I’ve been working on my presentation for WOLCE which will be based on our recent survey into the challenges managers face and how they actually deal with them. (I’ve written before on these and you can find the results in the white papers in our resources section, or come along to my session at WOLCE to hear more.) The main challenge that was identified for all levels of manager was ‘managing change’ but of course change is a constant. (It always has been, we just think we invented it in the 80’s and that it’s got faster since then.)

So managing change effectively is an activity that needs to be sustained long-term and it strikes me that to deliver this a manager needs long-term energy, the ability to think clearly and time to think deeply about the issues. How well do we help our leaders and managers develop this underlying capacity to perform and what can we do to improve this?

Well my starter for 10, would be as follows:

I’d start with helping any leader or manager reach a place where they felt in control of their work (and life) and certainly the best material I’ve found is in David Allen’s book ‘Getting things Done’. It’s a marvellously simple and subtle process that not only provides immediate results, but over time builds time and thinking capacity into a leaders life.

I’d then have a look at the work of Tony Schwartz at ‘The Energy Project’. Tony is interested in how well we generate our energy and whilst on the face-of-it a lot of what he says may seem common sense it is interesting to reflect on the quality of the energy we bring to our work. As he says ‘the way we work isn’t working’. His comparisons with top athletes and need for rest periods may not feel comfortable for those of us who are guilt-ridden or driven workaholics, but they make sense.

David and Tony are talking about collaborating and I’ll be interested to see what they come up with. As Tony is interested in the raw fuel for thinking and performing well and David is focused on how you best use that energy I think they may produce some interesting results.

Lastly, I’d throw David Rock’s work on ‘Your Brain at Work’ into the mix. Having a better understanding of the energy needed to think well and how to schedule different activities fits well with Getting Things Done and The Energy Project. It also brings to life some recent brain science in a way that is easily understood. It’s a book that helps managers understand that by making small changes to the way they work they can make a major difference to their performance. For instance, one idea is to split work into different types and focus on doing these at the right time. e.g. bundle all your main thinking and planning into one part of your day when you have the brain energy to do it well.

Our leaders and managers make the decisions that matter and their performance has an impact on the bottom line of our organisations every day. Building their capacity to make better decisions is therefore an investment that will show immediate returns.

As learning professionals we ignore building this underlying performance capacity at our peril, it is fundamental to both the short and long-term success of our organisations.