High-energy is the most important factor to get right in strong teams

There are many subjective measurements bosses use to ensure they’ve got a stellar workforce. However, a constantly energised team blows them all out of the water

High-energy is the most important factor to get right in strong teams

Speak to any leader in the fintech and construction sector and it becomes clear organisations in such rapidly evolving environments strongly favour attitude over skills when judging their staff’s success. The belief being that, in constantly evolving markets, what you know is somewhat less important than how you approach the challenges of ever-shifting targets. Attitude, however, is a tricky metric to use when evaluating others because it often tugs on our biases and preferences. This risks, among other things, creating blind spots in employment practices, sales decisions and so on. In fact, to date, research offers no clear, unbiased way to measure attitude. Fortunately, there’s something far more worthwhile measuring.

Among current attitude-gauging options we find self-assessments, which offer some insight into attitudes but don’t account for people’s urge to preserve self-image and protect social desirability. Others separate attitude into three components – cognitive, affective and behavioural, however in doing so fail to measure the full range of variables that impact our attitude. But in more recent years, attention has turned to an alternative predictor of employee performance – one that can be measured and has a direct impact on productivity and organisational culture: energy. The term energy encompasses a person’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours and mindset. On a broader scale, it refers to an organisational resource that increases people’s capacity and motivation to take action and pursue their goals.

With that said, our ability to experience, and correctly interpret, our own and others’ energy remains one of the greatest untapped resources in the workplace. Research in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows how people and teams that resonate at higher levels of energy exude trust and cohesiveness, where creativity and innovative ideas run wild, people look out for each other, create together and fail together, free of judgement and open to whatever lessons they can and need to learn.

Understanding and harnessing a team’s energy levels is more than just how it feels to work with and in them, however. The impact the team makes and interactions it engages in extends beyond the confines of the group – peers, suppliers and clients connected to the team are also influenced.

De-energising teams, on the other hand, trigger survival instincts in those around them, causing them to avoid contact and devise ways to cope with interactions they can’t escape. Effectively, de-energising teams are detrimental for businesses aiming to expand to the next level.

So a key element to instead build energising teams is understanding how to intentionally generate high levels of energy and reap the amazing benefits. Research by MIT Sloan, the business school, supports five dimensions we found can increase and help maintain high energy levels.

Forge a compelling vision

Energy is a generating force that requires space to expand. Conversations rooted in the present or past don’t offer that space – it’s only when we talk about possibilities that we activate our curiosity and innovative thinking. The key is to create a vision that rests on a solid supporting foundation. Dreams without a plan or support system have the opposite effect – they generate a paralysing sense of being overwhelmed instead of expansive enthusiasm.

Team members can make a meaningful impact

Innovative thinking is, by definition, a boundary-pusher. To keep energy levels high, it’s important we give space to all ideas and that options are explored from a place of curiosity rather then finality. Clinging to the ‘right answer’ builds walls around any exploratory thinking, limits creativity and, ultimately, limits a business’ competitive advantage. 

All for one – not one for all

Focus and motivation are fuelled by fully engaging and putting the needs of the team above each individual member. Energised and focused teams can learn and grow together and often inspire those around them to do that same.

Make progress tracked and tangible

The cliché “what gets measured gets done” rings true in the psychology model of subjective wellbeing. Ticking off boxes isn’t only psychologically satisfying but has been proven to increase our sense of fulfilment and happiness. To keep energy high, teams must remain agile in their goal-setting and adjust according to shifting needs. Otherwise, goal-ticking turns into a draining to-do list.

Focus on possibilities

What you water grows. Conversations that focus on what’s broken will likely lead to finding more broken-ness. Instead, inviting conversations emphasising what’s possible is key to increasing energy levels in teams. Solution-focused conversations and open-ended questions that explore possibilities have the power to galvanise and organically fuel engagement and commitment. 

Research, and our personal experience in working with leaders and teams, validate that high levels of energy in teams leads to better performance, higher retention, increased engagement, enhanced learning, abundance of innovative thinking and significant boosts in morale. Additionally, given energy’s natural tendency to expand, small tweaks in behaviours and even choice of words in conversations have the power to exponentially build energy levels with minimal effort. Leaders and teams that have embraced this approach have, in addition to the above, unlocked the secret to a happier, more fulfilling life experience. 

This article comes courtesy of Own Your Step, a boutique consulting firm that partners with SMEs to reignite the spark in their people and build energising teams and workplace cultures.

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