How the Best Leaders Shift the Energy on Their Team

leadership

The energy on a team is no accident. When it’s in the room, it can’t be mistaken. People are engaged, excited and strive to perform at their best.  

The tricky question is, where does it come from, and what is it?

Energy is defined as the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. In the context of leadership and teams, I simplify it as “the ability to do great work with optimistic effort.”  

When teams have the right kind of energy, it impacts the consistency, intensity, and speed at which members give effort, work together and perform. On a recent episode of Work-Life, Hubert Joly, the former CEO of Best Buy credited energy as a key to the company’s transformation and turnaround. He said, “I needed people’s help from the beginning, and that created energy to attack the real problems together.” Joly facilitated this by asking associates and general managers three simple questions:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What do you need?

What Joly understood was traditional thinking about energy on a team only coming from results wasn’t entirely true. Energy ultimately comes from people. If you take nothing else away from this column, I want you to take away this;  

One person can completely change the energy on a team or in a room.  

This principle can be positive or negative, depending on the situation. 

Energy Roles on a Team

John Wooden, one of the best college basketball coaches and examples of leadership, said, “Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm. Our energy is infectious, whether it’s lethargic or enthusiastic is a choice we make each day.”  

What this ultimately means is the energy each person, especially a leader, brings to a team can be positive, negative, or even neutral. I summarize these into three roles. 

The Reducer- A reducer is an energy suck at its core and is destructive. People who choose to be a reducer enhance feelings of doubt, worry, and frustration. They cause team members to get negative and blame each other for mistakes or bad outcomes. These people are what my friend John Gordon, the author of the Energy Bus and Power of a Positive Team, calls an “energy vampire.” 

The Neutralizer – A neutralizer, doesn’t bring energy one way or another. They rarely create positive or negative energy, but they go along with the current energy or what they experience around them.  

The Enhancer – An enhancer is constructive, lifts people up, and encourages themselves and others to look for opportunities in every situation. Enhancers aren’t blindly optimistic. Instead, they embrace reality but choose hope. 

Regardless of your role on your team, there is one certain thing. The best leaders find a way to enhance energy, not reduce it. They find ways to build up, not tear down. They find creative ways to elevate the energy of their people. 

Great leaders find a way to elevate the team’s energy.

However, it’s easy to tell yourself and others to be an enhancer, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Intentionally choosing and being a leader that constantly thinks about and modifies the energy of a team isn’t easy. Creative methods and techniques often are required to trick your brain and others into looking at the light instead of the dark. Here are a few ways to make it happen:

1. Cultivate Energy in Yourself 

While it’s true some people wake up with excitement that mimics the energizer bunny, most people don’t have that luxury.  

What’s required is doing and consuming life-giving, not life-depleting things. While each person is different, the shared examples include exercising, writing, reading, praying, journaling, competing, meditating, and fueling (diet). Since energy, like motivation, is a depleting asset, creating daily habits that cultivate energy in yourself is required.  

2. Appeal to Emotions Through Mantras

Mantras may only be a few words long, but they can have a powerful stirring up emotions that create energy in an individual or team. After studying great leaders in different industries, it’s clear they tap into their power to help inspire their team. I refer to these in Building the Best as “Maximizing Mantras.” With just a few words, you create the inspirational drive that helps inspire future successes.

One of the most recent (and well-known) maximizing mantras was college football coach P.J. Fleck’s “Row the Boat,” which helped bring the previously overlooked Western Michigan football team into the limelight with a winning record and a spot in the 2017 Cotton Bowl. The mantra has come to define the coach and his teams, even after moving to a new job at the University of Minnesota.

In an interview with MLive, Fleck explained that the mantra referred to three parts: the oar, which provided the energy, the boat, which represented the sacrifices that team members, administration, and fans were willing to make for the program, and finally, the compass, which symbolized the direction the team wanted to go. Combining all these ideas into a single phrase served as a powerful motivator for the team.

When you find short, simple phrases that encapsulate big ideas, you can quickly create an energy in yourself or in a team that didn’t exist before.

3. Shrink Negativity to 1 Minute or Less

Most people would say to eliminate all negativity regardless of the cost. In a perfect world, this is excellent advice. But this isn’t possible since you lead yourself and others in an imperfect world. Instead of trying to eliminate negative energy, look to shrink it.  

A negative comment or a poor reaction to an unfortunate situation won’t eliminate all positive energy, especially if you shrink it to one minute or less. What ends up happening is both you and your team will become more self-aware of their comments and reaction that hurt future performance versus help it. 

