I read Cross and Perker’s The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations, and I was riveted by their discussion of energy. This caught my eye, because my father is always emphasizing the importance of energy, whether at work or at play — especially at work. (For other excellent advice my father and mother gave me, look here.)
Cross and Parker argue that energy is a key factor in understanding who is effective at work, and why. When they analyzed networks of co-workers, knowing whether someone was considered an “energizer” and a “de-energizer” shed a great deal of light on how networks worked, and how productive various people managed to be. Their discussion is complex, but here are some highlights.
– those who energized others are much higher performers
– energizers are more likely to be heard and to see their ideas acted upon
– people are more willing to engage with energizers: to give them undivided attention, to devote discretionary time to them, to respond to them, and to want to work with them
– energizers are quick to point out potential problems, but always in service of reaching a goal
– energizers listen to others and value others’ ideas, concerns, and contributions
– energizers don’t posture or conspire in alliances or cliques
– energizers articulate a compelling vision, but not one so grand that it feels frustratingly out of reach
– energizers show integrity: they follow through on their promises, deliver bad news or point out problems when appropriate, and deal fairly with others
– Key point: “Note that energizers are not entertainers, or even necessarily very charismatic or intense. Rather, they bring themselves fully into an interaction.” In a nutshell, energizers help move the ball forward.
– people go to great lengths to avoid dealing with de-energizers
– when bypassed, de-energerizers tend to persist in unhelpful responses; they feel ignored, so they behave in ways that make people avoid them all the more, instead of finding ways to engage constructively [note: this is an important clue about how to deal productively with de-energizers: make sure they know that you hear their point of view]
– de-energizers tend to see nothing but roadblocks
– de-energizers, especially those with great expertise, tend to shut out others’ views
So, are you an energizer or a de-energizer? Here are eight questions, adapted from Cross and Parker:
1. Do you take a sincere interest in other people?
2. Do you follow through on your commitments?
3. Do you engage in self-serving machinations, or do you work in service of a goal larger than yourself?
4. Do you see possibilities, or only problems?
5. Are you able to disagree with someone without attacking that person personally? (Note: excessive agreement is also de-energizing.)
6. Do you give people your full attention? It turns out people are far more aware of a lack of attentiveness than you might think. Um, I can see you looking at your phone!
7. Are you flexible enough in your methods so that others can contribute, or do you demand that others adapt to you?
8. Do you exercise your expertise without bulldozing over other people?
What do you think? Does this category of “energy” make sense in terms of your own work experience? For me, it rings absolutely true. And I completely agree that a person can be very soft-spoken and even languid in behavior, and yet terrifically energizing, because of the contribution that person is making toward reaching a goal.
What better way to start the new year than by working on being happier at home? If you'd like to make your relationships more tender; your house less cluttered; your body more energized; and your time less hurried, check out Happier at Home. (I can't resist adding: New York Times bestseller.) It just came out in paperback this week. I really love this book, especially the ending, which I think may be the best thing I've ever written. You can read a sample chapter on possessions, "Find a true simplicity," here.