcting our attitude and deciding to do our best given the situation. But if we know what stresses us, that will help us find ways to deal with it instead of just letting it build up until we can’t handle it any longer.

When looking for the sources of stress, what we miss is that often it is not the work itself that stresses us. The single biggest stressor for most people is people. It is the people we live and work with! Work-a-holics are stressed out by those who work hard at hardly working. The more laid back among us are stressed out by those who need to lighten up and take a break. Managers are stressed by the mistakes of unreliable underlings, and employees would all do a better job if they had better managers. And we all know how to do the job better than the guy next to us. If people would just do it “my way” then everything would be fine.

Here we see the true root of stress. When we focus on ourselves, especially at the expense of others, we set ourselves up to fail. Instead of working as a team, we become a Lone Ranger. While this sounds very American, it actually undermines our attitude and performance. A selfish focus leads us to duplicate effort, complicate procedures, and limits our ability for positive growth. Successful leaders have learned that it is not all up to them. As leaders, they delegate. They surround themselves with a team of people who are good at what they do, and as a cohesive unit, they succeed due in large part to offering proper motivation and encouragement.

For Energy Awareness Month, let’s take the time to examine what it is that saps our energy, stresses us out, and affects our ability to succeed. Then let’s look for positive and constructive ways to correct course and guard against burnout. The truth is, if we burn out, we are not the only person affected. Even if we are a Lone Ranger, someone, somewhere is depending on us to do our job. Let’s not let them down. Let’s not let ourselves down. Let’s conserve, renew, and responsibly use the gifts, talents, and energy we have been given so that together we might all experience success.

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It’s Not My Fault

“We believe that to err is human. To blame it on someone else is politics.” – Vice President Hubert Humphrey

We have looked at how we have opportunities to LEARN from our mistakes and we pondered about how we react when others make mistakes that affect us. Now let’s look for a moment at what happens when we are to blame. Honestly, when the mistake is our fault we want those affected or offended to be patient, understanding, and forgiving. So why is it that we think when it is not our fault that we have a right to be abrasive, harsh, and critical? Remember, it could have been us. How would we want people to respond to us if we had made the mistake? Would we want to be blamed, yelled at, demeaned, punished, or embarrassed? Yet so often when the fault lies with someone else this is exactly how we react.

Not to be negative, but what should we not do when others make mistakes? If we want to help others learn from their mistakes, just as we hope to learn from our own, we start by refusing to play the blame game. When a mistake is made we must resist the impulse we have to find out who is to blame. This does not mean that we do not hold people responsible for their mistakes, but responsibility and blame are not the same thing. When we are responsible we own up to what we have done and we work to make it right. When we blame we are really just looking for someone to bear the brunt of our reaction to what has happened. We want someone to take it out on; we want a scapegoat.

We need to do all we are able to avoid embarrassing the mistake maker. Whether we realize it or not those who have made a mistake usually do feel badly about it, to the point that they dread our reactions and are quick to hide or deny what they have done. Too often our previous reactions have taught others that we are not to be trusted to deal with mistakes fairly.

Often after someone makes a mistake we do and say things that embarrass them, and unfortunately this is usually done in front of others. When someone makes a mistake, if we are the person responsible for correcting it, then we should do so in private. Of course the part of this that is the most critical is deciding if we are the person responsible to correct the mistake in the first place.

Most people who are affected by a mistake are not the same people who are responsible for correcting the mistake. If we take on that responsibility when it is not ours, we are setting ourselves up over others when frankly we have no right to do so. If the mistake affects us and the offender apologizes and tries to make things right, then we are responsible to forgive them and work with them to deal with the consequences. When we are not in a position of authority we should not act as if we are. It demeans a person and disheartens them. Discouragement is the enemy of education. A discouraged person is not learning from the experience, he is just trying to survive it and get on with things so he can forget the mess he caused.

While we may not be responsible for correcting a mistake we may still be able to offer some advice that will help everyone involved learn from what has happened. We need to refrain from offering free advice though. Free advice is advice we offer when our input is not requested. If someone wants to hear our opinion they will ask for it. If they don’t then we should keep quiet. Keeping quiet is a lost art these days it seems as too many people have too much to say about everything. We need to be quiet, and we need to be willing to listen and learn. If mistake makers are unwilling to take responsibility and if they are defensive about it then they won’t listen to us. Beside that, unsolicited free advice is usually worth exactly what we pay for it.

Now then, what if we are in a position to correct the mistake? We need to do so with an attitude of helping the mistake maker learn from the mistake. Our first thought is usually to find a way to punish the offender instead of disciplining them. What is the difference? Punishment is making someone pay for what they have done. Discipline comes from the root word “disciple” which means “to teach.” Discipline is not making someone pay for their mistake. Discipline is taking the opportunity to teach a lesson as a result of the mistake. To discipline is to educate. Our goal should not be to make them feel bad about what they have done, but to help them learn from their mistake so as not to repeat it.

The best way to remember how to respond to a mistake is to recall that old railroad safety campaign – “Stop, Look and Listen.” Remember the commercials? We stop at the crossing if the lights are flashing or the arms are down. If there are no lights or arms, before we cross the tracks we at least look to see if a train is coming. And even if we do not see a train, we listen. We may not see it, but we can hear it if it is coming down the tracks. When a mistake is made, even when it is not our fault, we need to “Stop, Look and Listen.” If we don’t we are sure to get run over.

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Filed under Communication, Responsibility