Energizing your Leaders: From Mel Hensey of Hensey Associates

I am fortunate to have good friends like Mel Hensey of Hensey Associates and one of his recent newsletters really caught my attention.

With Mel’s permission, I am providing this information to you so  that you can share in the wisdom that Mel has to offer.

You can learn more about Mel and his work at www.henseyassociates.com  or by sending him an email at mhensey@aol.com




1. It would probably be no surprise to hear me suggest that it must begin at the top. Regardless of how he or she feels, the senior executive needs to set the example and model “we can do this” behaviors.

2. It’s not about denying the challenging realities. It is about believing we can deal with them … whatever it takes. And let’s figure out what it takes. And then, let’s do what it takes, even if it requires …

  • learning new skills
  • bringing in needed new skills
  • improving our practices/processes
  • pursuing new markets/clients/sectors
  • assuring the loyalty of our best clients by what we do
  • changing the leadership seats and leaders on our bus

Actually, one could argue we ought to be doing this on a regular basis, even during “good” times. And our most successful clients seem driven to do that. However, most firms are happy doing “regular” work in good times.

3. That leads me to the next: the strongest firms know their world and their businesses are constantly changing, like it or not. So, they’ve developed a culture where it’s an expectation that everyone must learn and improve every year. Their performance review and improvement process really works (most do not) … and people learn, grow, develop fast.

4. Several clients asked me if I could help them identify a wise and energizing speaker/teacher to come and give a talk, a workshop or a program to crank up and motivate their people.

Actually, there are a few out there, but it takes a long-term change effort to really get much value from their work … beyond a short morale bump.

5. But then that prompted me to help them realize that their leadership group is usually the best and only credible resource to energize the firm’s leaders. So, what we did instead of using outsiders, was to facilitate sharing the wisdom of their leader group.

We did that by crafting a 1-2 day management meeting, where both small groups and the total group (of 20 to 40 leaders) worked on questions like these …


  • What motivates/excites me?
  • What do good leaders do to inspire and energize people?
  • How can I inspire and motivate my own team?
  • What should we be communicating about?
  • What are the most effective ways to communicate?

Staff and Staffing:

  • Are we moving work where we have people or vice versa?
  • If not, how can we do that well? (It is not easy!)
  • What new/emerging niches are of interest to us?
  • Even if we seem to have too many people, are there skill sets we need and lack?

Developing More Business:

  • What will it take to pursue new niches/opportunities effectively?
  • What are the best, most effective business development practices and skills in our firm?
  • What are the best, most effective business development practices in competing firms? Other business?
  • Do we have our best business developers focused on that?

The reality is that some of your leaders will know the answers to all these questions. The answers need to be skillfully drawn out in the small groups and shared in the large group … where everyone can plan their next moves!

Survivors of the "Hanoi Hilton" prison camp offer this advice for thriving in tough environments:

  • Tell yourselves the truth about reality ("new normal," etc.).
  • Build a deeply committed team ("one for all").
  • Model success attitudes and behaviors ("we can do this").
  • Build one another up; support others ("all for one").

Mel Hensey, PE, F.ASCE