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10 Ways Leaders Can Energize People

Contributor: Brady Wilson

energized leadership

We’re seeing a troubling trend: many of today’s small business owners are engaged, but they’re exhausted; they’re dedicated, but depleted. To create a high-performing culture, business leaders must focus on engagement and energy—moving “beyond engagement” as we know it today.

Brain science helps us understand how to get there. Here are 10 ways leaders can partner with their teams to build the conditions in which everyone can be engaged and energized.

  1. Manage Energy, Not Engagement

When we are low on energy, the first thing we lose is our executive function: the ability to focus attention, regulate emotions, and connect the dots to make smart decisions. No amount of engagement or effort can compensate for a constricted executive function. By managing energy instead of engagement, leaders protect this powerhouse of innovation.

2. Deliver Experiences, Not Promises

Our brains get a momentary candy high from the sense of promise, but are sustainably energized by experiences (the promise being delivered). When recognition programs and performance enhancement systems don’t deliver on leaders’ promises, this creates cynicism. Leaders who evoke a sense of promise, then follow through by delivering on that promise with rich experiences, create energized teams.

3. Target Emotion, Not Logic

Feelings, not intellect, drive human behavior. Research shows emotional engagement trumps rational engagement by a multiple of 4. Understanding what matters most to people and acting on that information makes support, recognition, and inspiration believable.

4. Trust Conversations, Not Statistics

Engagement statistics provide a retroactive view, which is past-based. To understand and energize team members, leaders must shift to frequent, face-to-face, meaningful conversations with them—releasing high-performance hormones in the brain.

5. Seek Tension, Not Harmony

The brain is actually energized by tension. Many opportunities for breakthrough innovation exist between the current and desired way of doing things. The trick is for leaders to learn to stand amid that tension—instead of avoiding it—and effectively manage competing priorities.

6. Practice Partnering, Not Parenting

The brain perceives “shared responsibility” as a risk. Leaders who “parent” their team introduce negativity into the business. By shifting to a “partnering” style with team members, leaders can co-create solutions both parties are willing to adopt and implement.

7. Pull Out the Backstory, Not the aAction Plan

One-size-only action plans practically guarantees people’s resistance. Leaders who talk frequently with their teams can draw out the backstory behind scores—and co-create conditions that generate sustainable energy.

8. Think Sticks, Not Carrots

A negative event can have 5 x the impact of a positive one in our business. In addition to offering carrots like recognition programs and cheer-leading, leaders should address sticks—removing obstacles that interfere with people’s ability to access their knowledge, experience, skills, and strengths.

9. Meet Needs, Not Scores

When individual needs go unmet, people may act out by going rogue, forming cliques, complaining, or gossiping. Leaders who uncover unmet needs, rather than deficient scores, can inspire and sustain team energy.

10. Challenge Beliefs, Not Emotions

Brain science shows it is not our capability, but our belief in our capability, that affects efficacy. Leaders who address others’ negative beliefs through meaningful conversation can create a much greater sense of urgency in their people.


Brady_300x300Brady Wilson is cofounder of Juice Inc., a corporate training company that services organizations from Toronto to Los Angeles. A speaker, trainer, and author, Brady recently released his latest book, Beyond Engagement: A Brain-Based Approach That Blends the Engagement Managers Want with the Energy Employees Need. Follow Brady on Twitter @BradyJuiceInc



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