by Jane Anderson, Featured Contributor
THIS BOOK, Energize Your Leadership, is exceptional. When I go out to look for a book to read, I am rarely pulled toward a volume of short stories, but this book is the exception. It has so many articles written by highly respected entrepreneurs and business owners it immediately grabbed my full attention. I recognized their names from blogs, magazines, and online communities and knew this book would be an excellent resource to glean some new ideas and kindle renewed energy for my own endeavors.
Sixteen authors detected a common thread in leadership circles and corporate environments. Workplaces seemed to show signs of complacency and lethargy. People were overwhelmed and disengaged. Where was the energy? As leaders they realized this energy crisis could lead them to develop three steps to achieve growth and renewed energy: Discover, Ignite, Break Through
This book has so many impressive qualities. Each author tells their story, disclosing lessons learned, and advice for taking action in your own life. I hope you find the excerpts from each chapter to be both motivating and inspiring as you seek to energize your leadership.
It starts within the four energy centers each of us has: values, gifts, self-awareness, and creativity.
Energize your values
Values – keys to what motivates. Susan Mazza writes about her search for the right career path and realized that meaning and satisfaction came from the inside, not the outside. It wasn’t a career she was seeking, but rather a compass to help her navigate.
Lessons learned: Success can only come from living 100% true to your values in everything you do. Therefore you must be clear on what matters most.
One Action Step: Every day for seven days write and reflect on the story of an experience when you were energized by what you were doing. What made it so energizing?
Unwrap your gifts
Gifts – our capabilities and natural talents help us to be innovative and energetic. Terri Klass became aware of how effective she could be when she focused on her gifts and let them shine. Her empowering moment was when she realized how really limitless her skills were as she discovered more innovative ways to use them.
Lessons learned: Our toolkit of gifts and resources can make a difference.
One Action Step: Create a list of five gifts that you possess – things that you are happiest while doing.
Self-questioning – Make personal progress by getting outside your sameness and discovering new ideas and perspectives. Barry Smith knows firsthand the jarring reality of stepping outside a role he’s held for 30 years into an entirely new chapter in his life. His transition took two years and looking back he says if he had started questioning himself earlier, his transition would not have been so grueling.
Lessons learned: Find your identity in who you are, not in what you do. This is your ‘why’.
One Action Step: When things are not ok, ask yourself, ask your team, “How can we make ourselves better?” then guide the solution.
Unleash Your Creativity
Creativity – This energy source is limitless and without boundaries. Our brains are hardwired for it. Choose to use it because you will discover it as a high energy source. Tony Vengrove says, “Sameness is no friend of creativity.” We need to consciously get outside our same surroundings to spark the creative magical capacity that our brains are capable of.
Lessons learned: Don’t be trapped by precision and perfection. Get the ideas out of your head and onto paper.
One Action Step: Change your perspective and get inspired. Schedule creativity time.
Once you have gotten to know yourself with authenticity and honesty you can move on to motivate others, co-create with them, and help meet their needs. The authors encourage leaders in four practices:
Be authentic, true to yourself: What happens when a trusted teammate calls you a fraud? Karin Hurt took it on the chin and began the journey to self-awareness and realized that to be a leader in action she had to be open and communicative about her actions as a leader. She had to be authentic and vulnerable about her shortcomings and limitations which helped improve her leadership efforts.
Lessons learned: Remember there need not be a team vs leader environment. Relationships require reciprocal disclosure.
One Action Step: Say what’s true. Be trustworthy and honest.
Be Seen for Who You Are
Be seen for what and who you are. Alli Polin realized as a rising star that becoming a VP was within her reach and she achieved it, but there were pieces of her true self that disconnected from her energy and her heart. She found the courage to come out from behind the corporate mask and be who she really was meant to be.
Lessons learned: Do not roll over in defeat. Find your true self and be brave enough to commit to being that person.
One Action Step: Make one choice every day that aligns with who you really are.
Speaking Up Around Problem People
Deal with people problems by harnessing negative energy and transform it before it gets out of hand. Difficult people suck the energy out of the workplace. Carol Dougherty tells her story that supports the truth that every person needs to feel respected for who they are, even difficult people. Learn the key of turning negative energy into positive energy.
Lessons learned: Set boundaries, turn down the heat, exercise respect for differences.
One Action Step: Understand your triggers and develop coping strategies.
Serve to Lead, Lead to Serve
Serve to Lead and Lead to Serve. Building your leadership on service and trust is a source of energy. There is no mold to success, says Daniel Buhr. The key success it operating out of your authentic self, not trying to be anyone else. Trust yourself so you are worthy of trust from others. Your contributions are unique and there is nobody else who can fill them.
Lessons learned: Be a servant first. Service is about giving of yourself without giving up yourself.
One Action Step: Serve. Build Trust. Be trustworthy.
Energize Your Workplace
Does anybody want to go to work every day in a place where there is consistent negativity? Of course not. There is a direct channel to draining the energy from a collective group of people and it comes from allowing complaints and circumstances to grow to the point of overwhelm. Energizing your workplace is possible through these four factors intended to build the collective energy of an organization.
Brand You, Brand Your Organization
Brand ‘You’. This means helping individuals develop their personal brands that become synchronous with the organization’s brand. Lalita Raman’s ‘aha’ moment came through introspection when she realized her purpose, inner drive, and vision was to help people discover their purpose and vision. She reinvented herself, translated her vision into one that could help people on their own journey.
