Great leadership does not require you to do it all. In fact, it’s counterproductive to constantly work in areas that drain you. It leads to burn out and the cost is expensive. There are physical health costs and costs in relationships, both at work and at home. You could lose your people or even potentially lose your business or your job because of burnout.
A recent Gallup article, Employee Burnout: The Biggest Myth, analyzed survey results showing 76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least sometimes, and 28% say they are burned out “very often” or “always” at work. They found that how people experience their workload has a stronger influence on burnout than hours worked. So, it's not just the number of hours an employee works but how they’re managed and how they experience work during those hours. This applies to leaders as well as their employees, but can be avoided by knowing and understanding your energizers.
What are energizers and why do they matter?
An energizer is a task, activity, or role that motivates, rewards, and excites you. In many management models, the focus is how you spend your time. But I focus on how you spend your energy. It turns out many of us don’t have much to spare. Peter Bregman made this observation when he outlined 5 Steps to Investing Your Energy More Wisely for the Harvard Business Review. He was reflecting on a conversation with author Tom Rath, during which he learned that when asked “Did you have a great deal of physical energy yesterday?” only 11% of 10,000 people surveyed felt like they did. Leaving 89% of us operating without much energy to spare.
So how are you spending your energy as you do the work necessary to accomplish your goals? If you’re working in your drains, these tasks likely feel like they suck the life out of you. This makes it increasingly difficult to move forward to the next thing you need to do because you’ll eventually run out of willpower. When you're working in your energizers, you can make a bigger impact because you have greater momentum, satisfaction, and energy. Energizers allow us to learn and grow because they motivate us and they allow us to imagine new possibilities. And the desire to get better is intrinsic when working in energizers.
I have seen the great impact of energizers several times throughout my careers and learned two important lessons from those experiences.
- Satisfaction versus thriving. Earlier in my career I was working in a consumer products marketing role. It was fun and rewarding and I worked with great people. But there was a nagging voice that kept telling me there was something more for me, which I understand now is helping people do the work that matters to them by understanding who they are and their personal brand. What I was doing in consumer marketing was a small part of the bigger branding picture for me. I was satisfied with the good work I was doing in that role, but because I knew I wasn’t where I needed to be I struggled with sleepless nights, health problems, and irritability. I needed to move on to my bigger calling and my full potential so I could thrive and make the biggest impact possible.
- Increased Return on Energy (ROE) for greater Return on Investment (ROI). More recently, I struggled with developing content for my blog and newsletter. It’s an important part of my business, but I didn’t enjoy the process. It drained me. Which led to procrastination. Luckily a good friend shared her process of starting with an interview to create content. Talking through the topic with somebody energizes and motivates me. I then work with somebody to turn the interview transcript into the content I need. This process allows me to avoid my drains and focus more energy on where I make the biggest impact, which is working with leaders on their energizers so they can make a bigger impact and higher profits.
If you are a leader that is new to the concept of energizers or you’re looking to better comprehend them and appreciate their value, I have three important tips for you.
- Understand how you define work. Is it a means of getting a paycheck? Or is your definition of work a means of using your gifts and strengths to contribute to the world while making an income? I encourage you to move into the thought process of the latter, because what you expect of your work will look very different in those two situations.
- Recognize that you, as the leader, have to know and leverage your energizers first. You must lean into your own energizers before you can help your team. It’s a lot like the emergency procedure on an airplane – you have to put your own oxygen mask on first to help others. When you are working in your energizers, you can more easily identify and hand off the work that is not where you‘re going to make the biggest impact.
- Trust your team to do the things that drain you. Move from delegating to empowering. This is going to be hard for some of us to acknowledge, but your team members are better at their role than you are and that's okay. It's not only okay… it's good! So trust them and lean into the things that only you can do.
I help leaders identify and understand their energizers. Using my signature energy audit is a key step towards effectively leading and managing a team. It’s one of the assessments I have my executive coaching clients complete when we start working together. To explore coaching with me to focus on where you shine and what keeps you motivated, schedule a 30-minute coaching discovery consultation.