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“That’s where your thinking is terribly flawed,” I told the CEO of a highly profitable, quickly-growing startup.
We were discussing recruiting, and I was explaining how it’s necessary to include energy in their hiring process. “For every role you hire, you need to uncover if the person will be naturally energized or drained by the tasks that occur in that role.”
The CEO responded, “But what about the front-line customer service roles? Customers can be really challenging. Those are hard, demanding, difficult jobs!”
“That’s a faulty belief,” I responded. “Your assumption is because YOU think that particular role is difficult and unenjoyable, everyone else does, too…
…but frankly, you couldn’t be more wrong.”
What is Energy Intelligence?
Energy Intelligence is the study of what energizes and drains you at work. It’s also the practice of reconfiguring an organization and its teams to allow every person to do more work that is inherently energizing and less work that is draining.
The concept is straightforward—do more energizing tasks and less draining tasks. Over the last decade, however, I’ve found that almost zero organizations practice this as an organizing and ongoing strategy, even though this way of working is better for your company in every way.
Don’t believe me? Let me show you.
Organizing for energy is better in every way
The typical organizational structure is extractive—it takes energy from people to make the rest of the system function. For every worker alive today, “that’s just the way it is” is largely the reason why work literally sucks the energy out of them.
Organizing for energy is the opposite—it fills people with more energy than it takes from them.
Organizing for energy leaves people feeling fulfilled at the end of the day instead of just drained. And when we understand work this way, it’s no surprise that every part of our organization functions better when it’s optimized to give people energy instead of sucking it out.
Let me demonstrate exactly how this works in six common parts of an organization.
Recruiting, hiring, and onboarding
As I explained to the CEO above, energy stands out as one of the least teachable qualities in a candidate. Therefore, it must be a top consideration when filling a position.
Traits like being energized by details or enjoying relationship building are hard-wired and can’t be taught. Misaligning someone’s role with their energizers is a recipe for disaster.
Prioritizing alignment for energy ensures a smooth onboarding process, and provides intrinsic motivation for new hires to eagerly delve into topics they need to learn.
Talent development, skill development, and competency development
To enhance someone’s competency in a particular area, collaborate with their energizers. Human beings exhibit almost infinite variability, so while you and I may excel at a task, how we achieve the outcome can differ significantly.
Energy Intelligence acknowledges this variability and utilizes individuals’ unique energizers to facilitate skill growth and development effectively for each person.
As you advance in your career, you desire to increasingly engage in activities that energize you and reduce those that drain your energy. This shift naturally contributes to higher employee engagement and stronger retention.
While framing career progression in this straightforward manner seems logical, the reality is that it still needs to be widely implemented.
Energy Intelligence is closely connected to achieving flow states at work—a desirable state for anyone in their job. However, achieving flow at work is a collective effort, as no single person is energized by every aspect of what needs to happen in a workplace.
To find and sustain flow, it’s essential to have colleagues who complement your drainers and can handle tasks that disrupt your flow and deplete your energy.
Employee relations, conflicts, and resolving tensions
In any workplace involving human interactions, conflicts are inevitable. Yet, with an energy-based approach to work, tensions are diffused early and often prevented entirely. This is because I recognize that what energizes me may affect you differently.
Your needs might differ—perhaps you require less brainstorming, more context, or a clearer understanding of the big-picture strategy.
We all have diverse workplace needs, and Energy Intelligence equips us with a powerful understanding of our colleagues’ diversity.
If you were to think of the two best leaders you’ve ever had, they probably exhibit a blend of similarities and differences. While achieving similar outcomes, such as inspiration, a culture of trust, and a respectful environment, they likely approached these goals in distinct ways.
Energy Intelligence plays a vital role in helping leaders comprehend their inherent uniqueness, seeking to work with it rather than against it, as leading authentically is exactly what makes them powerful.
Energy Intelligence improves mental health
From the front line to the C-suite, every human in your organization is constantly impacted by how energized or drained they feel.
Through the pandemic, we learned vividly just how important our mental health is and how much our organizations impact our mental wellness.
What’s amazing about Energy Intelligence is that simply caring about what energizes and drains your people will immediately improve their mental well-being. Taking it even further into the areas above will improve it even more.
Energy is like a fingerprint
In my TEDx talk, I delved into the concept that each of us possesses a unique “battery,” an internal source of energy that sustains us throughout the day and requires nightly recharging through sleep.
Certain activities can also recharge our batteries throughout the day, while others can quickly drain them, especially in a work context. Often, we tend to recall the draining experiences more readily.
What needs to be more commonly understood is the incredibly diverse composition of our batteries. Like fingerprints, the components that make up our batteries are unique to each individual.
The combination of activities that energize each person is completely distinct. Utilizing an assessment with 24 possible choices, each stack-ranked, the probability of two individuals sharing the same top ten energizers in the same order is 1 in 7.1 trillion!
This knowledge is profoundly important because it highlights the diversity within us. No two individuals perceive the world similarly, emphasizing the tangible appreciation of our differences. It also underscores the miraculous nature of our ability to collaborate, considering each person’s unique perspective.
Furthermore, this understanding has implications for organizational structures. Since no one sees the world exactly as I do, fostering psychological safety, autonomy, and bravery within our companies becomes crucial. Everyone must feel safe to speak up about challenges and problems, recognizing they might be the sole observer.
How to get started
If you’re interested in implementing a culture of Energy Intelligence in your organization, even with limited resources, here are three simple ways to get started:
For people leaders: Consider a “You At Your Best” Tour
- Each people leader conducts a 1:1 sit-down with each person on their team.
- Leader asks: “When are you at your best at work?”
- The crucial part is the follow-up action, where the leader actively helps each person do more of their best work. This might involve shifting people around on projects, removing draining barriers, or even recruiting for a new role.
For the entire organization (leaders included!): Create an “Energy Journal”
- Each person takes a piece of paper and draws a vertical line down the center, putting “Energizers” as a header on one side and “Drainers” on the other—this is their “Energy Journal.”
- Everyone carries their paper and a pencil with them for an entire week, paying close attention to when they feel energized by an activity at work and when they feel drained. When they notice something, they write it down in the appropriate column!
- At the end of the week, each person schedules at least 30 minutes of reflection time to “connect the dots” between the different activities, trying to identify themes and patterns while strategizing how to do more energizers and fewer drainers.
For teams: Host a “Me At My Best” Session
- After completing the first two items, get each team together for 30 minutes.
- Give each person the opportunity to share with their team a time when they were at their best at work and why that activity energized them.
- Bonus points for team members who can “pile on” and share additional examples of each person in their zone of energy!
With some practice and persistence, Energy Intelligence will revolutionize how your team works together!
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