Leadership requires a great deal of emotional, mental and physical energy to be truly effective. The passion, focus, care and commitment required can certainly take a toll on even the strongest of people. You can’t sleepwalk or mail in your leadership role. You must give it all you have. Every. Single. Day.
In addition to energy, great leaders also have a helpfulness in their DNA. They WANT to serve others, help others and fix things. Every great leader believes, down to his or her core, that they can make a significant impact on their organization and the people in which they are charged with leading. They believe they can fix people.
Now for the challenge. How much time, emotional energy and effort do we invest in situations and people in which the return is extremely low or non-existent? An when we invest in the un-coachable and in those projects, which have no impact, what are we neglecting? Gamblers have a phrase for this phenomenon; chasing losses. It rarely works out well for the gambler and it rarely works out for the effective leader.
For every moment invested poorly or with those team members that have almost no chance of resurrection, a team member with a spark of motivation and eagerness is getting ignored. An important one-on-one meeting gets brushed off again. Mentoring is abandoned. Places where real return on your energy investment go neglected and all for the false belief that we can fix anybody.
Another point of jeopardy with unfixable situations and unchanging people is that they are energy vampires. Not only do they not respond to your investment of time and energy but they drain you at a significant level. Compare for a moment how your energy and emotional composition feels after interacting with one of these vampires compared to someone you lead that responds well to you. Not even close.
Likewise, relationships with others have the same dynamic. We often spend way too much time, energy and attention on those people that give nothing back in return. Great relationships reciprocate energy, and no one should ever feel drained from the interactions.
Do we owe the difficult people, un-coachable and troubled relationships some of our energy? Yes of course but it must come with boundaries and limits. It must be moderated and balanced with those people that return your energy and effort. The best of all leaders are great stewards of their time and energy and invest it where the highest return exists.
And now some strategies for maximizing your energy investment:
- Identify those people and areas of your life that are not responding to your energy investment.
- Check to see if you have provided solid, and clear, communication, attempted to build rapport, provided positive feedback, empowered and encouraged that person. Also test to ensure you have analyzed and discussed having that person in right role.
- Sandwich interactions with energy vampires around interactions with energy responders and restorers. Nothing will suck the life out of you quicker than multiple, back-to-back, conversations with energy draining people.
- Limit the amount of time you spend with energy drainers. Reinvest that time with people who respond to your energy and effort. Stop rewarding their bad behavior or performance with more of your attention.
- To paraphrase Jim Collins (Good to Great), move them off the bus and get them out of your work and life.