Use This Trick From Endurance Athletes to Manage Your Team’s Energy
Business leaders are using athletes’ training secrets to manage their teams’ energy
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Growing a business can be exciting as well as exhausting. Periods of high exertion like product launches or big sales deals can leave you and your team drained of energy. So how can you help them recover so that you can keep driving growth while also looking after their wellbeing?
At work, "recovery" tends to be seen as taking a few days' leave, going on a vacation, or even popping out for a walk over lunch. Time away from work is what I call 'passive recovery' and it can definitely recharge your energy reserves. However, there is another form of recovery that doesn't involve disconnecting from work and it can help your team recover from periods of high exertion.
Endurance athletes need to manage their energy over extended time periods and long distances. They do this by using both passive and 'active recovery' to replenish energy. In endurance training, active recovery is time during practice when you train at a slower pace. This lower level of exertion allows your heart to beat more slowly and recover. The more fit you are, the faster your heart rate will recover during a training session with a varied pace.
For a sales team, winning a big deal is a high-exertion activity, whereas building (or rebuilding) the sales pipeline might be a form of active recovery. A project team might slow down after a project is completed to finish documentation, summarize lessons learned, or even celebrate the achievement.
Here are four ways you can use active recovery at work:
Design intentional practice and recovery drills
When learning a new skill, build in repeated practice as well as some time between practice sessions to reduce the mental and sometimes physical exertion that comes with learning. Although it might seem efficient to blast through a three-day training program, we remember more and apply the skills better at work when we have short bursts of learning followed by time to absorb what we've learned, integrate it into our job, share it with others on the team, or simply catch up with other things.
Use routines to learn after experience
When we create routines to make it easier to learn from key experiences, we also help to conserve energy in the present and build insights to conserve even more energy in the future. One of our clients, for example, has created a very simple after-action review and uses it to close out all capital projects and organization improvement projects. This practice also helps teams understand what needs to be done in the future to improve their ability to go faster with less effort.
Build a rhythm for active recovery
Another way to create space for active recovery is to build it into the rhythm of high-exertion work processes. I know a head of sourcing for a global retailer who, each quarter, gets the members of his leadership team participate in design and planning sessions with the company's major brand teams. He has worked with his leadership team to create a pattern of pacing that becomes more intense closer to the time of these meetings, but then intentionally slows down afterwards. Before the sessions, the team members practice their presentations and get feedback. This helps them prepare and develop. After the sessions, they hold a couple of days "meeting-free" to give everyone a chance to catch up.
One last way you can slow down is to deliberately disconnect from technology. I see a growing number of leaders who are finding ways to help their people do this. Some leaders agree on norms to limit or cease responses to emails after work or over the weekend. Others are working to drastically reduce the volume of emails by agreeing on norms for when to copy others or when to not use an e-mail. I particularly like the practice of creating "no tech" zones in the workplace to make it easier for people to simply think or talk with others. I'm actually a huge fan of technology, but I also see that we can use Intelligent Restraint to know when to shut it off.
Active recovery at work helps you and your team catch your professional breath so that you go the distance to grow your business.