At a point where the world has been in crisis for a year, the psychology of leadership has changed. Even the leaders and team members most practised at declaring their energy and readiness are sounding less convinced, which is not really surprising when we’ve been making it up as we go along for an extended period of time.
Change takes energy. Energy to monitor; energy to facilitate; energy to recalculate. The unique challenge of this past year is that many of the ways that we recharge our energy before running back into the fray have been removed from our lives or short circuited. Whether that’s a drink with a friend, a walk on the beach, a good read or a game of golf, the opportunities have been diminished. Given half a chance, most will admit that their energy is lower than their normal average – and that recharge remains strangely illusive.
Leadership requires that we acknowledge current circumstances honestly with ourselves and with our people – whether those people are our family at home or our team in the office. Leadership also requires that we identify the most effective and efficient use of energy and direct it there. Often, this comes down to asking the right questions or saying things the right way.
I was forwarded an article this week which Lapin International attributes to David Lapin, that discussed the difference between fatigue and depletion. I will quote the first paragraphs here and encourage you to read the rest of it at the above link because I think it hits the nail on the head for most people right now. Then, let’s talk about asking the right questions.
David Lapin writes, “Fatigue is when a muscle or the mind has been used almost to the point of failure and it requires rest to recuperate. Contrastingly, depletion is when our inner resources of energy have been drained—and this may have no connection to exertion. One can be depleted without feeling tired. And one can be tired without feeling depleted.
Consider an empty glass of water. You can rest it for as long as you will, but rest won’t replenish its contents. Similarly, your body and mind are just containers. Your emotions, your intellect, and your spirit are the contents. You can only give emotional, intellectual, and spiritual output when your container is overflowing with content. This means you always need more emotional, intellectual, and spiritual input than output. If you continually draw from your content, you quickly become depleted. People with this overflow are the people we find energized and energizing. On the other hand, depleted people who need others to fill them are often the individuals who drain us!
But here’s the problem: Because fatigue and depletion can feel the same, we often misdiagnose our condition. We think we are fatigued, so we rest. But in fact, we might be depleted, in which case no amount of rest will restore our inner resources. When we are depleted, we need restoration rather than rest or relaxation.”
If we are willing to acknowledge that we are all depleted to some degree, then we can also acknowledge that efficient and effective use of the energy we DO have is paramount. We can understand that the probability of people being tempted to take short cuts is also higher. As is the probability that we will drop balls and make mistakes.
Leadership in this current environment means examining yourself and asking whether you are depleted – asking yourself what you require in order to recharge that depletion and taking responsibility for finding it. It means checking in with your people and making them aware of themselves too. It means finding and encouraging ways to double check ourselves and each other – because we can have no expectation that any of us will be on point all the time. Some of our mistakes may lead to complications down the line. Some of us work in environments where mistakes could cause detriment to those we immediately work with or serve.
Because we need to make the most efficient use of our energy, we don’t have extra for fighting internal conflicts within our teams. Counteractively, we are all more guarded and thus quicker to react negatively in how we deal with each other. We need reminders that we’re all moving toward the same goals, and that our energy is best used towards the same ends. This is what makes asking the right questions important. It’s important that we ask questions and put things in ways that encourage collaboration rather than guardedness, competition or conflict.
Some of the right questions may be:
“What do you need from me right now to most easily do your job?”
“Do you have all the tools, resources and information you need?”
“It would help me to have XYZ information presented this way. How can I make your job easier with the information I present you?”
“What are the most important things for us to aim at over the next three months, and how will they help us move forward?”
“What are some examples of the things that replenish you? Here are a few of mine. How can we make sure we get more of what we need?”
“I’d appreciate it if you could double check me here and here. Whilst all our energy is low, how can I help by having your back?”
Part of being an effective leader and team member is recognising that we are all personally responsible for ourselves before we can offer ourselves as an effective addition to our team. We are all personally responsible for checking that we are up and running in a way that is worth injecting into that team, and that what we bring elevates the average energy rather than lowering it.
We are also responsible for having each other’s’ backs. Having each other’s’ backs is something worthy of discussion in a time of depletion, where double checking each other and making sure that our systems and processes truly work in our favour is imperative.
How can you check yourself today? How can you check on your team mates, and have their backs? Are you asking the right questions to encourage collaboration and effective energy flow? Have you all remembered that your moving towards the same end?
by Christen Killick
February 15th, 2021