CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 16, 2018
Career Ladder
Career Ladder

Stop the "energy crisis"!

Your personal energy is the foundation of everything you do as a supply chain professional. Here's some advice on how to take care of yourself so you can be at your best.

Supply chain professionals know how to use a variety of resources to get products and materials to the right location, at the right time and at the right cost. Sometimes, though, we forget that we ourselves are a resource—in fact, the greatest resource we have. We need to manage ourselves with the same mastery we apply to our work. That's because our personal energy is the foundation of everything we do as supply chain professionals. Without sufficient energy, it will be harder to maintain the degree of focus and mental acuity we need in order to excel in our jobs.

There is good reason, then, to manage our personal energy with great care. But not everybody thinks that way, and many busy, time-pressured supply chain professionals are facing a personal "energy crisis," so to speak. To avoid that trap, it's helpful to think of energy as a three-faceted resource. Those facets are: physical energy, intellectual energy, and emotional energy. Let's take a look at some ways to enhance and maintain each of them.

Physical energy
Physical energy allows you to function well, and to feel good both physically and mentally. The key here is to make sure you have enough of this type of energy. This is easier said than done, admittedly. Where to start? Getting enough rest should be a priority. That may seem self-evident, yet it can be hard to make rest a priority when there are so many demands on our time. Everyone should target between seven and eight hours of sleep time. Make a point of going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. Variations on the weekend should be minimal; wake up later if you desire more rest, but still try to go to sleep at the same time.

The quality of your rest is important as well. Benjamin Franklin's quote, "Fatigue is the best pillow," is true, yet you do not want to get to the exhausted state before you get your rest. Exhaustion can lead to illness. But being just a little tired at the end of the day, from exercise plus a full day of work, will help you sleep more soundly. Exercise, in fact, is necessary for anyone who wants to maintain physical energy. Exercise helps you focus better when you're awake, and it helps reduce your stress levels. Furthermore, being fit helps you resist illness. Getting exercise does not require fitness club memberships, expensive equipment, and time-consuming classes—although they can be very helpful for some people. You can get the benefits of exercise simply by walking at lunch, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, and/or parking at the far edge of the lot and walking a longer distance to your office. Many supply chain professionals, moreover, have the benefit of working in an environment that allows for walking around on the job. Take advantage of that opportunity and move around to "recharge your battery."

Stress has an impact on physical energy. Sometimes stress is our friend; it can pump us up and help us move forward. Everyone can think of a stressful time that got the heart racing and the juices flowing! Stress, however, must be managed, or it will become a drain on your physical energy. To counteract stress, you must make time to relax. Relaxing can include spending time with family and friends, or engaging in hobbies, sports, meditation, and so forth. What qualifies as relaxation is specific to each individual. What one person finds relaxing—say, playing on an after-work baseball team—another person may find stressful. Find what works for you.

Lastly, physical energy requires fuel. This means you need to eat nutritious foods at the right times and in the right amount. Always eat breakfast. Have it include some protein and produce, which will keep you going through the morning. Eat snacks. Do not wait until you are hungry to keep your body fueled! And be sure to eat the right amount. Eating too much at once will make you sluggish and tired; too little, and you'll feel weak and have difficulty staying focused. Stay hydrated, and drink water throughout the day.

When you think about physical energy, remember the old computer-programming adage: garbage in, garbage out. You are only going to feel good if you treat your body well. If you don't get the rest, exercise, and fuel you need, you will not have the physical foundation for the intellectual and emotional energy that makes a great supply chain professional.

Intellectual energy
Intellectual energy allows you to be "on," or at your best. When intellectual energy is high, the ideas flow and productivity rises. Intellectual energy lets you use and develop the skills you need in your current role. It allows you to be a passionate and effective supply chain professional.

There are many ways to experience surges of intellectual energy. It happens when you attend engaging educational conferences, when you are tackling a new problem, or when you learn a new skill. You'll also feel intellectual energy when you spend time reflecting on, planning, and devising strategies.

To get the full benefits of intellectual energy, it's necessary to have a good physical energy base. You must be rested, properly fueled, and physically well to maintain and get the most from intellectual energy.

Emotional energy
Emotional energy allows a supply chain professional to be a leader. Call it charisma, call it enthusiasm, call it quiet strength—it comes in different forms for different people. Your colleagues acquire your emotional energy and become motivated. They respond to your vision and needs, and they follow you.

Exceptional supply chain professionals make more emotional energy than they consume. Being a "net exporter" of emotional energy is important: That excess energy gets absorbed by team members who need to feel the strength you can provide when they are depleted (just as you will need to depend on the extra energy and enthusiasm others bring on those occasions when you feel depleted).

Unfortunately, there are some people who never give off a positive emotional energy flow. Instead, they suck the emotional energy out of the team. They can turn even fun events into negative occasions. We all know them, and we all avoid them when possible.

Make healthy choices
It's important to recognize that many things in business and life lie outside your control. This fact runs counter to what many of us have been told. It is dangerous to believe that ANYONE has (or can acquire) omnipotent control. This is a fantasy that absolutely drains energy.

While you can't control how others choose to behave and think, you can manage your own behavior and mindset. You can make changes to your lifestyle that will add to your physical energy. You can make choices that feed your intellectual energy. Last, you can provide positive, emotional energy and consistently model your values in your workplace. Good people will see and feel the message, and they will be inspired to follow.

Tim Stratman is founder and president of Stratman Partners Executive Coaching Inc.

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