Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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Tap Into Your Personal Energies: would you take a course that helped you focus your mind on your work?

Published By: The Independent - 12 Apr 2012

Try this. Stand with a friend and close your eyes. Get them to push you off balance. Then take a moment to stand relaxed and straight, breathe deeply and calmly and visualise sending down roots into the earth and drawing up energy from the ground beneath your feet. Then imagine the energy of the universe flowing down into you through the top of your head and filling you up. Lock those energies in place by raising your fists and pulling them sharply back. Then try and get your friend to push you off balance again….
Not your normal sort of management education, but this is what a roomful of executives found themselves doing recently at Cranfield School of Management, in Bedfordshire, as the business school showcased a new course in managing personal energy.
The group tried other exercises. How close can people move towards you before you feel, even with your eyes closed, that they are infringing your personal space? Where are the ‘holes’ in your personal energy where people can get to you? How can you deflect opponents by simply turning and allowing them go past?
The course is to be run as a one-day course in the City in June, and again in London later, before being developed into a two-day programme at Cranfield this autumn. “And we will definitely be offering it to our MBA students,” says Mary Mills, business director of Cranfield’s Praxis Centre, which has long been known for pioneering an holistic approach to management development. “Praxis is known for pushing out the boundaries and we always offer what we do to students in other parts of the school.”
But Cranfield is far from alone in exploring new mind-body-spirit approaches to management education.
Columbia Business School, in New York, began teaching students to meditate last autumn and researchers at Harvard Business School are also looking into the power of meditation in the workplace – while also holding weekly meditation classes for students.

An executive MBA programme at the University of Cape Town uses Zen monks as part of its leadership programme, while in this country a growing number of business school run ‘mindful manager’ programmes, acknowledging the importance of self-reflection and inner awareness. Ashridge Business School goes further, with a room permanently dedicated to silence and meditation. It teaches a mindful leadership course and last year published findings from a meditation research project suggesting “a significantly upwards shift in general levels of satisfaction for individuals who commit to a period of meditation. This is a promising finding in relation to an exploration of the beneficial impact of meditation for the workplace.”
But the workplace already knows. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was a lifelong meditator, and Apple, Google and Deutsche Bank are among a growing number of companies offering their employees yoga, massage and reiki to promote clarity and reduce stress.
Cranfield’s energy management courses are run by Lizzie Wright, 47, an energy coach and Third Dan in Karate and Aikido, who combines talking about touchy-feely things like “finding your inner truth” with powerful displays of martial arts.
“Leaders are felt not heard,” Lizzie Wright told managers on the initial course. “There’s an invisible language of power, and we are making choices all the time about the signals we send out. Some people are just at peace with themselves and you can feel it. They don’t, for example, need to do that thing of coming into a room for a meeting and looking at everyone in turn with a sort of awkward half-smile. They just come in and you can immediately feel that they are there.”
Her own discover of inner energy came when she had to pull herself through life-threatening illness. She coaches both private clients and companies, including major organisations such as PWC and BT, and “when I work with companies what I’m doing is helping them look at and reflect on their personal perspective. Everyone is exhausted by what happened in 2008 and the trickle on from that afterwards. They’re keen to get on with other things. But if they haven’t got their vital energy they are only half as effective as they could be. I help people harness their personal energies and also look at how they can share that power in their organisation without compromising themselves.”

Georgina Wistow, director of organisation development and design for BT Innovate and Design, attended the Cranfield course and thinks putting attention on inner resources is timely after recent financial upheavals. “Leaders have come to prize short-term execution and delivery, but as we go into a period of growth and health people have got to show up as authentic leaders. The last three years have been about noise, attack and challenge, but being an authentic leader always comes from inside.
“I buy into a lot of what Lizzie said, although some of her views are at the more extreme end of it. And you have to choose your metaphor when using her ideas. I was talking to a friend who is struggling at work and squaring up to every battle. I pointed out to him that 35-40 per cent of his battles were about proving the other person wrong or himself right, and that he could decide what battles mattered to him and let the others go. I explained about how in martial arts you can pivot and let your opponent go by and he understood that, whereas he might not have responded to ideas of ‘being in your own truth’.”
Jo Gausden, organisational development business partner with VocaLink, thought the course interesting, “although, how often in an office is it realistically possible to go into your own space and do some of the things she was suggesting? I think you probably have to learn to do it more in your own head, more subconsciously.”
But, however they do it, Lizzie Wright insists modern managers must manage their own energies. “If you are a weak fish, the shark will attack you. But I can tell you categorically that you can get your power back.”

The Power of Personal Energy runs in London on June 19. More details: The Praxis Centre, Cranfield School of Management, 01234 754502