As we head further into the remaining quarter of 2020, the issue of personal energy is becoming more and more real. No matter who you speak to, if you get past the cursory “How-are-you-I’m-fine”, there is an eventual sag of the shoulders and an admission that this year has really taken its toll. There’s also an unwillingness to admit weakness to ourselves as much as to each other, lest we be unable to retrieve the mask of certainty once this conversation is over.
Whether it’s been watching others lose their job – those within your industry or your office or social circle. Whether it’s been trying to lead a team of people through the hazards of this year knowing that they are disjointed, struggling to come to terms with the changes, and have given all they can to hang in there. Or whether it’s that your business or industry is one that hasn’t shut down at all, and you’ve kept trucking throughout – regardless of the changes and challenges, taking full advantage of the gap in the market to excel.
Whatever the case, when you unpack the conversation, no one is quite sure where they’re drawing their energy from. People are tired.
When we are tired, when we are uncertain, when we are flagging and when we want to drive forward, the grounding principle is the same. It is to go back to the root of it all. To ask and to remember “What is the essence of why you’re doing what you’re doing?”
One of Simon Sinek’s latest LinkedIn videos speaks about the lack of leadership in the world today that has been brewing as far as the 1970s. He quotes an economist by the name of Milton Friedman as having theorised that the responsibility of business was solely to maximize profit. This theory prioritised the wants, needs and desires of the shareholders over those of the employees or customers. Sinek likens this to a sports coach trying to build a good team by appeasing the fans, whilst ignoring the players.
He speaks about the rise in selfishness, and the issues caused by the fact that leaders who thought this way during the 1970’s and 1980’s have now found their way into politics and other high-powered roles. He mentions that he’s embarrassed that he has a job. That he talks about trust and cooperation, and that there should be no demand for his work. And yet…
We are starting to talk more about what good leadership looks like. We’re starting to reject more of the old way of doing things and consider what it truly takes to power forward in today’s world. It takes authenticity. Trust. Cohesion. Combined energy. Agreed upon drive and direction. Teamwork. Collaboration.
When we try and operate under our own steam, convinced of our own omnipotence; perhaps even from a protective stance over ourselves or those around us, based on our own ego assumption that we alone can make it work – we are at risk of running out of our own limited energy very fast. Certainly, before we’ve achieved what we’ve set out to do if it doesn’t go smoothly and requires more from us than we anticipated.
When we are prepared to acknowledge that we’re part of a greater team, even as a leader, be that at work or at home, then we link ourselves up to the potential power and drive of a combined effort. Suddenly, the power available is not only amplified, but done right, protected, it is self-replenishing. How many of you would be interested in combined, self-replenishing energy round about now?
The key to tapping into that combined, self-replenishing power is two-fold.
Firstly, it requires that you look within to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. What’s the long-term intention? What are you shooting for or hoping to achieve at the end of the day? What is the outcome that’s truly important to you? It’s seldom legitimately how much money we make. It’s normally what that money may represent (choice, achievement, freedom, advancement); or it’s not money at all, but something far greater (family, wellbeing, longevity, security, impact, legacy).
When we tap back into the underlying reasons behind why we choose to do what we do, it connects us to the source of our own power. Our raison d’être.
Secondly, when we share the authenticity behind what we’re striving for with the other people in our team, and we open up a discussion about it, we allow them not only to connect with us and our reason, but with their own reason and the power behind that too. We create space where we can all ground ourselves and reconnect with the power that drives us. We can tap in and remember. We can draw and share strength.
As leaders, one of the best ways to do that is to create a discussion. Decide on what you’d like to ask about to inspire that discussion, and then listen, with curiosity, to the outcome.
Ask questions that inspire open comment and contribution, and then LISTEN. Listen to what’s being expressed. Not only to what’s being said, but what’s not being said. Examine the general energy of the response and what it’s telling you. (You can do this as easily with yourself as you can with your team.)
Choose the right physical space to ask questions in. Where does it need to be to make the participants most at ease? Neutral territory? Public or private? Quiet one-on-one or a team chip-in? Creating the right space in which your people feel open and able to answer those questions and prepping the mindset you need to be in to receive the answers and listen to what those answers communicate is no small task. Weirdly though, it requires that we let go a little as leaders, rather than holding on too tightly. It also invites real input, which if listened to, received and responded to honestly, can help you to not only elevate your own energy, but that of the whole team. We are SO much stronger together, than each of us in their own space merely operating near each other.
Being (responsibly) REAL takes less energy than faking it…. And at this stage of this year, no one has the excess energy to waste working out what everyone else’s agenda is, or trying to remember what they said last time when they needed it to sound good. Keeping it real is not always easy – we’re so trained into sweetening things up. Demonstrating realness is a superb leadership trait – one which leads a straighter path forward and ultimately relaxes our team members so that they can be real too. Real is a much shorter route between two points than the scenic route.
When you’re real, you are consistent. Consistency earns trust. Trust makes everything faster. Real means the specifics are clearer, and consequently so are our chances of success when we know what we’re aiming at and the goal posts don’t change. Trust and respect go hand in hand. Real is not always pretty, but when people learn that they can trust you (whether it’s pretty or not), they’re more likely to respect what you say – even when it smarts a little.
Being real = knowing who you are and what you stand for, which loops back to examining WHY it is you do what you do. Why you’re aiming at what you’re aiming at. (Do you know what you’re aiming at?). Standing by who you choose to be in the accomplishment of that goal.
When we ask our team members direct and real questions, we help them clarify these same things for themselves. WHAT do you want to achieve? HOW will you achieve this? By WHEN? These questions are the basis of accountability. Of authenticity. Of plugging unnecessary energy leaks due to scenic routes and lack of clarity. These conversations bring us back not only to the source of our power, but to the combined and reciprocal power of team.
by Christen Killick
October 19th, 2020