To start with, sometimes there is no low energy, but there is a judgment that we have about our team having low energy. Secondly, we have to be able to recognize the absence or the low energy without judging it.
Even though things are changing, we must admit that currently most of the time Senior Executives get access to a lot of support while people who are not on the Senior Executive bench have much less support. I’m much more into Operational Executive type of tasks which, because we are all humans, can be quite difficult to embrace and appreciate.
Because, I assume that we all want more freedom and space and that our creativity needs to express itself, and when we are slightly boxed in, it’s much harder for this creativity to find an avenue. So what does it do? It stops, it recedes, and it disappears. As a result, there is sometimes much less energy available in our teams. The compounding effect applies here as well. If I have less energy, guess what? The whole team has less energy as well.
The energy here doesn’t disappear. It’s just simply less strong, similar to the flame that doesn’t want to flow as much. So what’s my responsibility as a manager, as a leader for myself and for the team? First of all, I have to realize that I am responsible. What is my contribution to this lack of energy, lack of fire, and lack of commitment? Do I need to have more conversations or relationships with my people? Can I be curious and check with them on what’s driving them? When was the last time you asked your team members about what’s driving you?
Coming from France, I was taught not to ask that sort of question due to feeling apprehensive. ‘Is there going to be a strike?’ ‘Are people going to take advantage? ‘What’s going to happen if I start to ask people what they want? The thing is, people need to know that they can say what they want because only when they can express what they really want, they can go after it.
Or at least you can decide to help align the interest and respond to what matters to someone instead of allowing it to disappear and to be less prevalent in the work environment. Let’s take, for instance, the start-up growing organization in tech that I have been working with for many years. How long do you think can people at the middle level of an organization work seven days a week, nine to six, nine to nine, and pull all-nighters? How long can this last? Those people were given access to some equity. There were some bonuses, there were some promotions, there were some dinners, there were some parties. Yet how many days, how many months, how many years can people go on like this? There’s a moment they’re going to see that it doesn’t work for them anymore and therefore there is something which needs to change. And that’s where we start to talk about culture which is a whole different topic.
To respond to the question of how I manage the energy of my team, I need also to ask myself if I am allowing my team to have access to what I have access to myself. The fact that you or I had the opportunity to cultivate a leadership ecosystem is fantastic. But how much of this ecosystem is available to other people? How much access do other people have to coach circles and conversations? How much space do they have in the organization to be able to be in touch with their own leadership and be able to take the decision and ownership at all points? Do you leverage your privilege by recognizing it and giving people access to it? Or do you hide your privilege in the organization making people believe it’s their fault?