People have all kinds of reactions and interpretations when they hear the word “energy.”For some, the connotation is more scientific in nature, hearkening back to physics or environmental science class. For others, images of crystals and full moon rituals come to mind.
Regardless of which camp you’re in—if there’s any part of you that believes ‘energy’ is irrelevant or separate from your role as a leader in the workplace, it’s time to challenge those assumptions.
Leveraging Energy in Leadership
In his book Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core, iPEC’s founder, Bruce D Schnieder, illustrates the central role of energy for any leader who aspires for greatness:
“What is the single most important factor that distinguishes the great leaders from the rest? Which personal quality is most likely to inspire confidence in customers, respect among colleagues, and loyalty from employees? Which aspect of your leadership style should you focus on to put your performance, your career, and your life on the fast track to success?
The answer to all of these questions is a single word: Energy. But you need to know how to control energy to make it work for, not against, you.”
For more evidence of how energy impacts the workplace and all the people in it, picture a leader—not just any leader, but one who always seems to be in a sour mood when they enter a room. Think about the effect that has on the people around them:
- How quickly can the tension be felt?
- What expressions are on the faces of others in the room?
- How do these things impact the conversations that unfold?
Now, picture a different kind of leader entering the room instead—one who’s dynamic—who genuinely sees the best in their team and helps others see and tap into that same greatness in themselves.
- How quickly and willingly do others engage?
- How do their expressions differ from the first scenario?
- What kinds of conversations might unfold in this setting compared to the last?
The story of what unfolds in both scenarios can be traced back to energy—which is exactly why it’s so important for managers and leaders of all kinds to understand its power and impact.
When it comes down to it, energy is at the root of the story of what’s happening in the room and what’s not being said.
The better you can get at understanding and managing energy, the more effective leader you’ll become.
Understanding the Two Different Types of Energy
At iPEC, we talk about two main types of energy:
- Catabolic energy, at its core, is destructive. It’s the energy of worry, frustration, and blame that, if left unchecked, can create a depressing, toxic environment.
- Anabolic energy, on the other hand, is constructive and fuels creativity. When we experience anabolic energy, we take responsibility for ourselves, have more compassion for ourselves and others, and see opportunity in all situations.
Of course, no type of energy is inherently good or bad. Both types of energy have inherent advantages and disadvantages and can be consciously used to reach specific goals. It’s also normal for us to cycle up and down the spectrum. (We rarely hang out in one type of energy all the time.)
But by recognizing which type of energy is in the room—both your own, and that of others—you’ll have much more insight into why certain conversations and interactions unfold the way they do.
Here are 3 ways you can start to approach your work as a leader through the lens of energy, to bring out the best in your team and reach peak performance.
1. Energy explains why people react or respond the way they do.
When you gain a deeper understanding of the different types of energy, suddenly people’s “unexpected” responses will make more sense—and you’ll be in a better position to engage from a more informed place.
2. Energy is valuable information that helps us respond to what’s happening in the room more effectively.
At iPEC, we use seven different energy “levels” to describe the types of energy a person experiences and expresses:
- Level 1: Feeling lost. Stuck. Lack of choice. I can’t. I have to. Fearful.
- Level 2: Anger. Combativeness. Resisting or fighting energy.
- Level 3: Rationalizing. Fine. Coping.
- Level 4: Care. Compassion. Service to others.
- Level 5: Reconciliation. Win-win. Solution-focused.
- Level 6: Intuition. Creative genius. Visionary.
- Level 7: Absolute Passion. Non-judgment. Oneness.
When you learn more about these specific levels of energy and how people can move from lower levels to higher levels, you’ll have a whole new set of tools and resources that’ll take your workplace conversations, collaborations, and results to new heights.
Speaking the language of energy is an invaluable skill for any leader. This is a huge part of what we teach people how to do through iPEC’s Core Energy Coaching™ methodology, and it’s what helps coaches and leaders get to the root of a person’s challenges by identifying and shifting inner thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that block their success.
3. Understanding energy helps us create a different outcome.
Through the process of learning more about energy, you’ll come to understand not only what’s going on energetically with the people on your team, but with yourself as well.
Not only will this new level of insight help you connect more meaningfully with coworkers, employees, patients, prospects or clients—you’ll also be able to identify personal emotions or triggers that may interfere with a clear, neutral understanding of a situation. As a result, you’ll be better equipped to deliver an effective, compassionate response and lead your team to peak performance.
At the end of the day, understanding energy is one of the single greatest skills to help you engage differently with familiar challenges in the workplace. And this simple-yet-profound shift will help you lead your team to new, greater outcomes.
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