Energy. It’s a cool word. There’s lots of talk about it today. We buy energy drinks, we consume energy bars, we take special vitamins for an energy boost, we suffer from an energy crisis as we depend too heavily on foreign energy to fuel our cars. But leaders are aware of another kind of energy. It’s people-energy. Others can consume our energy or furnish us with energy in our day-to-day work. Lasting leaders understand how energy works on a team. They also know energy can work in many different ways. It is at work all the time, good and bad. I’ve become aware of these energy realities as I communicate with people and lead our team.
One Way Energy
This happens more than we realize. It saps us from our ability to perform normally simple tasks. One-way energy occurs when you communicate with a group of people and they do not respond. At all. They are expressionless. There is no energy or emotional return, leaving the leader unsure whether he/she has connected. Consequently, the leader feels she must expend that much more energy to cast the vision or empower the team—leaving him drained. One-way energy is emotionally expensive for leaders. A simple speech can completely consume all passion inside the leader causing them exhaustion. Recognize this when you see it happening.
This happens far too many times in organizations. Everyone is busy but the team fails to reach goals efficiently. Lots of activity—little accomplishment. Sideways energy occurs when teams decide to perform certain tasks because they feel “close” to the mission of the organization. Unfortunately, they’re not as valuable as they should be. They cost more than they contribute. They tax more than they energize. Some leaders fail to even recognize sideways energy and their momentum fades as a result. Morale wanes. Leaders must be willing to cut any programs or projects that produce sideways energy.
This energy occurs when leaders find staff, team members or audience members who return the energy they receive. They are the people a leader hopes to find on a team or in a crowd as they speak. Their faces exude passion. They become stirred by the ideas of the leader and volley it back, like a tennis game. It may stir dialogue that produces better ideas than the original one. Passion is supposed to work like a fire. It isn’t lost when it is passed on to others—in fact, it grows. Reciprocal energy is what all teams and organizations should nurture. Leaders should hire staff who can and will respond in such a way.
This is an important kind of energy. Leaders must consciously maintain their personal energy if they are to stay in front. Personal energy comes from two sources: growth and networks. It can come from reading books, meeting with other leaders, hearing new ideas, getting enough sleep and listening to the right content which fosters forward movement. In addition, leaders know personal energy comes from the network of people they keep that fuels them emotionally: friends, mentors, heroes, role models and accountability partners. I cover this issue in my Habitudesâ books, when I talk about the Starving Baker and Emotional Fuel. We all need to refresh ourselves.
This has been written up so much it’s almost cliché. Momentum is a leader’s best friend. Momentum energy is the energy that surfaces when a leader energizes his or her team, and the reciprocated energy mixes and becomes better than the sum of the parts. It creates synergy. Momentum happens making everyone better than they really are as individuals. This is the kind of energy leaders need to harness for the purposes of their mission. Obviously, momentum can work for you or against you.
What kind of energy are you experiencing this week?