In today’s hyper-competitive, complex, and fast-changing environment, leaders can’t be superheroes or all-rounders. Rather, they need to be people energizers, unlocking and multiplying the strengths, energy, and ideas of others through supportive, empowering, and inspiring leadership.
Based on decades of experience with leaders and research into helping leaders build more energized and peak-performing organizations, I have outlined below 6 steps leaders can take to become better people energizers and multipliers:
1. Unlock the strengths, motivations, and skills of your people
Great leaders know how to identify and unlock the natural strengths, motivations, and skills of their people. They encourage employees to discover and optimize their strengths by doing more of the work they are most passionate about. This doesn’t mean ignoring weaker areas that are less energizing. As well as highlighting and building on people’s strengths, leaders need to provide feedback to employees about behaviours that are limiting performance and help them identify strengths-based development strategies, hacks and workarounds to tackle weaker areas, so performance doesn’t suffer. However, leaders who are workplace energizers don’t expect people to be well-rounded. Rather, they challenge them to excel in areas of strength and encourage them to work with colleagues in areas where they are weaker, giving rise to strong teamwork and support networks.
2. Align people’s energy with the purpose of the organization
Organizations with a clear, compelling, and well-communicated purpose that is inspiring and exciting will find it easier to attract, hire and retain people. The organization’s purpose should describe the company’s reason for being and the value the business promises to deliver to customers and other stakeholders. A purpose is not a financial or numerical goal, it clarifies how the company strives to positively impact those it serves.
Below are some examples of compelling and ambitious purpose statements:
|“Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”|
|Intel||“To revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.”|
|SpaceX||“To create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on earth”|
|Coca-Cola||“Refresh the world. Make a difference.”|
By clarifying and regularly reinforcing their purpose and communicating how people’s roles contribute to this, leaders are more likely to ignite the energy and motivation of people who believe in what the organization is aspiring to achieve.
3. Become a genius maker
Leadership adviser and researcher, Liz Wiseman, pointed out in her bestselling book Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter, that the best leaders are “genius makers” who invest in coaching, delegating, supporting, and inspiring people so they can bring the best of themselves to their role. They take time to recognize both progress and achievements, personalizing this to motivate people and reinforce cycles of success. They are generous in giving credit to others for successes but quick to absorb any backlash or blame when mistakes or setbacks occur.
4. Remove energy blockers and demotivators
A crucial role of any leader is to identify and remove bottlenecks and blockers to effective performance and motivation. Some of these barriers are internal and arise from psychological barriers like poor self-confidence or imposter syndrome (i.e., where people doubt their competence and past successes and live in fear of being exposed as a fraud). Author and performance coach, Tim Gallway, explains the origins of these limiting assumptions and beliefs using the metaphor of an “inner game” playing out in people’s minds. He maintains that for people to perform effectively, they need to learn to silence their inner critic and channel it productively into non-judgemental awareness and learning. By offering support, coaching and encouragement, leaders can help people reduce these stubborn sources of interference and empower them to achieve more than they ever thought was possible.
The second group of blockers are work environment factors and include things like lack of flexibility, excessive working hours, unclear roles and responsibilities, autocratic top management, inadequate budget, and resources to do the job to a high standard, and low wages. Leaders need to work with top management, HR, and their peers to expose and find solutions to these blockers and put plans in place to minimize them insofar as possible.
5. Amplify connections and shared learning
Effective leaders embrace the power of social networks within and outside the organization to amplify collaboration, learning and positive energy. They encourage and facilitate in-person and virtual networking, sharing of learning, and collaboration throughout the organization, not just within their team or business area. They also promote regular and candid dialogue and feedback mechanisms with customers, suppliers, and other key stakeholders. This paves the way for creative problem-solving, innovation and solutions-based thinking, leading to better business results and sustainable growth.
6. Regulate energy
Too many leaders today are pushing their people to breaking point. This is exacerbated by the “always-on” work culture which is increasingly commonplace throughout the economy. Stress-related physical and psychological illnesses, including languishing, burnout and other work-related mental health problems are on the rise.
Effective leaders understand the need to regulate energy and provide people with opportunities to rest, recover and reflect. They encourage people to establish clear boundaries between their work and home life, disconnect and take their full holiday entitlement to relax and recover. They organize work to ensure people are not working at full pace continuously and prioritize opportunities to reflect, plan and review work using social forums such as virtual or in-person team builds, volunteering projects, engaging social events, and “lunch and learns”.
Just like a winning Olympic sports team, high-performing workplaces are dependent on the optimization of people’s energy, potential, and ideas. For leaders to be performance multipliers, they need to be workplace energizers. This involves identifying and developing people’s strengths, skills and potential, ensuring alignment with the company’s purpose, maximizing energy through effective removal of energy sappers and continuously regulating energy to maintain well-being and focus. In an increasingly competitive and fast-changing environment, energizing leadership is crucial to the sustained growth and success of any organization.