The Future of Everything.
Many years ago I had the pleasure of serving some local folks at a food kitchen. This meant that I helped serve the dinner to guests that evening, not heavy lifting, but certainly had an effect on my emotional energy. The interesting thing was that my energy was improved – not what I expected. One gentleman I encountered had a lasting effect on me. As he quietly walked through the food line, he must have noticed me and felt I needed some encouragement. As he got to my station, he quietly leaned over to me and said, “I want you to know how much I appreciate you helping us tonight.” I had to stop and look around. How did he know I was having a powerful experience, and how kind of him to help me through it – a homeless person comforting me as we experienced something together. At that moment, this stranger displayed powerful emotional energy, so powerful that I am writing about it still as an example of the best of humanity. If we could all tap into positive emotional energy, imagine what we could do together.
Regardless if we are talking about physics, economics or management, energy is a core concept of movement: it all has momentum. The homeless man sharing with me his positive energy allows me to have it and then share it with you. Maybe in turn you will feel the energy and share it with others. It becomes contagious. This is very similar to paying it forward, producing an unbroken string of feelings and actions.
Mary Parker Follett, a social worker turned management consultant at the turn of the century, looked at energy closely as a key tenant of worker productivity. She noticed that successful managing had a social construct, that when designed and approached as a human endeavor more energy is produced. She was first to coin the term “transformational leadership,” recognizing that transformation was about energy and not a set of instructions. While these concepts seem obvious today, as a society we still struggle with fully embracing that people need positivism, relationships and security to be energized.
Each day we walk through our world busy, distracted, challenged and trying to be the best we can. Yet, the distractions might keep us from holding, releasing and sharing positive energy. If we are to honestly ask ourselves who motivates us, we will likely pick someone who makes us feel good. That feeling of “good” is subjective, but somehow we are energized by these feelings. Sure, miserable people will become leaders because of their technical abilities, but unless they have technical people abilities, and are able to produce energy in others, they will eventually fail.
All of us will be grouchy some of the time, and sometimes we’ll ignore the clerk, be short when we feel time pressure or ignore difficult situations. However, if we could improve our effect on producing energy in others, just a little more, we could create situations where others are paying forward energy. Consider the following towards that:
- Hold positive energy – This concept is really about emotional intelligence. The ability to understand how we and others are feeling, and managing what we do to improve that. This is not to be confused with motivation. I argue we will be more motivated if there is positive energy in the things we do. If you find that you are not motivated, consider the positive energy in your environment and work to improve that.
- Release positive energy – We naturally adapt to the environment we’re in; if it’s positive we too will be positive. However, if it’s not so positive, we still have to not hold back. Try an experiment. If you look around the conference room and everyone is negative, just start acting positive and watch for that one person who also wants to be positive to respond. You can create momentum of energy. As a manager, people are looking for your queue as to how to act. Act positive and you will get a response. This is what the homeless man did for me.
- Mentor positive energy – Everything we do leaves an impression and is a lesson for others. So being positive is not just a behavior that is forced, it can be a way of teaching.
- Don’t participate in negative energy – I just don’t play if someone is sucking the energy out of me. I’m not talking about being challenged or being in difficult circumstances. I mean if someone is just negative the worst thing I can do is play into that negativity. Misery loves company, and it produces nothing positive.
The message here is not just to be happy; rather it is to use clearly understood and well documented behaviors that many fields of research validate. It is the spirit, energy and intent of how we act that will improve our future, and the future of everyone around us.
Dr. Russ Ouellette is the managing partner of Sojourn Partners, a Bedford-based executive leadership strategy and coaching firm. He can be reached at (603) 472-8103 or [email protected]. He can also be twittered @RussOuellette or Facebooked – Sojourn Partners.
Re-published courtesy of NH Business Review