Can you identify a time when you were energized at work? In other words, you gave more effort than you would’ve expected to, doing something that you wouldn’t have thought was particularly exciting — because someone infused the task with energy and spurred your enthusiasm.
Why did you feel that way?
Chances are it was less about the work and more about the people you collaborated with. Perhaps the client visit became inspiring because your counterpart was so passionate and engaged. Or your boss gave you a boost of motivation because they showed genuine excitement about your ideas, interests and aspirations for the project.
People who create this experience for others at work frequently are called energizers. They thrive on collaboration and personal connections with teammates.
Energizers win by creating what I call “pull.” If you have this quality, you’re better at attracting and retaining great people; you get more creativity out of the individuals around you; top talent wants to work with you; and you get better support for your ideas and projects.
Energizers tend to do nine things more systematically than others. Reflect on the statements below and ask yourself what areas you can improve on:
- I strike an effective balance between tapping people in my network to get work done and connecting with them on a personal level, unrelated to our work.
- I maintain a balance between what I ask for and what I contribute to the people I work with.
- I consistently do what I say I’m going to do and follow through on commitments I make.
- I am committed (and show this commitment) to principles and goals that are larger than my own self-interest.
- In meetings and conversations, I engage others in realistic possibilities that capture their imaginations and hearts.
- I’m fully attentive in my interactions, and show interest in others and their ideas.
- I create room for others to be a meaningful part of conversations and make sure they see how their efforts will contribute to a plan.
- When I disagree with someone’s plan or a course of action, I do so in a way that focuses attention on the issue at hand, and not the individual.
- I maintain a balance between pushing towards a goal and welcoming new ideas that improve the process for reaching a goal.
The key isn’t to look at the list of behaviors and ask, “Do I do these, or not?” Rather, it’s to indicate the ones that, if you did more systematically when under stress or pressure, could have the greatest impact.
Compared to non-energizers, energizers are three to four times more likely to get promoted faster and receive top performance reviews, and three times as likely to successfully manage their career transitions.
People usually assume that in order to be an energizer, you have to be outgoing or charismatic. But that’s wrong: Neither extroversion nor charisma create energizers.
Organizations are often surprised to learn who their energizers are. When a colleague of mine did an analysis for the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the results were unexpected.
Many of the scientists who turned out to be energizers were low-profile, understated or introverts. They weren’t research stars, but they were connectors — essential employees who, should they decide to go somewhere else, their company would start to feel enthusiasm and mission-focused collaboration fade.
Sadly, in the organizations I’ve studied, de-energizers can have twice the negative impact that energizers have on a positive front.
De-energizers see obstacles or constraints at all turns, and they articulate flaws in plans before you can fully explain the ideas. Rather than limiting themselves to criticizing ideas, they place blame on others and disagree personally.
The good news is that we all have the ability to be energizers. However, too much collaboration can undermine our capacity and motivation to get there. In fact, some people may have even started out as energizers (and they might still have the best intentions), but collaboration overload turned them into de-energizers.
When organizations or teams focus too much on collaboration, individuals can become focused on what they need to get done. They don’t take time to acknowledge others’ past efforts. They fixate on the “what” and miss the importance of discussing the “why” (which is essential to ensuring that the work has purpose and meaning).
The behaviors underlying trust, purpose and energy are not difficult to implement, but they do require you to be intentional.
Rob Cross is a professor of leadership at Babson College, founder of Connected Commons, and author of “Beyond Collaboration Overload: How to Work Smarter, Get Ahead, and Restore Your Well-Being.” For 20 years, he has studied the underlying networks of effective organizations and the collaborative practices of high performers. Follow him on Twitter @RobCrossNetwork.