By Sam Smith
When you’re in the middle of a difficult period, and thinking about how you’re going to get through it, you still have to keep the people around you motivated. As a leader, you can’t personally give everyone energy all day, every day. Even when you have a high-energy culture, there are always going to be pockets within teams that lag. You always need to be conscious of whose energy is down and plan for how you will motivate them to bounce back.
The energy pyramid
As you grow as a company, it’s important to hire and promote people with energy or who are good at generating it, because they will understand how to create energy and will have it on the agenda. If your managers are working toward the same energy agenda, you personally won’t have to create so much of it. Of course, you still need to manage your managers to keep the energy consistent.
What to do when the energy dips
Sometimes you can detect energy dips by tracking key performance indicators. You might also discover through an employee survey or from a pulse check (when you intentionally check in on teams’ energy levels within your organization) that the energy in a particular team is not great. If you’re not actually with the team, or you have outsourced your IT or other back-office departments, how can you make sure that those out-of-sight teams are happy? How do you spot when their managers are not performing? There will be ways you can find out, but you need to keep that team on your radar.
There might be a simple solution: Perhaps the team has been working unbelievably demanding hours and they’re simply tired and in need of a break. In a more extreme case, they may be burned out and completely drained of energy. Regardless, you still need to perform for your client, which means addressing performance problems early. If you don’t have a system to make you aware of issues, by the time you know about them it may be too late for anything but an exit process.
Having quality conversations
You need to make sure your managers are having open one-to-one chats with their teams—separate from any performance review—once every quarter or half year. Quite often, people are much more likely to share issues with their manager than with you, the CEO. It’s possible that they’re able to be open with you, but they’re more likely to be open with someone closer to their level.
If those quality conversations happen at a team level and they’re fed back up, you’ll start understanding where the energy problems are and can help your managers work out how to address them.
Making the most of quality moments
There are many significant corporate events that can be of great benefit in energizing your team. Completing big fundraising rounds, initial public offerings, acquisitions and exits (in which teams have a new owner to continue the growth path) can all be hugely energizing, if managed well. They can accelerate growth plans, energize the team to the next level, and create real excitement.
If not managed well, they can also cause a lot of uncertainty and concern. When planning these events, it’s crucial to consider their implications for the team, including the messages you’ll send about them and the timing of those messages. Most of the details of a transaction (whether an exit, IPO, or fundraiser) will be highly confidential until near the end of negotiations or, most likely, right up until the day they are announced. They might come as a big surprise to the existing team, raising many questions from them and, in the case of an acquisition, from the new team as well.
It is important to be well prepared for these questions and to think not only about how to communicate the right messages but also how to use this significant moment to build energy and excitement. Most of these transactions will supercharge an organization’s growth to the next level, so to get the buy-in needed for the new vision, it’s important to explain clearly why the transaction has happened, how it relates to the team, and why it’s in the team’s interest.
Check in on how you are really doing
To maintain your role as the energy carrier for the whole company, you must treat yourself like a superathlete. If you have a bad day, everybody is going to know about it. Sustaining the level of energy you need is possible only by giving yourself a brain break when you need one, in whatever form works for you.
Sustainable energy is needed for growth
Sustained growth in business needs a consistent level of positive energy, and a blast of energy at the right time can supercharge your growth. The energy levels within your organization need to be constantly on your radar, and you need a process for checking them so that the much-needed fizz factor can be boosted when necessary, and recovering from energy dips and external challenges can be quick.
It’s not sustainable for you to personally generate enough energy for the whole business, so you will need to hire and promote with energy in mind and train your managers to be energy carriers. Build opportunities for energy boosts into your company culture, and if you have successfully created a culture that scales, these opportunities will keep appearing.