Resilience and the New Frontier
If I’d said to you in 2014; “In two years time the price of oil will halve, most of the UK political roles will be held by women, we ‘Brexit’ the EU and a bloke with a bad comb over could be the next President of the USA”…...... well you would have found the nearest village pond, tied me to a stool and dunked me in the water!
When I started my local government career in the 1980’s, I thought we were going through rapid change e.g. Compulsory Competitive Tendering and computerisation. Now I look back and see how gentle that pace was. It was incremental with the odd step change. We were modifying and converting within a relatively steady environment. Today, change is tangential, unfettered, coming at us sideways and crossways. It’s swirling and lapping up to our chins rather than carrying us on a gentle wave and there is no reason to think the turbulence we are experiencing will show any sign of abating. We are giddy and off-balance.
Our usual response (and we do it well) is to track, record, categorise and catalogue things. In today's world, by the time the data is captured and the plan worked up, the moment has gone and a different set of changes are upon us. We often play catch up and it’s costly in terms of our ability to be efficient, provide excellent customer service and keep our residents and employees engaged and supportive.
Think how quickly science and technology is moving. Every day we hear about new discoveries in quantum mechanics, biology, astrophysics, medicine and neuroscience that are resulting in technological innovation only the finest science fiction writers could dream of. That’s the 21st century and parts of the public sector have barely shifted from the 19th!
We are still operating a mechanistic model of the world (seeing the whole through its parts) based on silo working and professional fiefdoms. Yet, if we could see what we do as a unified whole of inter-connectedness and patterns we can rearrange in infinite combinations, we would adapt with change rather than lagging behind it.
This is our chance to win back our place in the heart of society rather than skulking around the fringes picking up the crumbs of austerity. Ironically, it is our complexity and diversified services that are our strength and our way into the future. Look at the range of services we deliver from a service-based, corporate social responsibility ethos. That’s like trying to run 100 metres with both hands and one leg tied together! And we are often at or near the finishing line running against the private sector when they are unfettered in comparison.
So what do we do about it? First, we have to think differently about resilience and what it means. This is no longer about meeting change head on by being tough, durable and strong. It is not about being able to ‘bounce back’ quicker than anyone else. Bouncing makes me giddy. I’d rather step out of that game and play a new one!
The new paradigm for resilience is plasticity - the ability (like an organism does) to adapt to changes in its environment or differences between its various habitats and to be pliable, flexible and buoyant. My unified theory of Energy Intelligence (ENQ) and its applications can make a massive contribution to this agenda.
Energy Intelligence sees the workplace as a living, breathing organism (think of the human body as a metaphor). For example, ENQ reads where the energy is in a place, where there are blockages and where there is flow. The focus is on sorting out the blockages through targeted interventions that aim to understand people more holistically in terms of their motivation and commitment to their work. Like an acupuncturist, a needle (the ENQ remedy) is inserted in an energetic obstruction to release the blockage.
Energy Intelligent Leaders and managers have discreet functions in ENQ. Managers for example, act as Connectors and Animators, to ensure that the individuals and teams they support are powered up and powered down according to what’s needed. There are two of the six discreet functions for the ENQ manager to perform which gives them a raison d'etre. I believe we have lost the art of managing and that we are under managed and over led! Clear management characteristics refresh the jaded and release Potential Energy in individuals as well as igniting career development interest from people who have only seen management as a layer of obfuscation. In fact, we need to stop appointing people into management positions because they are good within their professional domains e.g. planning. They never really want to give up the day job and tack on managing as an afterthought. What's needed are professional managers who are Energy Intelligent. Their focus is to manage regardless of the qualifications of their staff. Managers serve and drive the business whilst leaders step out of the action precisely to Observe the Flow, to understand what is unfolding so they can plan strategic scenarios to align the business to the stream of change. The 13 Energy Intelligent Leadership characteristics include: Shoot the Moon (they provide challenge to existing norms and practices by asking 'impossible questions' to push the boundaries of creative thinking and innovation in our services and products) and Decide and Stick (they choose a course of action and stop meddling in the operations), leaving people to get on with it.
Energy Intelligent ways of leading and managing people will enhance the organisation’s energetic capacity as well as measure the impact of energetic interventions on strategy and operations. Over time, this will engender service excellence (I call this Radiant Energy). This energy has a positive impact on the well-being and work-life balance of employees as well as the wider communities it serves.
In this way we will seek out new horizons and boldly go across new frontiers of people development!
This article was published in the Municipal Journal 11 August 2016 p31.