IN MY OPINION: Chartered Management Institute

Chartered Management Institute companion Peter Muir CBE, group CEO of Avebury International, argues that energy fuels business success.

by Peter Muir CBE
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In January, many of us reflect on the previous year and develop resolutions on how we can energise our businesses for the year ahead.

The Collins dictionary defines energy as 'intensity or vitality of action or expression, forcefulness'.

Continued success no longer hinges only on momentum. To thrive in turbulent times, companies must become as efficient at renewal as they are at producing today's products and services. It is about continually anticipating and adjusting to deep, secular trends that could influence the performance of a core business. It's about having the capacity to change even before the case for change becomes obvious. But for corporate renewal to become systemic, personal renewal must also be systemic.

The importance of energy to a successful organisation seems so obvious it's an asset that we often overlook. Increasing attention is being paid to the notion of 'human capital', with efforts being made to turn the oft-heard platitude that 'our most important asset is our people' into something tangible and measurable. The 'Accounting for People' report published by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) in November took us further along this road. But, you might think, this can go only so far. What is the value of this 'human capital' in terms of building the skills and competences necessary for success if employees lack the energy in the workplace to follow through on the job?

It is clearly difficult to quantify energy levels in reporting terms - but it's something that managers need to think about on a daily basis to achieve results.

Energy and enthusiasm are contagious. The dynamism of an individual inspires others and is a critical ingredient of leadership. But how do you keep your energy levels up? A regular fix of caffeine is the traditional support for many hard-pressed managers, but as Tony Blair's recent heart scare helped illustrate, relying on this trick is not necessarily the healthiest option. Burning the candle at both ends might be needed from time to time, but trying to sustain it will only bring up more problems than it solves.

More substantial lifestyle factors than stimulants, herbal supplements and high-energy drinks will have a more profound impact on our energy levels at work. For some, regular visits to the gym can help - physical exertion can boost performance in a way that nothing else can.

But, for those preferring not to spend so much time on a treadmill, there are other important areas to consider. Maintaining a balance between our working lives and personal lives is crucial. Beneficial in a whole host of ways, it helps the bottom line by keeping staff morale, energy and productivity high.

Energy is rare in being a business attribute often attributed only to the young. In October, however, MT highlighted seven business leaders who are over 70 but still at the top of their fields, showing that energy is not exclusively the preserve of the young. Rupert Murdoch's punishing exercise regime would challenge many men half his age! It is more of a state of mind - it is perfectly possible to find young graduates who should, by conventional wisdom, be full of vitality, career-driven and animated, but are far less energetic than supposedly older workers. The legislation on age discrimination currently being drafted by the DTI should make sure that we stop thinking about age and energy in such simplistic ways.

Of course, it is all very well to talk of boundless energy, but it has to be directed at the right things. As an old German proverb has it: 'What is the use of running when we are not on the right road?' Every manager needs to set clear goals and communicate them to their staff. If you do not have everyone running in the same direction down the right road, much of everyone's energy is going to be lost.

On the other hand, perhaps all this talk of energy is just making you feel drained. You may feel that you just cannot summon the fire that you once had. If that's the case, maybe it's time to consider making a change. Finding somewhere where your energies are encouraged and rewarded is beneficial for all involved. This time of year gives us all a chance to think about where we are going. If you are not approaching work with the same zest, perhaps it's time to build your resolve to develop a strategy for renewal. Why not consider some new challenges and build on your portfolio?

It is important for all of us, both individually and corporately, to develop renewal strategies. Deliberately focusing on renewal is challenging but is in itself a leadership statement that has an impact on all around. It says of you and your company: 'Watch us, we are not standing still.' At Avebury, we have a mantra: 'Good, better, best, We'll never let it rest, Until our good is better, And our better is best.' Our aim is clear and 'Never let it rest' is our energy statement.

As the old saw goes: 'If you want work well done promptly, give it to a busy person.' Do you agree? For 2004, why not give yourself and your organisation an EMA - Ever More Active.


Peter Muir, CBE learnt about the building industry when he trained with George Wimpey and R Costain from 1963 to '71. Before becoming the founding CEO of Avebury International in 1990, he served as chairman and MD of Glendyne Industries and was a founding board member of the Training and Enterprise Council's National Council in 1992. Muir, 56, was awarded the CBE in 1994 for services to training.

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