You've come to the end of a meeting or the end of a day. Wouldn't it be helpful to take a few minutes to look back and notice what you did and how you felt in order to move forward with greater understanding?
When working with groups or teaching leaders, we often suggest a practice called “awareness examen.” The practice is simple. Review in your mind the meeting or the day and ask yourself, When was I energized? When was I drained? And what does this flow of energy suggest about me? If doing the practice with a group, you can ask, What does flow of energy suggest about us? Then invite people to share.
I want to practice what I preach, so I'm looking back at an intense week of meetings, including two full days with our team. The first day was a retreat focusing on our individual and collective strengths (we've been working with the Gallup Organization's StrengthsFinder assessment); the second day was for topical meetings and strategy sessions for two clients.
When was I energized?
I was energized as we dreamed up ways to help a client uncover and tell stories about seniors who are choosing to move to our client's communities, even in tough times when there are many hurdles, financial and otherwise, to making such decisions.
I was energized as we explored Adam Richardson's concept of a “customer journey” and applied that thinking to our own clients' journeys. Our adventures together often begin with a leader asking – sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes out of frustration – Is there a different way to do this? I was energized by the reality that our customers are asking a question that moves in the direction of our company, even before we meet.
Finally, I was energized as we talked about business development for our company and as I felt my colleagues' enthusiasm for a concept around helping small startup organizations here at home in North Carolina.
When was I drained?
I was drained when a heavy question landed on the table with a thud. You've experienced such moments yourself. The question may be the very one that a team or company needs to ask, but it exposes a flaw or presents a major obstacle. We couldn't answer this question in the moment. And in our uncertainty it felt like the energy fled the room.
What does this flow of energy suggest about me?
I am excited by insight that reshapes our work. I am energized when feeling others' energy – when I can see the aha's, the breakthroughs, the leaning in around the table.
I am drained when I notice that I or others are pushing back from the table, disengaging out of uncertainty or fear. I worry that whatever we had grasped may slip through our fingers.
There's no judgment in noticing this flow of energy, no judgment on me or others. We're human beings, which means our energy goes up and our energy goes down. It's simply enough to notice – which is what the awareness examen helps us do.
Here at the end of the week, I am feeling relieved to be finished with these meetings. I am feeling some energy knowing that I reflected well, but also some energy in knowing that my reflection is over. I can rest my mind and spirit now. Thank God, it's Friday!