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A New Hope for New Energy

A New Hope for New Energy

May 2016

I start this blog with a concept John Kotter brought us: that one of the contributions a great leader brings is to motivate, inspire and energise people. Can you remember being inspired and energised at work, can you recognize when others are energised? I have had two interactions with people at work that has made me question; how can I energise people (and myself)? I believe one of the secrets to this leadership skill is to harness the power of hope to create energy.

The first situation was in my role as a clinician. John is in his nineties and presented to the hospital ward in a severe state of depression, so much so that he had taken an overdose of prescription medication and now wouldn’t get out of bed. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon situation, however what stood out with John was that for 90 years he had lived life to the full, a publican who served a host of characters in some of the most extreme outposts of our country and had loved it. He could easily recall great adventures and relationships. He was still physically capable, had a partner who loved him and even a faith that gave him comfort however he had suffered for two years with an untreatable medical condition that had given him no relief 24 hours a day. He could not see that he could keep living with this situation, he felt life was ‘hopeless’.

Sam is a workmate who has been in the organization for a number of years, he has always been an extremely hard worker with a lot of energy, however he has seen many people promoted into positions ahead of him while he has remained at his current level. He has actively sort many avenues to progress himself, all to no avail. He expressed he was at a point where he felt he had to just ‘keep going through the motions at work’ or leave, as he had lost all ‘hope’ that there would be an opportunity in the organization.

In both these situations, as a leader, I could not ‘fix’ what these men identified as the source of their problem. How could I motivate, inspire and energise them to keep living, keep working and keep giving their best? There are lots of ‘frameworks’ that I could have used to ‘lead’ these men, including goal setting, but the word that stood out as I talked to them was ‘hope’.

Some definitions of hope include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation". What could I offer these guys to expect or desire? What could they hope for? As each of them talk through their hopes, there were some that we could not be confident they could achieve now or perhaps ever. But there were hopes, things that were of value to them that they could look forward to with confidence.

John use to walk every day until he had ‘lost hope’. Now we just focused on John looking forward with confidence that he could go for a walk each day and hoped that each walk would be a bit further. Within a week John was walking most of the day and though he still suffered from pain 24/7 his mind was not constantly focused on it. By starting to hope that he could like and enjoy something in life, even with this pain, the energy change in him was clear.

Sam wants to make a difference at work; he sees issues and wants to change them. We decided to focus on what Sam was confident in looking forward to, that being completing a change project that made the care of patients safer. In having this project Sam’s energy returned, he started coming in early and was much more positive in his interactions with people around him.

In both cases we had to shift what we were hoping for from something that we could not be confident in to something that we could desire and expect. This use of hope created energy to move forward. In fact I believe both John and Sam are closer to gaining the things that had actually caused them to lose hope.

This week listen for the word or theme of hope (it even made it into a Star Wars title!) and also assess people’s energy levels. Can you create new hope in yourself, your team, your organization, so they are energised? The team at Joseph Consulting is great at assisting leaders to identify ways to do this as well as providing resources to assist in creating hope and energy. Call them for a coffee.


Rod Ellem
Rod is a guest thought leader and writer for Joseph Consulting.

Rod Ellem is an Associate Director Physiotherapy with Queensland Health. Outside this role he continues to refine his leadership skills by volunteering many hours to the leadership and strategic direction of his local church. Rod is married with 4 young children.

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