Leaders in all industries are discovering that energy plays a critical role in individual, team and organizational performance. As leadership expert Richard Neslund puts it, “Energy is the fuel that powers the engines of performance.”
Consider this: Researchers from IBM’s Institute for Knowledge-Based Management, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia collaboratively studied the flow of energy in the workplace and found that people who are “energizers”:
Are more likely to have their ideas considered and put into action;
get more input, information, and commitment from those around them; and
attract the commitment of other high performers.
In addition, people who worked with and around energizers performed better than those who worked with or around de-energizers.
Being an energizing leader is not about delivering motivational speeches and holding pizza parties at work. While the ability to inspire is important, effective leaders recognize that being an energizer is not about projecting energy as much as it about uncovering and unleashing energy to achieve a specific result.
So where does energy come from? There are four sources of energy at work inside organizations.
Internal energy is generated within each person when there is a match between the person’s job and his or her individual interests, motivations, and mindset.
Interpersonal energy is created when there are productive and positive interactions between employees and their colleagues and managers.
Group energy results from alignment at the team or unit level, including having a clear purpose, effective processes, conflict resolution, and removal of barriers.
Organizational energy occurs when employees at all levels share a sense of urgency, a clear sense of direction, a commitment to action, and empowerment.
When it comes to leading change, energy becomes imperative. In 2008, the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. surveyed 1,500 executives about transformation projects. McKinsey found that the companies whose change efforts were successful reported that they had been able to sustain and mobilize energy during the transformation. The same survey showed that more than half of the companies with failed change efforts reported that they were unsuccessful at mobilizing and sustaining energy.
Much of the research on leading and communicating change focuses on organizational energy. Unfortunately, too many leaders rely on the wrong methods in their attempts to reach this point. They want to hold town hall meetings that energize hundreds of people in one fell swoop. What typically ends up happening is that people feel a temporary surge during a meeting like this, but not enough individual commitment to implement lasting changes in behavior. Organizational energy is truly achieved only when corporate and mass communication methods are combined with the actions of individual leaders who leverage internal, interpersonal and group energy.
To create the energy for change, leaders must tap into the highly personal and unique internal energy at the core of each and every person.
Change leaders focus on internal energy for two reasons. First, no change takes place without individual changes in behavior. For your change effort to be a success, you need each person on your team to be energized enough to overcome inertia, habits and the status quo.
Second, internal energy is a powerful source of motivation. When you understand what drives each person on your team, your job becomes easy. You don’t need to micromanage your team — you unleash and channel your team members’ energy and get out of the way.
Mack is a Woodland Park-based consultant, speaker and author specializing in leading and communicating change. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.