Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to get what you need done? Or is your team consistently missing deadlines and project milestones? The issue may not be poor time management but how energy is managed. Energy is the fuel that helps drive our actions and it can be a powerful advantage at work. Sometimes seen as passion or enthusiasm, positive energy can help inspire and catapult projects and teams alike. What’s more, unlike time, energy is a renewable source.
How is energy expressed at work? When we are fully energized, it manifests as colleagues who are more collaborative, creative, and resilient to challenges. When we push ourselves (or our teams) to chronically work long hours, we can also see the effect of low energy as higher reactivity and increased conflicts in the workplace. At the extreme, no energy turns into burnout or resignation. Last year, more than 50 million U.S. workers quit their jobs – many attributing to feelings of burnout.
Energy is also contagious. Have you ever been in a meeting where one person’s comments or inability to collaborate derailed the team’s momentum? At a larger scale, a leader’s inability to set a clear vision or communicate priorities can demotivate a once-thriving department. Our ability to feel motivated and inspired is a source of energy that drives our work. When we feel part of a larger purpose, we can accomplish great things.
Practice for You
Managing Your Energy
Wondering where to begin in managing your energy? Try these three steps for transformational results:
Step 1: Conduct an Energy Audit
Just like we audit finances, we can also conduct an audit of what depletes our energy. I recommend keeping a journal over a period of a few weeks of the projects, places, things, and people that deflate, demotivate, or demoralize you or your team. Looking for patterns is key: does a team meeting always seem to veer off course when a particular individual participates? Does the same client’s projects always seem to take more time and project management to get off the ground than others? Do you find yourself unable to focus after a day full of Zoom-based meetings? These can be red flags for energy drainers.
Step 2: Create and Keep Boundaries
Once we know what – and who – drains us, we are better equipped to take actions that advocate for our needs or the needs of our team. Whether it’s scheduling walking breaks to counterbalance Zoom fatigue or reassigning a disruptive colleague off a project, we can create boundaries that protect our energy. Boundaries are our ability to prioritize our needs or the needs of our teams in ways that set ourselves up for success. When we can articulate our clear expectations and the consequences of what will happen when boundaries are crossed, we have created an effective boundary.
Step 3: Align Your Energy
There’s a quote often repeated in business that says: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” This also holds true for energy. The quality of the people we surround ourselves with impacts our motivation, so as much as we can, we want to work and connect with those individuals who inspire us. When leading teams, this can mean intentionally curating colleagues’ roles on a project to focus on strengths. As a leader, this can mean reaching out to a mentor or coach who can help you continue to realize your full potential.
Practice for Your Team
Micro Breaks: Supporting Your Team’s Energy
There are many ways to help manage your team’s energy levels including assessing equitable workloads, re-evaluating project timelines, and identifying additional external resources when necessary. However, one immediate practice you can try right now is the simple power of micro-breaks during the workday. Research has shown that attempting to “recover” over the weekends does not mitigate chronic workplace stress. To help mitigate burnout and foster a thriving workplace for your team, experiment with the following ideas:
Recharge and Refocus: Normalize taking short breaks for your team. For hybrid teams, encourage 45-minute meetings to allow for 15-minute breaks in the schedule. Encourage colleagues to step away from their computers for an afternoon stretch.
Change of Scenery: Consider turning some of your 1:1 meetings in the office into walks and talks. Take it outside and get a (literally) different perspective on your discussions.
Connect with a Greater Purpose: Particularly when teams are working long hours on a key project, take an intentional break to reconnect them to the bigger picture and mission – whether it is delivering exceptional customer service or putting a man on the moon (the origin of the moonshot term).
A Spark of Joy
Joy is a powerful energy source, and one that you can tap into anywhere, at any time:
A Different View
Curious about real-world examples of working with energy? Watch my recent LinkedIn Live with Lori Putnam, a strategic communications executive currently serving as a chief of staff within the CSU’s Office of the Chancellor. We compare notes on what can energize as well as demotivate our work colleagues.
Executive Coaching and Leadership Development