by David Zinger
The leader as pilot light. Energized and engaged leaders are essential in effective employee engagement approaches within organizations. To be an effective model of employee engagement leaders must monitor, develop, enhance, and ignite their own engagement and energy. In employee engagement endeavours, leaders often function as organizational pilot lights – ready to ignite others as needed. Continue on with this article to read 21 ways leaders can energize themselves.
Depleted leadership energy. Dr. Theresa Welbourne, one of the leading employee engagement researchers and writers, wrote the following statement in her blog post Energize Leaders:
There is a lot of focus today on employee engagement, but what about leader energy and engagement? Everywhere you look there are signs that leaders are not doing very well. Leader turnover is an all-time high; confidence is down, engagement scores are down, and leaders are being asked to answer the phone 24×7, track email nonstop, be on call for questions from employees and peers, firm performance is lower than expected for many organizations, and the list goes on. I continue to find that leader energy is lower than they want it to be, and their confidence in themselves and their support systems is low and declining. Visit Theresa’s site to read more. At the end of the post she asked: How do we help leaders?
Here are 21 invitations I extend to leaders to energize themselves:
- Be mindful. Be mindful of what you are doing and your impact on others – don’t get caught up in the flurry of mindless activities. Take a moment to be in the moment as we only have moments to live.
- Don’t “Watch the watch.” Don’t become hypnotized by the constant repetitive tasks of the day that lead to energy depletion with you becoming too tired to even connect with the staff you lead. Set your watch to beep every hour and take 10 seconds to tune into your energy, give it a number between 1 and 10 (with 1 being extremely low and 10 being fully energized). If your numbers start decreasing determine what you can do right now to raise your number. Even with 10 seconds every hour this will take less than 3 minutes a day yet you will have taken a giant leap to having a focused approach to your personal energy management.
- Nourish yourself. Avoiding becoming scrambled, fried, poached, or hard boiled with your staff because you failed to start the day off with physical nourishment. Remember what mom said, Eat your breakfast.
- Engage in bedtime reading. Energize yourself by reading leadership books. Read for 10 minutes before going to sleep and let writers like Margaret Wheatley or Peter Block rejuvenate your neurons. Of course if you have children you can learn a lot about life and leadership by reading Winnie-the-Pooh or other classic stories to your children while thinking about the applications for work. Watch out for Woozles!
- Give, take and waste? Donald Graves in the book the Energy to Teach asked this quintessential energy question: “Tell me what gives you energy, takes it away, and what for you is a waste of time.” Don’t just read this question. Stop right now and answer the question. And ensure your answers become stimulants to energizing actions.
- Take a breather and inspire yourself. Take conscious breaths through out the day and let your in breath physically, emotionally, and spiritually inspire yourself. You could pair this exercise with your 10 second energy monitoring every hour. As you inhale determine your energy number and as you exhale determine if you need to do something about it.
- Read a blog once a day. Read one of the dozens of exceptional leadership bloggers. It doesn’t take you much time to read a short blog post and you will often find an idea that ignites your energy for a new project or way of working. Click here for a list of 200 to 300 blogs I follow. Find one that fits for you and latch onto it.
- Pan for Gold in Goldsmith. Energize your career by reading Marshall Goldsmith’s books or website. Marshall has great ideas and a free online library packed with resources ranging from applying feedforward to being energized through interaction with a positive accountability partner.
- Write on. Write a blog. Yes, it does take time to write but you will find writing a private or a public blog will do wonders in sharpening your thinking. Experience the energy of instant publication leading to enriching conversations. If you need to build confidence, you can always start by having a private blog, just for yourself or a few selected readers. You can specify how private or public you want your blog to be and it is absolutley free.
- Hug. Hug your children, your wife, or maybe even a tree. You don’t have to go touchy-feely but whatever you do, don’t lose touch.
- Be strong. Know your strengths, apply your strengths, and leverage your strengths in the service of others. As you use your strengths you will find yourself getting stronger and more energized. Take a strength test. Minimize or work around your weaknesses. Engage in a strength based discussion.
- Stop feeling crazy busy. When someone asks how are you, do you ever reply, “busy” or “crazybusy.” Stop it. Read CrazyBusy by Ned Hallowell and monitor your screen sucking – stay connected with what matters and who matters the most to you. Click here to visit the Crazybusy website and find more tips on how to remove the crazy from busy.
- Avoid energy suckers. Be vigilant of energy suckers and do what you can so they don’t stick to you, draining away precious reserves of energy with their energy draining approach to life, work, and relationships. Marshall Goldsmith estimates the average worker either complains about their boss or listens to someone else complain about their boss about 10 hours a month and about 30% of people spend up to 20 hours a month on this. There are much better ways to spend your energy: change your boss, change your work, or change yourself.
- Nourish interactions. Jane Dutton calls these moments between people high quality interactions and Tom Rath calls them bucket fillers. These small interactions where you really show up and notice others can create energy not only for you but for your organization. You have about 20,000 opportunities a day…how many are you seizing to create high quality interactions to energize the other person, yourself, and the organization.
- Unite the trio of strength, love, and contribution. Apply your strengths to what you love to do while making a contribution to others. I like to visualize each of these 3 elements (strength, love, contribution) residing inside individual circles. Energy is enhanced when the circles unite, and ideally there would be little or no separation between your strengths, passion, and service. When strength, love, and contribution are completely fused, we experience authentic wholeness and feel fully energized and engaged.
- Push through the energy paradox. It takes energy to get energy. We can often feel too tired to do something that would energize us. Yet, we often know the hardest part is to get started. Jump start your efforts with an energy buddy or a simple ritual to engage in relationships, reading, or recreation that returns more energy to you than it takes.
- Get some sleep. Perhaps wait until you finish this article to get some sleep but we need rest to rejuvenate our energy. Intentional disengagement and rest fuels us for engaged and energetic leadership.
- Live a limited engagement. Just because you can order Starbucks beverages in 89,000 different combinations don’t think you can have it all. Prune away the energy wasters while also taking time to smell the coffee and find some wisdom, even if it is printed on the side of your coffee cup.
- Make inertia your “ex” with exercise. Of course exercise is the greatest human stimulant so step out of the rat race – train for a 10K race – take a walk at a brisk pace – run to first base.
- Reject any tyranny of tips (including the ones listed here). If you read this list as tips you must follow and you don’t act on them, you may feel the energy drain of guilt. Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are. Experience the energy of full acceptance without it withering into resigned passivity. This is a list of invitations not impositions. You are free to accept the invitations that fit and decline the ones that do not fit. Just don’t go into a “fit” thinking, “oh no another 21 things I have to do in an already overloaded day!” As the Buddha reminded us: Be a lamp unto yourself. Become an engaged, energized and enlightened leader by discovering, uncovering, or recovering the energy answers that work for you.
- Laugh to last. If you laugh, you last. Energized leaders fuse playfulness with “workfulness.” I often recite the modified serenity prayer written by Jane. N: God grant me the laughter to see the past with perspective, face the future with hope, and celebrate today without taking myself too seriously.
Let energy lead the way to leadership in employee engagement. Let these invitations open the door to high levels of energized and engaged leadership that resides within you and is sparked by your authentic connections with others.
Go ahead, accept some of these invitations. Even better, create your own energy grid. Say yes to energy gains and no to energy drains. As Peter Block so aptly stated, “the answer to how is yes.”