AFP recently spoke with Laurie Coe, vice president, faculty and content for The Energy Project, about her upcoming keynote session at the CTC Corporate Treasurers Forum, May 22-24 at the Sofitel San Francisco Bay. In a special workshop, Coe will discuss how treasury and finance executives can get the most out of their employees.
AFP: Let’s talk about your upcoming keynote session. What can CTC Corporate Treasurers Forum attendees expect?
Laurie Coe: In our session, The Energy Project: Reinventing the Workplace, I will introduce attendees to some of the key concepts of our work. We’ll begin by taking a look at the ever-increasing demands in our lives. Unfortunately, while our demands are increasing, our capacity to meet those demands is not. We’re more overloaded, overwhelmed, and distracted than ever before. But, most of us aren’t aware of the costs of this behavior.
In order for us to perform at our best, we have to balance energy expenditure with energy renewal. Typically, when demands increase, we actually push harder. We sleep less. We give up the things we love. We don’t spend as much time with our families. But in reality, those are the very things that could help fuel our performance if we have them more in balance in our lives. In order for us to perform at our best, we must actually step away from work more often.
This session will help attendees begin to build their awareness, and, in turn, make changes allowing them to operate at their best.
AFP: Would you say that social media, which many people now use frequently in the workplace, is driving some of that distraction? Often using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. is part of an employee’s job these days—but it can be nearly impossible not to let yourself become distracted when you’re using those sites.
Coe: Yes, but the whole world of technology is distracting. This is a completely new world we’re in. On top of being distracted by technology and social media, we are bombarded by the sheer amount of information that’s coming our way. Our brains—as malleable and elastic as they are—still have a limit.
With the proliferation of distracting technology, we’ve seen an influx of tools and apps that help you manage those distractions. We’ve seen apps that will set time limits for your social media use to apps that will shut down all applications except for a simple notepad. Train your attention: do only one thing at a time in specific intervals. We’ve found that 90 minutes is the maximum time we can focus without a break. Using a time limit for social media usage will force you to focus on the task at hand.
AFP: A lot of what The Energy Project does centers on what the “four sources of energy.” Can you tell us about those four sources and how you’ll explore them during your session?
Coe: We have four sources of energy—physical (health), emotional (happiness), mental (focus), and spiritual (purpose). In our session, I’m going to have everyone do a self-assessment on how they’re fueling each of these sources. We’ll discuss how we might differently structure our days to maximize our capacity. Ultimately, I want to give attendees a chance to talk and learn from each other.
AFP: Going back to the concept of stepping away from work—a lot of our members are treasurers, CFOs, etc. At certain points of the year, they’re likely working around the clock, at work and at home. In addition, many of them are also studying for certifications. I would assume then that you receive some pushback when you work with people who are in these types of roles. How can financial professionals find that time to step away?
Coe: You’ve really touched on the fundamental resistance to this. It’s tricky and it’s challenging. We have acclimated and adjusted to working and living in a certain way, and it seems like this is the only way we can get everything done. Especially in the type of work you mentioned where it’s really difficult for people to imagine stepping away.
But we get all of our clients to test their assumptions. We’ve done a lot with the big accounting firms and conducted a pilot during one of their busiest periods of the year. We had a group of several people coming in, doing 12-14 hour days, having dinner brought in, without any change to the status quo. And we had another group that took a brief break every 90 minutes. Mid-day, we had them step away from their desks—and work—to eat lunch. After lunch, they continued to work in 90 minute increments. And then they actually went home, leaving their work behind.
When we looked at what the second group was able to produce in 8-10 hours of time versus 12-14 hours, we found that their work was of higher quality, with fewer mistakes. The second group was more engaged and, most importantly, they were more ready to come in and start fresh the next day.
What I stress is that energy renewal doesn’t have to be something long and complicated. It’s just that when you start to lose focus and you find yourself getting irritable, it’s time to step away for a little bit.
Don't miss Laurie Coe's session, The Energy Project: Reinventing the Workplace, at the CTC Corporate Treasurers Forum. Register here.