Leadership: Are you an energy giver or an energy sucker?

You are never a neutral.  You are always making a difference.  You’re making your workplace a better or poorer place to work. And you’re making your family a better or poorer place to live.

Basically, it all comes down to energy.  You’re either injecting energy into the people around you or you’re sucking it out of them.

So let me make a presumption … that you are not an energy sucker, at least not consciously … and you want to get better at injecting energy into others.  That being the case, here are three strategies that will work wonders for you and with other people.


=> 1. Display lots of energy.

Yes, it starts with you … not them.

As Richard Lenny, the chairman and CEO of Hershey Foods, proclaimed, “I guarantee, as a leader, no one will ever be more optimistic than you are. But if you are a pessimist, I can almost equally guarantee that they will be more pessimistic than you are.”

Your energy is contagious.  If you show lots of energy, you will inject others with energy.

And it doesn’t matter if you feel energetic.  If you wait until you feel energetic, you may wait forever … because that’s not the way our minds and bodies work.

Feelings follow behaviors.  So if you behave with energy, you will soon feel energized.

And then…


=> 2. Maintain a visible presence.

You’ve heard about the need for leaders to walk around their organizations on a regular basis. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done.

Because we fall into the PLU trap … people like us. We like to hang around people pretty much like us.  Managers like to have meetings with other managers.  Teammates tend to eat together.  Senior executives have their own retreat centers. And couples with young children tend to have friends who have young children.

The trouble with the PLU trap is that it undercuts teamwork in organizations. Leaders and managers tend to spend too much time with other leaders and managers rather than the workers who actually get things done.

That’s why chairman and CEO of the Aetna Insurance firm, Ronald Williams, warns, “One of the things we need to guard against in senior executive positions is feeling more comfortable with people who are just like us.”

To get out of the PLU trap and maintain a visible presence, you could:

  • Reserve a half hour every day to return calls.

Even if it means cutting into your lunch hour. Develop a reputation as someone who always gets back to people right away. It sends the message that you respect others.

  • Create a sense of family in your facility.

Host some food-oriented events. Celebrate the good news that takes place in your company and amongst your people. Note the sad events. Let out your sense of humor. And of course, show up for all these events and mingle with people.

  • Remember the anchor people.

Don’t forget the low-level manager who helped you so much as you were first starting out. Remember the team of employees who worked so hard on the project that gave you so much praise. Go back and visit them. Take them out to lunch. Share your appreciation. And point out their strengths.

  • Refuse to hide during the tough times.

When Gordon Bethune took over an airline company that was on the verge of bankruptcy, he took the company “from worst to first” by refusing to hide.  He installed a toll-free number for all workers to call him any time.  He hosted open houses on the executive floor for all the employees, answered all employee questions, and made them feel they were all on the same team.

I encourage you to make it personal.  No matter what your title is, make sure you’re visible … that other people know you’re there and that you care.

And finally, to be an energy giver,


=> 3. Ask lots of questions and really really listen.

There are few things more energizing than to have someone else show interest in us — a real, true, sincere interest. And Brave Questions do exactly that.  They turn a group into a team and a household into a family.

And they create amazing energy and work like magic.

After Gib Whiteman attended my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program, where I taught this technique in detail, he sent me this note:  “Yesterday, as my wife, Jeannie, and I were in the oncologist’s office at the hospital for our routine cancer follow-ups, and right before the nurse was to draw blood and check on my white cell count, I said, “You’re rather new here, aren’t you?  I haven’t seen you here before.”

She replied, “Yep.  I’ve been here about four months and I love it here.  My name is Sarah.”

I then said, “Sarah, you’ll be seeing us every six months for the rest of our lives — if you stay here that long.  We’d like to know more about you.  Tell us about your background, would you?”

Sarah was startled.  “What would you like to know?”  I responded, “Well, where did you go to school for your nurse’s training?  And, what was your favorite subject in school?  Let’s start with that, since you’re a busy person and no doubt have other patients to attend.”

Well, Sarah was pleasantly taken aback.  “I’ve been here four months and no one has ever asked me where I attended nurse’s training!  That’s wonderful.”  She then went on

to spend about a minute telling me of her favorite subject and why she enjoyed learning about it.  Then, without hesitation, she said, “Now, Gib, tell ME where YOU went

to school.  What was YOUR favorite subject?  And why?  OK?  But, you’re right — I do have to get to the patient in the next room.”

So, I reeled off my four colleges — my favorite subject — and why — all in less than a minute.  Sarah and I smiled at each other.  And it didn’t hurt a bit when she drew my


Then, Sarah approached my wife, went over her chart prior to the doctor entering the room, and she said to Jeannie, “This is REALLY interesting.  Wow!  What a way to start a Monday morning!  Mrs. Whiteman, tell me something about yourself.”   So, my wife gave her a 45-second overview.   Sarah left the room with a nice “So long for now” . . .

and again, “This is SOMETHING.  Wow!  Five minutes — the blood is drawn, and three people have come to REALLY know each other.  Wow!”

Dr. Whiteman finished his letter by saying, “All we have to do is to open those lines of communication.  It not only makes the other person feel good about himself, but it paves the way for great relationships.”

You can and will have the same results when you master the Brave Question technique, which I will be teaching at my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program coming to Kansas City on April 19-20, 2018.  Click here for more information.

Just for today, ask yourself one question: Are you an energy giver or an energy sucker?

And if you don’t like your answer, just for today, do something about it.

Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 922 – Leadership: Are you an energy giver or an energy sucker?