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Striking the Work – Life Balance

Utility executives should stretch themselves to become better leaders

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew Boatright recently was named chairman of the American Public Power Association, which represents 2,000 community-owned electric utilities serving 48 million consumers. He provided the Energy Times with a copy of his recent address at the association’s annual meeting. This is the first of a two-part commentary based of his remarks, edited for style and length.

Change is fast and furious and coming at us from every angle — policy and regulation, the environment, the economy, the industry, generation sources, the workforce, customer expectations.

And you’ve heard much about how to prepare for change and deal with change.Best practices, new business models, innovative programs, new partners, and more. It’s all great stuff, right?

But as you deal with the daily grind, I urge you to think about the most powerful weapon you have in your arsenal to take on change. That weapon is you, and your innate ability to get out of your comfort zone, to push beyond your limits.

Andrew Boatright

Ultimately, the drive to confront change and initiate change must come from deep within you.

Getting outside our comfort zones is not easy. We’re wired to seek comfort and it’s hard to give it up.

The way you approach your work, and respond to challenges, could possibly use a fresh perspective. Think differently. Go beyond what you immediately see as possible.

So, how do you do this? What does it take to get outside your comfort zone?

It takes three simple steps: exposure to stress, openness to experience, and asking yourself the right questions.

As some of you may know, I’m a certified group exercise instructor and personal trainer. So I’ve had to learn about the SAID principle — Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. When the body is placed under some form of stress, it starts to adapt to better withstand that stress in the future. The body is always trying to get better at exactly what you practice.

On the flip side, if the body is not exposed to new stress, then there is little or no physical improvement.

The same is true of the challenges we face every day in the workplace or at home. We must expose ourselves to a healthy amount of stress. If we don’t push a bit beyond our capabilities, we stagnate. I can hear you all saying, “I’m constantly under stress at work and in my personal life!”

Sure, unhealthy stress does creep into our lives from time to time. And there is a limit to the amount of stress one can withstand.

Here’s some free advice from a personal trainer, yours truly. Look for ways to deal with the  unhealthy stress. Find that work-life balance. Establish “me time” in your daily routine, and protect it fiercely. Treat it like a calendar appointment you can’t move.My “me time” is 30 to 60 minutes of intentional physical exertion of some kind. It clears my head and prepares me to get out of my comfort zone.Health and wellness experts say that staying in your comfort zone can result in consistent, steady performance. However, stepping out of your comfort zone into a new and challenging task can create the conditions for optimal performance.

When you regularly take calculated risks, challenge yourself, and try new things, you’ll cultivate openness to experience. This openness is characterized by intellectual curiosity, imagination, and a drive to explore yourself — and leads to creative achievement.

Andrew Boatright is the deputy director of Independence Power and Light in Missouri.



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