How do you feel when you’re at your best?
When I ask my clients, including executives at leading global companies, this question, I hear responses like “confident,” “excited,” “eager,” “focused,” “motivated,” and “almost unbeatable.”
That’s exactly where we want our team members to be. When we function in performance state, we fuel our work with optimism and high positive energy.
We have adequate capacity to lead and perform and we can do our best, most inspiring work. People sometimes refer to creative juices flowing but it’s more. It’s energy flowing and fueling creativity, strategic thinking, innovation, and inspiration.
People who consistently bring these skills to the table – they’re the workers, the team members, the leaders that every organization seeks out. Corporations spend millions of dollars each year seeking these elusive workers – investing money in training programs and resources they can use to develop talented professionals into leaders who can guide their teams.
They’re leaving something out.
Many companies are trying to do the right thing by their employees. They’re investing in building the competency of their team members. Unfortunately, they forget the capacity part of the equation – people must have the energy, their leverageable bandwidth, to execute on productive, meaningful work and show up at their very best.
Neuroscience tells us that our brains have a finite capacity for focus. When our brains are preoccupied with identifying threats, pitfalls and even rewards, we succumb to tunnel vision. When we’re worried about whether we’ll be promoted, whether we’ll have yet another project added to our plate, or whether a colleague will throw us under the bus, we’re focused on protecting ourselves and limiting damage instead of on emerging opportunities.
When that bad kind of stress (distress) increases, focus decreases. We use up our bandwidth on survival rather than taking time for recovery. We take on bad habits (less exercise, more mindless scrolling, worse sleep, etc.) to compensate for the lack of recovery and continue to degrade our energy and move ourselves toward burnout.
We can do this to ourselves as well by constantly pushing toward a promotion or taking on too much. We may be doing more – but is it really our best self that’s performing?
How to Bring out the Best
People praise good leaders by saying that they bring out the best in their employees. When they say this, they usually mean valuable human characteristics like desire, empathy, creativity, innovation, ingenuity, helpfulness, optimism, and perseverance.
Those traits, and the capability to comfortably bring them to the forefront, thrive in a culture where there’s a balance between performance and recovery. When people are stretched thin, they don’t have the bandwidth to bring extra helpfulness and creativity to the table. When they’re just surviving day-to-day, they are unable to manifest creative ideas and don’t have the capacity to bring them to fruition.
As a leader, you can:
- Create a safe environment where clarity can thrive. Uncertainty and unpredictability – common currency today – promote higher stress levels and diminish team focus. Your team members need to feel safe and supported within their work environment, knowing they can express their needs and advocate for change. Google conducted long-term assessments to determine which differentiators impacted team performance. Their highest performing teams also had the highest psychological safety ratings.
- Develop productivity by cultivating the performance rhythm in your employees/team. You don’t want team members who give 10 percent to 10 different areas of focus. Instead, you want team members who can give 100 percent effort and focus, then refresh so they’re back at full capacity when needed.
- Encourage and model disconnection when away from work. When your people step away from technology OUTSIDE the office, it enables them to focus more when in the office. People who are able to compartmentalize are more rested when they’re at work and more able to focus without distraction.
- Educate your team on the impact of stress. Stress affects the way individuals feel and the way that teams work together. Chronic stress morphs the brain by shrinking the mPFC (our higher executive function area) and growing the amygdala (the fight-or-flight area). Teams with chronically stressed members can’t work together as well because they’re too reactive and they’re unable to find common ground for collaboration.
Many leaders use “handling stress” as an indicator of high performance. If they overload their best employees and the employees don’t complain, they assume it’s because they can handle it, not because they’re hiding the havoc stress is wreaking on their wellbeing behind the scenes.
Cultivating Energy-Inspired Leadership To Bring Out The Best In People
Energy-Inspired Leadership focuses on personal sustainability – striving for high performance while at the same time honoring the need for recovery. When you create a culture around Energy-Inspired Leadership, everyone benefits.
- Your team members love being part of the team, feel a loyal commitment to doing great work that matters, and are ready to bring creative ideas to fruition.
- Your customers are more loyal because team members are inspired to provide the best service.
- Your organization reaps the benefits of higher performance while at the same time developing more engaged employees and reducing attrition.
- You gain confidence as a leader and use your leadership skills as a strategic advantage and competitive differentiator for your organization.
Fueling the best parts of you (and of your team) is what makes work worth it. It’s that brainstorm session with the million-dollar idea that happened because you had bandwidth and weren’t tapped out. It’s the problem you were able to solve because you were fully tuned in and focused instead of being half-there and distracted by your phone. It’s the all-star team member you were able to retain and grow because they felt prioritized and valued. Energy inspires it, fuels it, and leads to sustainable performance over time.