August 9, 2005
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.
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.
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.
The good news about this problem is that a leader literally has many ways to refuel energy. Here are seven:
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."