Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way!

What energy must YOU provide to lead your troops into battle?

Orb“Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way” is a quote from the intrepid General George Patton, and whilst it may not generally be the most diplomatic way to go about things, it certainly conveys energy! It gives three very real options which are true in any situation which calls for leadership – your options are to lead, to follow, or to get out of the way whilst everyone else picks one of the two.

When it comes to generating the energy I’ve spoken about in my previous articles and on my website – the energy that engages employees and makes you WANT to come to work; the energy that leaves customers or clients wanting more and willing to come back – not only has to start somewhere, but it needs to be given direction. Where does it come from and who decides its direction?

Now corporate business can get murky when it comes to responsibilities. Who sets up what; who reports to whom; what exactly is your field of responsibility and how does that overlap or not with your job description; whose toes are you stepping on and do you jump or discuss when given a directive anyhow? Many examine their shoes when these questions are asked.

A large part of the principle of MY business is based on being able to relate the intricacies of corporate business to aviation and in doing so, get people to see those murky subjects from the clearer perspective they feel when they place their lives in the hands of an aircrew and board an aircraft.

Imagine for a moment an aircraft Captain strolling purposefully and with authority, flight bag in hand, to meet up with the rest of the crew with which he will perform today’s flight. He may or may not have worked with them before. They may or may not have flown this aircraft on this route together before. But there is one thing that is non-negotiable and that is that the Captain sets the energy and direction for the crew to follow.

What would happen if he didn’t take up this role or did so tentatively? What would happen if he threw it open to discussion or let one or a number of the other crew members decide the tone and course of today’s flight. Does that picture start to make you feel differently about the outcome?

Hopefully we agree that the more simple and settling course (for a host of reasons you may be able to articulate and perhaps some you can only feel) is for the Captain to set the energy and direction for the flight.  That said, that does not relieve any member of that crew from their particular job or from leading within their own roles.  In fact it supports it with the acknowledgement that it would be just as alarming if the Captain tried to do the work or even oversee the work of all the crew members. Therein lies the trust and autonomy (which are resultants of the energy and direction laid down by the Captain).

And so it is with business. Someone must set the energy and direction for your course, or it is likely that the compass will metaphorically be left to swing to any one of a number of different pulls. Visualise the suspense and uncertainty generated in a movie when the anxious plot members stare at the needle of the compass they are gathered around as it swings aimlessly, not resting on any one direction. The energy changes instantly and a sigh of relief is given as the compass needle picks up its purpose and swings with decisiveness to a single heading. The difference between those two energies is the difference between barely making it through and celebrating the success of your business. If there is any murkiness in your business, it may well be that this aspect is less defined that it could or should be.

So hopefully we’ve established that it’s up to YOU as Captain of your business (or team for that matter) to generate the energy and decide its direction, so let’s talk a little more about what that energy and direction need to be. Obviously, the exact description of these two things is entirely up to you and is ultimately what make your business unique. Get it right and it will make you a market leader. Get it wrong, and you’re likely to go under for any one of a plethora of “symptoms” that are the end result of lack of energy and direction.

Left to their own devices, people will pick their own energy and direction. And yes, that includes you, yourself.  Deciding on what the energy needs to be means deciding on what your business is, who YOU are as a leader and where these two things mesh to best advantage. Before you get too excited, or too overwhelmed, there are plenty of warnings of the “If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you’ll never be great at anything” type. The value here lies in simplicity and focus on core strengths. The rest is what teams are for – and that’s the subject for a whole other article.

Energy is about personality. It’s about what signature you wish to put on your business that will elevate and excite your employees and that will feed your customers something they’ll want more of. It’s closely tied to the “feeling” I wrote about in my article entitled “People will forget what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel”. This is a founding energy. It is one that you want to eventually pervade every part of your business, every decision made and every representation of any form. It is definitive, so it’s worth giving careful thought to.

Get it right and you will start to feel that energy come alive. Now, let’s talk about the direction of that energy.  Visualise the electricity flicking and flowing around inside the globe of a vibrantly coloured static lamp (plasma globe). This energy is what you have created for your business. How satisfying is it to apply a finger to the surface of that globe and watch the energy redirect to your finger tip? THIS is what we’re talking about by giving your energy direction.

Giving direction to that energy is about leadership, guidance, communication and encouragement. After that, the energy will flow, move and grow on its own if it’s fed. Your job is firstly to lead the introduction of that energy. To communicate the nature and essence of the energy you have generated and to explain how it needs to flow. To guide it where it needs to be and help it along its path when it encounters kinks or disconnections, and to encourage its right use so that it expands and takes on its own life in your business.

Every single flight a Captain undertakes offers him an opportunity to put forward a specific energy and to direct its flow. By his tone will the rest of the crew operate and by his tone will the efficiency of that operation be defined.

If his energy is overly authoritarian or abrasive, he will test the limits of his crew’s ability to compensate for that imbalance. No one will want the energy he puts out and they’ll try and hand it back or neutralise it. He may encounter the sullenness of resentment, or a dismissive or disinterested reaction to his arrogance. None of these bode well for the transfer of energy that results in a positive outcome let alone return patronage!

But if his tone sets in motion positive energy directed by strong leadership and clear communication showing faith, trust and support for the roles played by his other crew members, the outcome is likely to not only be completely different, but will take on an expansive quality that will ultimately result in passengers feeling “well handled”. Which flight would you rather be on? Which would you choose to fly again next time?

Where energy is concerned, like breeds like. What is your energy and where does it flow?

By Christen Killick

August 3rd 2015

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