Lessons learned: In times of challenge focus on achievements and successes, connecting them back to your inner purpose.
One Action Step: Build your personal brand by knowing your: Promise, Positioning, Personality
Encourage ‘Gut Thinking’
Gut Thinking is a valuable tool and this chapter discusses the power behind intuition and that gut feeling. In a few short pages, Chery Gegelman tells powerful stories of incidents when her ‘gut’ level feelings directed her thinking and it was consistently accurate. She describes times when she listened and times when she didn’t. The better action would have been to listen every single time because her ‘gut’ was never wrong.
Lessons learned: We have a heart, a brain and a gut. Learn to tap into all three for the greatest results from wisdom, strength, energy, and endurance.
One Action Step: Finding the energy you need is like drilling for oil. One way to find that ‘black gold’ is pray and meditate on decisions.
Build an Organization of Gratitude
Gratitude-based attitude across the whole organization. This, in itself will completely transform the energy in your organization. Living in a war ravaged zone for 15 years Hoda Maalouf recounts an event that taught her from a young age to appreciate life’s basic gifts: life, good health, family, friends
Lessons learned: It’s a precious privilege to be alive. Our blessings are always within us and within our reach. Don’t worry about material loss which can be rebuilt. Human loss is permanent.
One Action Step: Cultivate the habit of being grateful. Make your life an attitude of gratitude.
Love and Let Love Multiply
Love Multiplies is only a concept unless the leader is able to demonstrate authentic love. It’s only then that it can become part of the organizational culture. The personal reformation Scott Mabry discloses is an encouraging testament to the potential bonds of love in relationships. Through his story he affirms the human need for love and that it is the source of greatest acts of courage, compassion, and commitment. Scott says, “Love supplies a wellspring of energy, belief, and hope.”
Lessons learned: Empathy for others requires empathy for self.
One Action Step: Seek out support. Schedule time to talk with someone you trust and who will speak with you truthfully.
Energize Your Future
Can anyone really know the future? No matter the amount of planning, the truth is, there are no predictions for the future that are 100% accurate. But the authors have described four concepts for assuring an energized future despite the unknowns.
Plan (B) for the Future
Plan A is what you think is best, but always have a Plan B. Often that turns out to be every bit as fulfilling as the original. Her heart set on Foreign Service, but with zero aptitude for foreign language, LaRae Quy could have given up on the ‘exciting life’ she knew she wanted. Instead she bundled all her skills and dreams into an application to the FBI and has never looked back. The FBI was Plan B proving that when the will is stronger than the failure, our will lifts us to success.
Lessons learned: Success is often settling for less. Don’t stop after success; keep going toward untapped potential. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries.
One Action Step: See failure as an opportunity to learn valuable truths.
When Confronted with Challenges, Have Serious Fun
Recognize the role of fun. Challenges seem to get the most attention and the most press. Counter those times with things that are fun, and yes, energetic. Jon Mertz brings fun to his analogy to describe how tension and balance are relative to the ups and downs, booms and bursts of business. A trampoline is potentially dangerous, constructed of powerful springs, a taut tarp having the ability to launch a rider too high or cause loss of control and subsequent injury. But a trampoline is also fun as people climb on, sense the bounce, and move together in synchronicity.
Lessons learned: Play is essential to maintaining balance. The infusion of play into processes brings into focus the right blend of competitiveness and collaboration.
One Action Step: Foster the culture that generates flow that keeps everyone engaged, creative, and working together to assure the company endures.
Lead With Curiosity
Explore the unknown by instilling a sense of curiosity in yourself and in your workplace. A ten-week restructuring process had everyone angry and emotionally bruised when John Thurlbeck was called upon to help an organization work through the changes. His technique for resolution was to maintain a sense of curiosity allowing him to ask powerful, intentional questions that lead to transparency and quicker adjustment of the staff to the new organizational structure. Curiosity doesn’t make assumptions. Curiosity provides leaders with ability to keep an open mind.
Lessons learned: Curiosity energizes leaders, enabling them to be receptive, reflective, perceptive, and open.
One Action Step: Practice active listening, not just with your ears, but with all senses.
Positivity is Always Possible
Positivity is energy. Cynthia Bazin discusses the role that positivity plays in advancing through all levels in life. Being positive comes from within, but with it must come self-awareness and clarity so endeavors are based on realistic capabilities and those enabling resources that empower future achievements. Always be learning and seeking broader understanding of situations. Be positive. Whatever happens, maintain a positive outlook and use it to recognize possibilities.
Lessons learned: Work hard and don’t be impatient. Achieving goals takes time so focus. Focus on steps to take toward accomplishment, focus on the small wins, and reward achievement of each goal.
One Action Step: Focus on gratitude and start each day thinking about what is positive in your career and in your personal life.
This book is written from the perspectives of these sixteen leaders as they tell stories from their experiences, reveal lessons learned, and get their readers to think about how to instill energy and ambition into their workplaces. Probing questions at the end of each chapter and three action steps work together to prompt an improved culture in your workplace.
So there you have it. A brief run-through of what you will learn as you explore each aspect of energizing your leadership. When I read the book, I saw these aspects as building blocks. You can start with any of the chapters you wish to read, but I enjoyed looking at the content as though building a pyramid rather than assembling a puzzle. It’s really up to you though. You’ll decide once you get the book in your hands.
We are all in this journey of life together. Let’s inspire one another and lift each other way up. Energize Your Leadership right now!”
– Cynthia Bazin