Closing

The best leaders understand that energy on a team isn’t an accident. It’s something they constantly monitor and intentionally choose to enhance daily. If you prioritize cultivating energy in yourself, appealing to emotions through a maximizing mantra, and shrinking negativity to 1 minute or less, you will be mimicking the best leaders. 

Will it be easy with all the negative news of a possible recession or uncertainty in the business world? No, it will not. But you wouldn’t be in the position you are in today if you weren’t capable of elevating your team’s energy. 

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How Leaders Create a Thriving Culture While Working Remote

Corporate culture and discipline illustrated by office subjects in strict order

Culture has always mattered. It impacts performance, engagement, retention, and employee satisfaction. However, culture has never been more critical than it is right now. 

The idea of “culture” has been misused and misrepresented, so let’s level set on what “culture” really means. “Culture” comes from the Latin word “colere,” meaning “to cultivate.” I define company culture in Building the Best as, “The shared beliefs and values that guide thinking and behavior.” 

A leader’s job is to ensure their culture promotes effective thinking and positive behavior regardless of the circumstances. 

John Eades

Right now, a vast majority of companies and teams are working remotely. The list of companies who have made announcements of a fully remote workforce for the rest of the year is long and includes huge tech giants like Zillow, Apple, Google, Dropbox, and Twitter.  

With culture being the shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior, staying remote makes the continued alignment even more challenging. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Distance between team members
  • Limited opportunities for effective communication
  • Distracting priorities
  • Conflicting attention

Like most challenges, the payoff of success is great. If you want to build and develop a thriving culture while leading a remote team, lean into these four strategies:

Safety First

Before anyone can perform at their best while working remotely, they first need to feel safe and protected. Since Covid-19 puts a wrench right into physical safety that previously existed, we are going to focus on safety in two critical areas: 

  1. Job Security
  2. Psychological Safety 

First, while no job is 100% secure, it’s tough to create a thriving culture if people are worried about their job. At best, you can define the reality of the current economic impact on the business to provide transparency and candor. Second, employees need to feel psychologically safe enough to share ideas and feelings without fear of any repercussions.

Unity Even While Physically Apart

Feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself feeds productivity and innovation. The hardest part of remote work is the natural siloes, loneliness, and general separation it creates. While Zoom and other technologies help the cause, it’s not the same as sitting shoulder to shoulder with someone and rolling up your sleeves together. 

While there is no magic pill, nothing creates unity like achievement or working through a conflict. All the virtual coffee breaks or virtual happy hours in the world put together won’t help a team come together like a team coming together to achieve a common goal or overcoming a struggle.  (Pro Tip…Use a tool like Peoplebox to define OKR’s and measure them with a remote team)

Your job as a leader is to create clear short-term team goals and make every team member aware of their role in helping achieve that objective.  

John Eades

Positive Beliefs and Reinforced Values

Beliefs drive your actions, and actions drive results. If your team’s beliefs are optimistic and positive, good things will continue to happen. Positivity is inspired from the top-down, and it’s contagious. One of my favorite ways to do this with a remote team is to make a video like this:

Once you have the positive beliefs reinforced on a day in and day out basis, remind yourself and the team often about your shared values (the fundamental beliefs you hold to be true). If you haven’t reminded your remote team of your values, set up a culture meeting next week to reinforce them. If you don’t have your shared values defined, that meeting is a great time to do so. 

Elevate the Energy

Energy keeps your team going and impacts the intensity and speed at which people perform. High energy yields high performance.  

Since you have probably already been on three or more video calls today, you have seen your people’s body language and facial expressions. Were they excited and ready to attack the problems they are responsible for solving or were they lethargic?

Leaders set the team’s energy and are responsible for elevating energy when it drops. 

John Eades

Use strategies like a Maximizing mantra or a reward the team would care about to help elevate the energy.  

Closing

Building and strengthening culture is part of your job as a leader. Since remote work is here and here to stay, it’s time to get serious by evaluating the safety, unity, positivity, and energy that exists today. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lead Like Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. Jordan’s life and career are on full display in ESPN’s 10-part series called The Last Dance. The series provides a window into Jordan’s leadership skills. 

If you aren’t familiar with Jordan’s story, he was selected as the 3rd pick in the 1984 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. During his first six years in the league, Jordan had incredible individual results. He led the league in scoring four times and was named the league MVP.  But something was missing. It was after a crushing defeat by the Detroit Pistons in the 1990 playoffs for the third straight year, Jordan had a leadership transformation that we all need to learn from:

“I decided to turn my energy towards my teammates and helping them excel.”  

