We know we need to show up as leaders for our teams. Many of us do it from a state of exhaustion because we think we have no other choice.
However, when we understand how our energy shifts and how to replenish it, we can make different choices and lead from a place of strength and of sustainable high performance. It starts with figuring out how/what you’re feeling, then creating better processes to move yourself from exhaustion to sustained performance and leadership.
The Four Ways You Can Feel
You can experience a hundred different emotions. However, all of them distill down to four ways you can feel, four energy states. Each state uniquely impacts your leadership and interaction with others.
- Performance: Performance state is confident and engaged, running on high positive energy. You have the resources to take on challenges deliberately and purposefully. You create an energy-inspired environment that fuels and motivates the people working with you.
- Survival: Many of my clients acknowledge spending significant time living and working from high negative survival-state energy. It’s dangerous because there is still energy in the system to function but it’s a very different energy – negative, reactive, and certainly not a place from which to lead strategically. I also call this state burn in. People in burn in like their jobs but know deep down they’re not running at a sustainable pace. They don’t have the energy to be their best, but they trivialize it or feel guilty, thinking it’s their inadequacy instead of a systemic issue in our society and workforce.
- Regenerate: In regenerate state, you refuel and replenish, so you have power and energy available to fuel your performance. Regenerate focuses on recovery and on coming back stronger so you can get back to performance state faster and stay there longer.
- Burnout: In burnout state, your daily decisions are marked by inaction because you’re too depleted and withdrawn to care. Burned out leaders neglect their teams because they just don’t have anything left to give.
What Performance State Does And Why You Can’t Stay There
From the descriptions above, it’s clear that performance state is where you want to be. In performance state, your confidence is unbeatably high and you can achieve great things.
But it’s not sustainable to stay there forever.
You’re going to have to downshift at some point. In simple terms, that means choosing to recover to cycle back to performance or reactively experience a sense of forced recovery in burnout.
Most people cycle between the two higher energy states, performance and survival. We tell ourselves we can keep driving forward, immune to the wear-and-tear of this chronic stress. We think as long as we are doing, any kind of energy is valuable.
This false expectation causes many of us to design our days and lives unsustainably.
For example, one of my clients recently adjusted their work schedule to a 7-to-3 shift so they could pick up their kids from school and go straight from work mode to parent mode.
However, with these schedule changes, they didn’t consider making changes to the way they’d recharge themselves. They designed a schedule that integrated the strenuous demands of life but needed help to find opportunities for recovery and regeneration amid the chaos of working parenthood.
To really re-energize and to lead with high positive energy, leaders must recognize and value regenerate state. Shifting to regenerate state is the only pathway to showing up in performance state reliably and consistently, meeting life’s demands with increased capacity, poise, and resolve.
Consider Quality and Quantity To Shift Your Energy Flow
There’s a quality and a quantity aspect to energy. Regenerating should be more than just taking a break. When you regenerate, it needs to be purposeful. Think about the last break you took – did you step away from your computer only to start scrolling on your phone?
If you take a break from work but don’t really disconnect or shift your mindset, what’s the quality of your energy? Are you really moving into regenerate state? Consider your usual habits and whether you could incorporate these instead:
- Using short bursts of energy. Being physical for as little as five to eight minutes can change your perspective and your energy state.
- Listening to your body’s rhythms. I’ve written before about afternoon slumps. Don’t strain yourself to get through them; listen to your body and consider resting, even briefly, between 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to ensure better productivity afterward.
- Spending more time in authentic connection with the people who matter to you.
- Reminding yourself of the things that align with your values. When you work toward fulfilment and with purpose, you shift your energy and increase your capacity.
- Bookending your day. Spend a few minutes on your terms at the start and finish of each day –
Maybe five minutes of meditation or a consistent tech-free cool-down before bedtime. Even amid a packed schedule, those few minutes can set the day’s tone or ensure a restful night.
Many people neglect their own energy because of guilt or worry that caring for themselves appears selfish. However, the reverse is true.
Not caring for yourself pushes you closer to burnout, where you lose your ability for empathy and your capability to support others. Regenerating your energy increases your capacity to manage yourself and lead others.
Give Yourself The Capacity To Use Your Competency
As leaders, we evaluate ourselves and our teams on skills and talent. However, there’s a third factor that impacts both.
Capacity is required to really put skills and talent to work and to maximize successful outputs. And to ensure you have capacity to function effectively, your energy must be flowing in the productive states (performance and regenerate).
The ability to manage energy is more than a nice-to-have. It’s a professional discipline and one you need as a leader. When you create an energy-inspired workplace for your team, it becomes a differentiator and encourages strategy, creativity, and innovation to thrive.