Getting your mojo back

You can't energize others if you aren't energized

August 9, 2005
By: Bob Rausch, Ph.D.

Organizations can be only as energized and focused as their leaders. This article discusses how leaders can replenish their own waning energy levels and refocus.

If you are the leader or a manager in an organization, I have a question for you: Do you believe your energy level affects your employees? Before you answer, I want you first to recall bosses you've had and consider this question: Did their energy levels affect yours? If you're typical of most leaders, you will say that your boss's energy level affected you, but you're unsure if yours affects your subordinates'.

One way to discover if employees are affected by your energy level is to ask them this question: Does my energy, or lack of energy, affect you? I'm certain you will find that 99 percent will say, "Absolutely, whether you are high or low in energy, it affects us."

Most employees agree that they are influenced significantly by their leaders in many ways, but especially by their energy levels. In Bruch and Ghoshal's book, A Bias for Action: How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results, and Stop Wasting Time, the authors state that an important factor in having high-energy, highly focused managers is the CEO's behavior. A frantic CEO tends to generate frenzied and unfocused managers. However, if the leader has high energy and is focused, most managers are positively affected and tend to emulate those behaviors, which have an energizing effect on employees. The bottom line is that this places the burden of responsibility on the leader to keep his or her energy level high.

Fake It Until You Make It?

A leader who isn't energized genuinely will have a hard time energizing others. As far as leadership energy is concerned, you can't fake it until you make itbecause employees sense the difference between real and faked energy. They can spot a leader who brings a full energy tank to the table and one who is energy-deprived. One of my colleagues said that she presently is witnessing leaders who appear to be so energy-deprived themselves that they are incapable of energizing others. It's obvious that the leader who isn't genuinely energized will have a hard time energizing others. So what are the key ways a leader can maintain a high level of personal energy? The first step begins with desire.

It All Starts With Desire

You can call it vision, meaning, or purpose, but the source of all energy comes from personal desire. How much desire do you have for your work? When desire comes from an internal drive to achieve and to help others achieve, you will have a high energy level. However, lacking desire for your work affects not only your energy, but the entire organization's. Whether desire is present or absent is obvious to everyone, especially to the leader.

I recently had the opportunity to coach a low-desire, low-energy manager. His boss wanted me to talk with him because his department had not been meeting its goals for some time. The manager had been struggling off and on with productivity for months and just couldn't seem to make it happen. The more I talked with him, the more I began to feel that he not only lacked energy, but also didn't seem to have much desire for his work. I asked him if he still had the desire he once had for managing the department. He certainly was taken aback by the question, and I think a little offended. I also believe he thought I might be digging a little too deep, but he finally told me that some of the desire definitely was gone.

The constant stress of pushing for the numbers and having to justify his actions, plus being blamed for poor performance, and the lack of any appreciation for his efforts were taking a serious toll on his energy and affecting his desire. He felt he was less innovative in solving problems and certainly wasn't energizing his people. He thought about quitting, but knew that was not the answer. I agreed, so we discussed several ways for him to consider refueling his personal energy.

Ways to Refuel

The good news about this problem is that a leader literally has many ways to refuel energy. Here are seven:

  1. Always maintain your desire for what you do. Desire creates core energy. If you think you may have lost it, think back to a time when you felt strong desire for what you were doing. When you do remember, write your thoughts down and make it a habit to review what you've written several times a day. At the heart of all energy is desire.

  2. Believe in something bigger than you. Ben Franklin said, "A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle." Well said, Ben! One participant at an Energy Workshop I conducted in Wichita, Kan., expressed it this way: "I find that when I'm too concerned about what others think of me, I have less energy for myself and for my subordinates." Being self-absorbed wastes a lot of energy. Find something bigger to believe in than yourself. It might be the company, the people, the mission, or even the customers, but make it more than you.

  3. Find a reflector. A reflector is a colleague, buddy, or a coach. It has to be someone not involved in your business whom you can talk with honestly and candidly. I also suggest not picking someone loaded with unsolicited advice, but someone who will listen, support, and encourage.

  4. Guard your mind. As best you can, surround yourself with people who are realistic, but who also have the attitude that you (or we) are going to make this work. Churchill said, "Success is not found. Failure is never fatal. Courage is the only thing." Be around people who are encouraging, not discouraging. "En" is a Greek prefix that means in the middle of, and "dis" is the prefix meaning taking away from. Find people who bring you into the middle of courage.

  5. Don't neglect your emotions. Emotions are part of human nature. The harder you try to hide a feeling, the more that feeling will dominate your life. Fear, anger, frustration, love, and sadness are natural emotions. Don't play the strong man or woman and try to ignore these feelings. Feel the emotions; express them appropriately, with the appropriate people at the appropriate time. Believe it or not, it's refueling to express emotions.

  6. Normalize the struggle. I think sometimes we are under the false assumption that we're not supposed to struggle. Struggle is part of the game; without it there is little to no growth. It's when we meet the resistance that we get stronger. Energy is lost when there is too much complaining about the present situation and too little appreciation for the opportunity to grow.

  7. Change direction when necessary. Some difficult times cause us to re-evaluate where we are and where we need to go. Look for the inconspicuous messages. Maybe you are being directed in a different way or to approach the situation in a different way. If you waste energy on worry and fear, you may miss the very thing that will create success.

Finally, don't take yourself too seriously. Given time, all things change. I like the response a man gave when he was asked how he was doing. He responded, "Fine, under the circumstances." The person who posed the question then asked, "Well, what are you doing under there?" Get out from under the circumstances and get energized.

These are days that require strong desire and the courage to maintain it. John Wayne summed it all up when he said, "Courage is being scared to death ... and saddling up anyway."

Bob Rausch, Ph.D.

Bob Rausch, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer

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