We've all experienced it, either within ourselves or with our teammates/leaders/direct reports: that feeling that something is off, or you just can't "feel them" fully in the game. It's not BAD... it's just... off. Perhaps you notice it while working on a project, having a conversation, or just in the general relationship. It may be subtle and just energetically felt, or more obvious and physically noticeable. The tricky thing with this 'off' feeling of energy is that if you're not fully present and aware, you likely won't notice it consciously. But you'll feel it. And so will your team. And if you let it go on unaddressed, it will cost you financially and spiritually, as well as zap your time, energy, trust, impact, life force... and on. No one wins here. (PS. If you're responsible for leading organizational culture, retention/attraction, innovation, change, performance, etc. -- and especially if your organization is struggling with any of these things right now -- you're going to want to pay extra attention to this post as the energy of your workforce lies at the heart of all of them.)
Organizations often don't realize how expensive this can be. The energy of OUT or even "not fully IN" can have a severe impact on your organizational health (and client results). It can cost you and your organization emotionally, energetically, financially, and culturally. The energy of OUT can be easier to manage and take action on. It's fairly clear and obvious, you can feel and see someone who is disengaged and OUT, and you will have a fairly confident sense that things need to change quickly. What's more dangerous is the "not fully IN" energy which is often more nuanced, draining, and ultimately the most expensive. It's harder to identify. And it's dangerous left untouched.
Here's the thing... In order for you and your organization to do the best and most creative work, to perform at its highest capacity, and to help your culture embrace the contagious energy of commitment, leadership, and flow — you need your people to be an energetic full body YES. Of course, you cannot control this. And of course, all of us go through the growing pains of learning this later in the game. So if you're leading an organization and responsible for culture and people, performance, creativity, or leadership capacity, you are going to want to take a breath and lean into this conversation carefully.
With this in mind, here are 7 things to consider that your people will need (starting with you first) in order to ensure energy is directed in the right places. The cost can be high for ignoring these considerations. Where there is a lack of these things, you will likely see results as higher turnover, disengagement, burnout, lack of trust and safety, careful-ness and restricted creativity and innovation, malaise, quiet quitting/quiet firing, and cultural toxicity in your teams.
- Clarity and Intention and Communication:
As the leader/leadership team in your organization, it's your responsibility to be clear and intentional about the roles of your team, your organizational mandates and charters, and what you need from each person in order to fulfill your vision and mission. And then to clearly communicate that. (Remember: People often need to hear things 8 times before they truly land. Hop to.) The clearer and more intentional you are, the more you'll invite that in your people.
Your people need to have full presence to know who they are, how they feel, what they want, and when they're in alignment with themselves (or not). (Better to get this skill for them -- and you -- sooner than later.)
You need to have awareness of who they are, including their energetic preferences, and any assessments that help illuminate how they process, think, work, feel motivated, etc. (We use a few favorites for our team and our client organizations, shoot us a message if you want to know more about this.)
- Alignment with their (your) "Essential You":
Feeling alignment with their purpose and values and the desired impact they want to have in the world is vital to a healthy workforce. (In our training programs, we call this the "Essential You" and consider it a baseline skill to ensure productive authentically positive individual and team energy.)
- Acknowledgment, being seen, and feeling authentically connected:
It will be essential that your people feel seen for who they are, appreciated for the work they do, and valued. Truly. (This will require presence, awareness, communication, and leadership skills on you and your co-leaders' part.)
- Psychological safety and agreements to support truth-telling and risk-taking:
Without psychological safety and clean agreements, you're operating on thin ice. You will not -- will not ever - hit your optimal culture, performance, innovation, or customer trust if you do not have this. Period.
- Full Permission to learn and have it be okay that it's not a full-body YES:
Your people HAVE to be able to say when something is not right for them, when they need help, or when they've made a mistake. From here, you can co-design something better, re-design roles or agreements, or support them generously and with love in moving on.
These considerations may seem like a tall order, but it's worth checking through the list and doing the work to ensure you are setting yourself and your people up right in order to hit the mark on each of the points. While it may seem like it will take more time and energy to get these aligned, the cost of not — time/energy/money/trust of your team, etc. — is WAY worse. I promise.
We've seen this in the companies we work with. We've experienced this in our own organization. Unfortunately, it is often not until it's "too late" to realize what an energy suck this can be on you as leader, but also on the rest of your team. Your team is seeing it. They're watching you. They're testing your organizational values and seeing how much you mean what you say when you proclaim you want to have a phenomenal culture and be the most trusted and innovative market leader in your domain. It starts here. Get the energy and intentions right, and the proper authentically energized actions (and impact) will follow.
With "quiet quitting" and "quiet firing" and all the other "people" things happening in the headlines today -- I truly believe that energy and many of the elements mentioned above are at the core of it. How are you leaning into this conversation? What are you truly doing (and who are you and your leadership team "being") to address this? Not bandaids, not "crossing" culture issues off the list, but for real? If you'd like support in your organization and are serious about getting at the root of your cultural and innovation challenges (and then doing something about it), we'd like to help. Contact us for an exploratory conversation.
BONUS FIELDWORK: TAKING ACTION
We work with organizations every day to optimize culture and performance and their ability to create exquisite impact and products in the world. We are always looking at these things when we are assessing their workforce and cultural health and when we're designing programs and coaching to amplify all of the above. And we take our own medicine. Below, as a bonus, I've included examples of two of the guardrails we put in place to ensure we're doing our best here. Make no mistake, we mess up (daily, almost), and the guardrails keep us coming back, make our recovery time faster, and help us keep our energy in the right places so we can focus on ease AND impact.
What do you need to do in your organization to make sure people are bringing their full-body YES's, their best energy and creativity, and that they are "infecting" those around them in a positive way? (Because remember, energy and emotions are contagious!) What do you personally need to be doing? And what can your organization do to ensure real transformation here? This doesn't get done in a quick 90-minute seminar, it doesn't happen just with awareness, it takes real and intentional work from the inside out. If you'd like to talk about this and how ACI can help, reach out.
Guardrails We Use to Ensure Energetic Congruency and Currency
We have an agreement in our company that everyone on the team is a HELL YES to their roles. How do we do this? Here are two key points:
1) Role Alignment & the Energetic YES:
We are wildly devoted to ensuring that people are in alignment with their purpose, their values, their calling, their energetic processing preferences, and their talents in whatever role they have in the company.
Yes, sometimes we all need to lean in on things that may not be our "sweet spot unicorn bliss" tasks, but for the most part, at least 85% of the work is in the sweet spot and we pay constant attention to the 15% to see when it's time to shift roles OR to bring someone new onto the team (who will love them) to do them.
When a team member finds that something is not in alignment for them, or they learn that they'd rather pursue another passion that IS, we celebrate them and help them transition on. As painful or disappointing as it may be to lose a team member, we trust that the Universe and world will be better served by them in their aligned purpose and that ACI will as well as we commit to the full-body yes.
2) Psychological Safety & Team Agreements:
In addition to ensuring roles are right, we also have agreements as a team which include:
- Direct engagement
- It's okay to be a "4" (if you know the IEP work, this will make sense)
- Be responsible for your energy and impact
- Address it NOW (no sitting on issues)
- Always return to the table, no leaving until it's resolved (or taking an intentional time-out until it can be resolved)
Are you interested in learning more about how to put agreements like this in place? Or how to work through the considerations checklist to ensure your people are all IN?
All of these best practices are integrated into our organizational offerings. Check out more details here on how you can partner with ACI to 'do the work' in partnership.