Leaders can only provide a charge if they’ve maintained their own batteries.
Good leaders pay attention to creating positive energy … because they know leaders are never “energy neutral.” They’re either giving people energy or taking it from them.
To create more energy in the people around you, I recommend three strategies.
=> 1. Exhibit great amounts of positive energy.
Yes, it starts with you … not them. As Richard Lenny, the chairman and CEO of Hershey Foods, proclaims, “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 as well guarantee that they will be more pessimistic than you are.”
Good leaders lead with attitude. And as I like to ask the leaders in my audiences, “If attitudes are contagious, are yours worth catching?”
But please, don’t mistake a positive attitude for denial. These are tough times. I know that, and you know that. And your coworkers know that. So you can’t pretend everything is great when they aren’t.
However, as government executive John W. Gardner puts it, “The first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive.” So you continue to show your caring and understanding by giving them something to hang on to … namely, your own positive, hopeful, energetic attitude … despite the tough times.
And as medical center executive Nancy Baker put it, “It’s not always easy, but offering compassion is a very disarming and effective management tool.”
No matter what’s going on, you’ve got to show a lot of energy. You’ve got to show an energy where people see you working with determination, working on the organization’s goals, and working for the people in your organization.
=> 2. Maintain a visible presence.
We’ve all heard about the need for leaders to walk around their organizations on a regular basis. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done.
After all, it’s natural for every living species to want to be around TLU’s … things like us. You see it in the animal kingdom and the plant world. Every living species tends to hang around other species just like them.
And the same goes for people. We like to hang around PLU’s … people like us. Employees of one department tend to eat together; senior executives have their retreat centers, and even couples with young children tend to have friends who are at the same place in life.
The trouble with the PLU phenomenon 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. And that undercuts the very nature of teamwork and collaborative effort where we need all types of talent.
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 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.
*Eliminate the “executive suite” mystique. When Gordon Bethune became CEO of Continental Airlines, they were on the verge of bankruptcy. But as he documents in his book, they went “from worst to first” by using the visibility principle. He installed a toll-free, voice-mail number for all workers to call him. And Bethune returned all calls.
He even hosted open houses — with food and drinks — on the executive floor for all employees at month’s end. He conducted tours of the executive offices, answered all employee questions, and encouraged them to sit at his desk. And because all employees attended, they could chat with managers they might not otherwise see.
And in your quest to be a leader that generates positive energy…
=> 3. Ask a lot of questions and really really listen.
There are few things more invigorating than to have someone else show interest in us — a real, true, sincere interest. Good questions do that. That’s why I wrote the book on “Brave Questions: Building Stronger Relationships by Asking All the Right Questions.” The right questions turn a group into a team and a household into a family..
For starters, I’ve found the following questions to be helpful as you work and connect with others in your organization.
Goal Setting Questions
* What would you like to achieve?
* What’s getting in the way of you achieving your goals?
* How do you plan on overcoming those obstacles?
Questions That Tie To Organizational Goals
* How will your personal goals help or hinder your job performance?
* How well do your values align with our corporate values?
Questions On Internal Motivators
* What was a time in your life when you were performing at your peak and felt totally excited, satisfied, and proud?
* What activities could you do for hours and never get bored or lose your energy?
* What are your unique strengths? How do you use them?
Questions On Problems And Accountability
* How have you contributed to the situation?
* What can you do differently that will influence the outcome?
Questions On Overcoming Resistance
* If magically, nothing stood in your way, how would your future be different?
* Who else do you know who has overcome enormous challenge? What can you learn or apply from that person?
* If you couldn’t overcome this obstacle, what could you do to cope with it?
Those are just a few questions you could use if you were trying to coach someone. The “Brave Questions” book gives you 400 more questions you could use when you’re trying to connect with someone.
And then after you ask the questions, to make sure it’s an energizing experience, you’ve got to listen to their answers with your best listening skills. Confident, inspiring, effective leaders do that. They’re what you call “big people.” As motivational author David J. Schwartz says, “Big people monopolize the listening. Small people monopolize the talking.”
Action: Do an attitude audit. Ask 15 people in your work area to anonymously score your attitude on a scale of 1 to 10 … with 10 being the best or most positive. If your scores average less than a 7, you’ve got some serious work to do on projecting a more positive attitude.