If you’re in the business of energy management, you know there's a certain amount of satisfaction when things go well at work. Being a good steward (one who looks after another’s property) is more than a Christian virtue. For many of us, it’s an opportunity to save money and energy—sometimes a lot of it.
And in a world of limited resources, we may feel a justifiable sense of moral accomplishment when we can stretch or reduce our organization’s energy budget—sort of like getting a cosmic “attaboy” (or “attagirl”?).
So it may blindside us when we experience resistance or “pushback” as they say in the behavioral modification field. But it shouldn’t, and here’s why.
Reason #1: Good energy managers shine a spotlight on waste.
The problem with discovering waste is that there is usually a “waster” behind it. Someone left the lights on (oops, they were stadium lights). Someone didn’t send out the summer setback memo. Someone didn’t audit the utility bills. Someone didn’t _______________. And that someone isn't going to be as happy about your discovery as you are.
Reason #2: Good energy managers are change agents.
This is because good energy management is never about the status quo. Good energy management is about continuous improvement, doing things better, trying something new. It’s Six Sigma for savings—on steroids. That kind of commitment takes creativity, attention, and real effort. And frequently that effort may involve a lot of people. And people don’t always want to change. There’s safety and security in doing things the way we have always done them. Don’t rock the boat or you’ll get wet. So if you want to change things, there will probably be some steady-staters that won’t like you, to put it mildly.
Reason #3: Good energy managers get out in the field.
There are many things that a computer can tell you, especially if you’re using the best software in the world. But it can’t tell you everything. And that means that a good energy manager is going to be pounding the pavement. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to find yourself on someone else’s turf. Yes, everyone is on the same team and hopefully moving in the same direction.
But there is something within each of us that wants to guard “our turf”. If somebody trespasses, the warning flags are going to go up. And that’s when trouble can happen. So if you're managing energy at any level, don’t be surprised when/if someone hates you. It probably means you’re not just an energy manager--you’re a good energy manager.
Here are three strategies to mitigate the hate:
Strategy #1: Be thoughtful about how you present problems/issues.
Find ways to do so in a non-threatening manner. Present discoveries in terms of opportunities to improve, not to cast blame. Reserve just criticism only for those who won’t accept correction.
Strategy #2: Work for buy-in when managing change.
Explain the benefits to all concerned. Start slow and demonstrate the success as you go. Involve others in decision-making processes whenever possible. Look for chances to praise progress. Be patient!
Strategy #3: Tread carefully on someone else’s turf.
When you step out of the office and into the wider world of your organization, be respectful of the contributions of others. There may actually be times that you need to say you’re sorry. You didn’t realize the way things worked at that location. There’s a unique circumstance that only the local building manager can address, and you’re only going to get in the way. Learn your limits. Work on building consensus, not authority.
These three strategies won’t always work, and they don’t alter the fundamentals of human nature. But hopefully they'll keep you focused on achieving the energy management successes that make the job so very rewarding.