After his mindset shift, the results started to happen. The Jordan-led Bulls won six championships over the next eight years to cement him as the best basketball player to ever live.  

Here is where it gets interesting. Jordan’s style of leadership when turning his attention to his teammates was rather questionable.  During the 7th episode of The Last Dance, Jordan summarized his leadership style by saying, “Winning has a price. Leadership has a price.”  He continued, “I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged.”  

He often used demeaning language and challenged guys in a way that put them down. Because he was the best player in the world and he backed up his talk on the court, this alpha dog, demanding way of leading, worked well for him. 

After studying thousands of leaders, I am more convinced than ever that there isn’t one way to lead other people effectively, and Jordan’s leadership style proves this. However, all great leaders figure out that they can’t do it alone, and for them to be successful they have to get the best out of others.

Trying to lead precisely like Michael Jordan would be a bad idea for most people. There are only so many greatest of all time in their field. Having said that, there are some leadership lessons to learn from Jordan and The Last Dance.  

Conflict isn’t all bad, but how you do it matters

Many professionals view conflict as a negative. It couldn’t be further from the truth when channeled correctly. Steve Kerr, a former teammate of Jordan’s, replayed a story where the two of them got into a heated conflict in practice that started with Kerr punching Jordan in the chest. Jordan retaliating by hitting Kerr in the face. It wasn’t a good look, or it didn’t have any positives. But after the apologies were given later, the conflict brought the two teammates closer together and created a strong bond of mutual respect and trust that would help them in the future. 

How Jordan engaged in conflict with his teammates could be ridiculed, it was his willingness work though it that helped them be successful. All leaders must embrace and have the courage to engage in healthy conflict. In Building the Best, I wrote at length about the concept of “Direct Dialogues.”  

A meaningful direct dialogue requires the use of a three-part formula that has helped me and countless other leaders work through conflict with their people successfully:

Standards + Evidence + Courage = Direct Dialogue

Turn negatives into positives

In July of 1993, Jordan’s father Jeffrey, was murdered in North Carolina. The event caused him to question his career and all that went along with it. In a strange series of events, Jordan unexpectantly retired from basketball during his prime to play Major League Baseball. The experiment, which lasted a year and a half, taught him a lot of himself and basketball.

When speaking about the unexpected death of his father and best friend, Jordan spoke about one of his more famous quotes, “My dad always taught me to turn a negative situation into a positive situation, and that’s what I decided to do.”

While your negatives might be better or worse than someone else’s, no one is immune to negative things happening in their life or career. Look no further than the coronavirus. The key is to turn negatives into positives, and that starts with your mindset.

Lead from the front lines

There is nothing worse than a leader barking orders to do something they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves. Not only did Jordan believe this, but he was also adamant about leading from the front and not asking teammates to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself. During an emotional moment in The Last Dance, he said, “If you can ask my teammates they would tell you, ‘he never asked me to do something that he didn’t do himself.’”

After the Bulls lost to the Detroit Pistons in 1990, the team began working out the very next day in preparation to beat their hated rival the next season. Not only was this Jordan’s idea, but he was the first in the gym and the last to leave.  

Regardless of your leadership style, show your team you are willing to be on the front lines with them through your work ethic. People will work much harder for someone who doesn’t lead from the ivory tower but instead puts in the work with them.  

Closing

Regardless of how you feel about Michael Jordan as a player or a leader, there is a lot to learn from him. His commitment to excellence, his competitive drive, and his understanding that team success can’t be achieved alone is worthy of your attention.  

Steve Kerr, the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors, shared a phenomenal lesson he learned from Jordan on Inside the Headset with Eric Dungy, “Never be afraid of the moment.” Regardless of where you are in your leadership journey, “never be afraid of the moment” and step into being the leader, you are meant to be. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How the Best Leaders Energize Their Team

The clock strikes 6 PM and you’re finally ready to wind down your workday, only to see an email that includes a project that just can’t wait. Instead of shutting it down, you grab a coffee and hunker down for the next couple hours.

This situation happens in almost every organization on a daily basis. Not only am I not here to bash it, but I am guilty as charged. In today’s fast-paced business world time and urgency are of the essence. Instead of trying to change the tides or institute a 30 hour work week, there is a different strategy you can implement that the best leaders know.

Give your team a greater purpose to come into work every day.

If you want to energize your team on an ongoing basis it’s time you connect them to a purpose deeper than making money. Put in the work and effort to understand what your team does, why they do it, and for whom it is done.

When you understand this and communicate it to your team on an ongoing basis, the energy will go up, and the willingness to knock out those important projects at 6 PM won’t be in question.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.