Got Energy? The Role of a Leader as Energy-Creator

Some people become leaders no matter what their chosen path because their positive energy is so uplifting.  Even in tough times, they always find a way.  They seem to live life on their own terms even when having to comply with someone else's requirements.  When they walk into a room, they make it come alive.  ~Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Influence and information have been attributes many times associated with creating high performance.  But influence and information don’t come close to energy.  "Those who positively energize others are high performers.  Position in an energy network is 4 times the predictor of performance compared to position in information or influence networks." [Kim Cameron, PhD, in Positive Leadership]

Who are these positive energizers?  Well, it's not dependent upon their position; anyone in an organization can have positive energy.  Kim Cameron's research revealed that energizers are the people who "create and support vitality in others.  They uplift and boost people.  They leave others feeling elevated and motivated.  They have been found to be optimistic, heedful, trustworthy, and unselfish."  

Cameron's study also determined that "Positive energy is not a personality attribute, inherent charisma, or physical attractiveness.  It's not a matter of merely being gregarious or outgoing.  It's not correlated with being extroverted.  It's a learned behavior."  In other words, we can all become positive energizers, it's a choice.

Organization Change & Leadership Scholar Mike Manning Announced as New Faculty Member

Benedictine University’s Center for Values-Driven Leadership (CVDL, announced Dr. Mike Manning as the Center’s newest faculty member. Manning will join the staff immediately, with responsibility for teaching, advising, and research.  

“Mike is the quintessential scholar-practitioner,” says Dr. Jim Ludema, director of the CVDL and a professor of leadership and change at Benedictine University. “He is a leader in the fields of leadership and organization change, and is extremely well published in the top journals in the field, but he is also a world-class consultant, facilitator of large scale organization change initiatives, expert at creating specialized leadership development programs, and designing applied research initiatives.”

Dr. Manning has a Ph.D. from Purdue University in Administrative Science and has held faculty appointments at New Mexico State University, Case Western Reserve University, Fielding Graduate University, and SUNY-Binghamton. He currently serves as an associate editor of the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science and is active in the Academy of Management, where he is a former Chair of the Organization Development and Change Division.

“The CVDL is truly a bold and innovative approach, coupling a one-of-a-kind executive doctoral program with an applied research center,” says Manning. “My excitement rests in being part of creating this new model, working with the talented individuals at the CVDL, and learning more about how values play a vital role in organizing now and in the future. The potential of the Center is awe inspiring.”

Four Questions to Start Your Next Staff Meeting

New Years festivities are officially over - but that doesn't 
mean you can't start your staff meetings with a little  
reflection and celebration.
The New Year is here to stay (though that won't keep us from writing 2012 accidentally). But just because January 1 has come and gone doesn't mean the time for reflection and celebration has passed.

Take advantage of this fresh start to give a little overdue praise, seek extra feedback, or rehash the post-game analysis on the year that has passed. Extra time spent in reflection and celebration will help your direct reports start the new year feeling heard, respected, supported, and refreshed.

Here are four questions for use in staff meetings or one-on-one check-ins, that will give you a new perspective on what's on your team's mind.

1. If our team were a movie this past year, it would be a ________________. (Comedy, drama, tragedy).

This question offers a broad-brush stroke look at the past year, but also opens the door for more serious conversations: what themes reoccurred in the past year? Were they positive or negative? How can we foster what's working, and make this team perform like a blockbuster in 2013?

2. The things I am most proud of from the past year include ________________, ________________, and ________________. (Encourage employees to list personal as well as professional achievements. 

You may be surprised at what  your team lists here. If you haven't publicly thanked or congratulated them for their top achievements, take time to do so now. Help employees see how their individual contributions add to the team's overall success - or even how their personal achievements develop skill sets and attributes that are useful at the office. For example, you might say, "I'm impressed that you beat your own personal best record in your marathon. I know training takes a lot of discipline and hard work, and I see how you bring that to the office as well. It's an inspiration to me."

3. The  disappointments we experienced this past year were ________________. 

It can be hard to discuss disappointments directly, but awareness of them provides a clearer picture of the new year's growth opportunities. It can also give senior executives a chance to assess where the team is fruitlessly investing their time: how can you shift assignments, change priorities, or improve processes in the coming year?

4. 2013 will be great because ________________. 

End conversations on a positive and future-focused note with a question that lets employees state goals. Share your own, and hold each other accountable. Find a way as a leader to support these goals: for example, if you have employees with weight-loss goals, consider holding walk-and-talk meetings that allow you to move a little more during the work day.

These questions are adapted from Laura Zumdahl, a contributor to this blog. Read more of Laura's ideas:

Positive Energy Drives Positive Results

Over 100 senior executives attended Positive Strategies 
for Extraordinary Leadership, our  most recent senior 
executive roundtable.
Over 100 senior executives gathered on January 11th to discuss strategies for exceptional leadership, at the Center for Values-Driven Leadership's Senior Executive Roundtable, Positive Strategies for Extraordinary Leadership

Positive leaders result in employees with higher job satisfaction ratings who contribute greater innovation, exhibit more cohesion, and feel happier in their work and personal lives, said keynote speaker Kim Cameron, Ph.D., a professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan. Cameron's latest research, which he shared as part of the roundtable, explores the contribution of "energy networks" to high performance. High performing firms have three times as many positively energizing networks than low performing firms. 

