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Achieve more with what you have. It’s time to re-energise your leaders

Why energy matters

Energy is the fuel that powers our lives. Organisation energy is the fuel that powers our businesses. When we are highly energised, we achieve more and have more fun as we do. When we are de-energised even the simplest task requires an effort of will.

Recent events have conspired to sap energy

The combined impact of Covid and geopolitical uncertainty – with the knock-on effects on supply chains and inflationary pressures – is putting huge strain on people and organisations, negatively impacting energy levels.

An old problem with new significance

Recent events have made things worse but this is not a new problem. Using the metaphor of the organisation as a “vehicle” through which we operate, we are great at building the vehicle (creating a strategy, hiring people, creating systems, driving KPIs). We are less effective at putting in the fuel that drives the vehicle.

A drawn image of a car

Survey data gathered by Zenger Folkman over the past 20 years from 1.6 million people shows that, as followers, our number one “ask” of our leaders is that they inspire, motivate and energise us to high levels of effort and performance. The globally benchmarked data for more than 120,000 leaders tells us that the capacity to do this, scores lowest out of all the competencies measured.

Leaders are the catalysts for energy

The low scores, for leaders’ ability to energise, are problematic because leadership energy creates organisation energy which in turn drives customer satisfaction and profits. Following our vehicle metaphor, leaders are the fuel injection system, or in the world of EVs the ECU (Electronic Control Unit), which transfers energy into the system.

How leaders energise

There is a stubborn archetype which suggests that charismatic high energy individuals are what you need to energise organisations. The data challenges this view. There are many ways to energise and the acid test of great leadership lies in the response of the followers.

The primary job of the leader is to understand what energises the people they lead. Almost by definition, this is going to be different to what energises the leader. Great leaders create the conditions in which their followers can do their best work, tapping into that energy.

First, energise the leaders

Given the importance of leaders in energising the system, the place to start is with the leader. Helping them understand their unique strengths and developing their skills and capacity to energise their people shifts the system energy levels that deliver results.

Achieving more with what you have

Businesses invest huge amounts of money and effort in changing the vehicle. All too often the investment fails. This article started with the reflection that we do our best work when we are highly energised. The key question is therefore:

"What would happen if we invested in energising the organisation, putting more fuel in the vehicle, rather than changing it?"

If you would like to understand more about energising your people. Get in touch here


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