Deal in Energy

Everything is energy and that is all there is to it.
Albert Einstein

A few years ago, I was a participant in a three-day leadership training workshop. It was an intense three days for me and the rest of the group. For me, the first day was mostly ‘up’ - meeting new people, discovering new leadership frameworks, and learning about myself. The rest of the group seemed to similarly enjoy it.

When it came to the morning of day two, my energy was really flat. The work felt like it was heavier, and I was more subdued. As I looked around me, I could see the other participants also working hard.

At lunchtime, the facilitator (world-class leadership practitioner and research Jennifer Garvey-Berger) came up to me. She said that she’d observed my behaviour during the time we’d spent together as a group so far, and the energy I brought with it. What she said next has stuck with me for the past 10 years: “You’re like an energy barometer: when you’re up, the group goes up. When you’re low, the group goes low.” 

I’d never realised, nor owned, that my energy had such a significant impact on a group. It was a gift of responsibility that I’ve kept to this day.

As I said in my book Change Makers: “You cannot not make an impact…whenever you show up, you have an impact, whether you consciously intend to or not.”

Energy. It’s the fuel of performance. Scientists define energy as ‘the ability to do work’. Without energy, work simply doesn’t happen.

Just Add Energy

As leaders, we can often think that our work is to rally the team around a common purpose. Well, yes, that’s true. Yet if you think about it, what we’re really trying to do there is to harness the collective energy of people to create something brilliant. We’ve seen too many purpose statements on websites and walls to know that a common purpose by itself isn’t enough. A common purpose comes to life when we add energy to it. 

That means helping people to feel that purpose every day. It’s about helping them experience, as author Peter Block puts it, a 'quality of aliveness'. Mythologist Joseph Campbell mused that what people want most ‘is an experience of being alive’. When we feel like we’re ‘alive’, we both create and bring more energy to what we’re doing. And better work gets done.

Leadership is about dealing in energy, first and foremost.

Put Your Energy First

With experience, I’m much more acutely aware of the need and responsibility to manage my own energy. If I want to do good ‘work’ in any domain - as a dad, partner, practitioner, speaker, author, athlete, or friend - I know in my bones that if I prioritise looking after myself, my ‘work’ is going to be better for it. One of my big life lessons (that I’m still working on) is learning to say ‘no’ to things that look like they’ll be an energy drain rather than an energy gain. As I let go of FOMO, guilt and the need for approval, I become a better leader for others.

How to become an Energy Dealer:

  1. Prioritise habits and activities that energise you. For example, Nick Petrie’s work on burnout has found that people who have an ‘opposite world’ - a regular activity that’s very different from their day to day work - are less prone to burnout and more able to show up with energy over the long haul.
  1. Learn to tell stories. As Brene Brown puts it, ‘stories are data with a soul’. Go beyond the numbers. That’s head stuff. If you want to move people, you’ve got to get to the heart. That’s what good stories do.
  1. Prioritise presence. You cannot not have an impact. If you’re present in body, but your mind is elsewhere, people can tell. When you put your full attention on the person, or the group, in front of you, you're going to project a different energy. Just think of the last time you felt really listened to. My guess is you left that conversation more energised. To grow your presence, check out my prototype Dual Awareness cards, designed to help you be more present in the moment.

One last thing. Being ‘energetic’ and being a dealer in energy aren’t the same thing. When we think of energetic people, we often imagine people who are sparky, bubbly, or charismatic. That’s one way of showing energy, but it’s not the full picture. What I’m talking about here is more aligned to authenticity than it is to acting. If you’re not the sparky type, don’t fake it. Bring your own energy, in your own way. When you do that, people feel it. 

Go deal some energy!

For more like this, check out Forget Time Management, Master These Disciplines Instead.

#leadership #change #changemakers #leadershipdevelopment #authenticity

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