Cameron's research explores energy
networks in high performing companies. 
In layman's terms, energizing networks are the personal relationships and communication channels between employees and teams that facilitate work flow. "Positive energy is an attractor," Cameron says. When executives are strong contributors to positive energy networks, they can anticipate higher productivity and better team relationships. 

How can you develop your own positive energy? Cameron says the first place to start is by smiling more. Listening, giving credit to others, and using appropriate rewards also contribute. 

Fellow keynote speaker Paul Spiegelman, an Inc. columnist and the founder and CEO of BerylHealth, echos this approach. The most important words a leader can use, he says, are "I don't know. What do you think?" Spiegelman says this approach to problem solving engenders team ownership in finding solutions and gives employees a chance to let their best ideas bubble to the surface, making them feel valued and supported. 

An engaging culture makes Spiegelman's
company more than just a fun place
to work. It makes it profitable. 
Spiegelman's company, which provides concierge call center service for some of the nation's largest hospital systems, has earned national recognition for its strong, employee-focused culture. As CEO, Spiegelman says he spends the largest share of his time maintaining the culture, including putting processes in place for caring for employees in the totality of their lives. His company uses an intranet system that allows employees to report significant life events - graduations, new babies, marriages, completing a marathon - fellow colleagues have experienced. Spiegelman then writes a personal note to each person. 

"You wouldn't believe the number of employees that tell me how much those notes mean to them," he says. But this kindness isn't just a compassionate act from a caring leader. Spiegelman believes the personal interactions and culture-ingrained fun at Beryl contribute to the company's financial success. "We call it the Circle of Growth," he says. "Invest in your people, they will make your customers more loyal, this will drive your bottom line."

Learn more about CVDL events at Interested in ongoing learning? Consider applying to our Ph.D./D.B.A. program in values-driven leadership. The next cohort begins April 5, 2013. 

Workplace Resolutions that Increase Productivity and Improve Culture

Used with permission from lululemon athletica

Here's a little exercise to help you ease your way back to work this week: 

Grab a piece of scrap paper and write down every New Year's resolution you've ever made. Circle any you kept for more than a month or two.

Any circled on your list? Almost half of us have made a New Year's resolution this year, and yet only 10 percent will manage to keep it.

Chances are, the resolutions on your list match the most common resolutions:
  • Lose Weight and Get Fit
  • Quit Smoking
  • Learn Something New
  • Eat Healthier and Diet
  • Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Travel to New Places
  • Be Less Stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink Less
It's interesting, isn't it, that we spend more time at work than just about any where else, and yet virtually none of our most common resolutions have to do with the work place. Up your resolve this year by setting a workplace resolution or two. Here are a few for workplace leaders to consider:

To Increase Productivity
  • Set a "Meeting-free Monday" rule: You can see a dramatic increase in productivity by reserving one day of the week for getting stuff done, rather than meeting about getting stuff done. Ask your staff to do the same. Set a goal of managing two meeting-free Monday's per month, with a reduced schedule on the other Mondays. Block time on your calendar today. 
  • Reduce the email in your life: Here's a three step process to getting rid of the junk in your email inbox:
  1. Take 20 minutes today to unsubscribe from the email newsletters you never read. 
  2. Ask your assistant to send an end-of-day update email with calendar changes and important notifications, rather than sending messages as changes occur. 
  3. Think about what email you really do want, and communicate your wishes to your staff. Here's an example:

    "Dear Management Team - I'm making an effort to reduce the email in my inbox so I can be more responsive to the messages that merit my time and attention. In the future, please try to only send me messages that require a response. If an 'FYI' message is necessary, let me know at the start of the email that a response isn't required. You can further help me out by using specific subject lines ('3rd quarter sales dip expected, but big contract coming early in Q4') rather than generic subject lines ('update on sales expectations'). Thanks for understanding."
To Improve Culture
  • Participate: It's been said that leadership is lonely. Sometimes it is. And sometimes it's only so because we make it that way. Make an effort to participate in the office Fantasy Football league (no gambling, of course). Post a photo of your kids on Christmas morning to the office bulletin board of social media site like Yammer. Eat lunch in the cafeteria. Pick one way to participate each month, and reserve time on your schedule today.
  • Live and breath your values statement: Most companies have a set of five to seven corporate values that are meant to guide decision making and insure transparency and ethical leadership. But the values can't do their job if they never leave the website or over-the-water-cooler placement. If you really want your employees to value innovation, or trustworthiness, you have to model it. Start with storytelling: at staff meetings, by email, and in one-on-one conversations, share stories of decision-making and leadership as shaped by the values you have adopted. Encourage managers and directors to do the same. Set a goal of sharing three stories a week. 
What workplace resolutions do you have this year? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership's corporate relations and social media advisor. She is a non-profit and small business communications professional.