RefuelHow are you feeling . . . right now? Are you energized and ready to take on the world? If so, wouldn’t it be nice to know how to maintain that full tank of motivation over the long term? And if you are not feeling so great about your own energy level, or that of your team, perhaps a few tips on how to refuel and get your passion back on track are in order.

Tony Schwartz has written extensively on fueling an organization’s potential, and has identified four basic energy needs that, when met, lead to higher performance: renewal (physical); value (emotional); focus (mental); and purpose (spiritual). That seems pretty self-evident, right? When we are well rested, appreciated, and can focus on things that we are passionate about, both our energy level and our performance are likely to improve. You might be surprised, however, at how much of an impact these factors actually have on fueling performance.

Schwartz, together with Christine Porath, conducted a survey with the Harvard Business Review which demonstrated that when even one of an employee’s basic energy needs has been met (that is, their tank is ¼ full), there is a 30% increase in their ability to focus and a nearly 50% increase in their level of engagement. If all four needs are met — when their tank is full — the engagement levels increase to 125%! In addition, the study indicated that when all four energy needs are met, there is a 72% drop in employees’ stress levels.

Addressing your employees’ basic energy needs isn’t costly. It doesn’t require implementing a complex new program or require a huge allocation of time.

  • Encourage your staff (and model the behavior yourself!) to take 10 – 15-minute breaks at regular intervals where they physically step away from their desk or other work environments.
  • Express your appreciation to others — in detailed, specific ways. Get creative in letting others know you value their efforts.
  • Take steps to reduce interruptions when working on a project. Encourage your staff to put the phone down and ignore the ping of email to increase their focus.
  • Find ways for staff to spend time doing the things that they do best, or find enjoyable, or that make a positive difference.

Renew. Value. Focus. Purpose.

Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual.

Where is your energy level running? How about that of your staff? If the tank is running a bit low, maybe it’s time to step away from the computer and take a few minutes to refuel.

Passing the Torch

Passing The TorchAs we draw to the end of one year, and begin to plan for the next, I have a leadership question for you. Are you actively working to pass the torch? I don’t necessarily mean yours (although you shouldn’t rule that out either) . . . I mean your organization’s torch. Let me explain.

We have a concept in our organization that we have dubbed “second generation leadership.” For starters, we shift people’s roles more frequently than many organizations, which offers a range of benefits. We work with a gifts and graces mindset. That is, when you recognize the unique skills and perspectives of your staff members, you can then identify people to take on a project or new initiative based on those things rather than by tenure or title. This kind of flexibility allows the organization to be nimble in the face of emerging opportunities. It also enables people to grow and develop in ways that would not happen in a more traditional hierarchical structure. We, in effect, have what Kotter  identifies as a dual-operating system.

And then we take the concept one step further. Once a program or concept is developed, we also look at opening up spots for others to sharpen their skills by again shifting leadership roles. This allows the original leaders to grow and expand in new areas and also encourages emerging leaders to stretch themselves, and yes occasionally stub their toes, as they further build their capacity. A side benefit of this is that the focus stays on the program, the mission, rather than on one particular person’s way of doing things. It becomes “our program” rather than “their program,” not to downplay anyone’s contribution (of which there are many) but to shine a light on the larger mission. We pass the torch, and in so doing keep the organization’s flame burning bright.

I give this example not to say that the way we go about passing the torch is the right way, or the only way, but merely as an example that this isn’t some theoretical whoo-whoo. Passing the torch allows people to continually stretch and grow, it invigorates your organization, and keeps your programs from getting stagnant because new ideas get infused on a regular basis. Yes, you have to watch for mission drift, and yes, it can be hard for people to let go of “their baby” that they have worked so hard to build. But they aren’t really letting go. They become more like grandparents who can take great pride in the “parenting” of the next generation.

Passing the torch is not always easy, but it is important if you want your organization to be a place of new ideas that continually strives to extend its mission reach. As you look toward a new year, what steps will you take to expand the flame of engagement and excitement throughout your organization? Maybe it’s time to pass the torch.