Energy is the potential people have for success in life.
-Bruce D. Schneider
According to Schneider (2008), there are two kinds of energy: anabolic, (positive) energy, and catabolic (negative energy). Think of them on opposite ends of a continuum. Along this continuum there are seven levels of energy. Simply described, they are: Level 1: Victim, Level 2: Conflict, Level 3: Tolerating/Coping, Level 4: Nurturing, Level 5: Opportunity, Level 6; Wisdom/Intuition, and Level 7: Non-Judgment. With each kind of energy, different hormones are released in our brain. These hormonal releases are caused by our thoughts.
Why does this matter? The energy we “show up” with attracts the same energy from others. If our energy is showing up in Levels 1 and 2, the most catabolic levels, we can literally destroy the energy of our staff and create disharmony, dissention, negativity, and reduced productivity.
Here’s an example of how energy can destroy: John was dreading this meeting with his staff. A big change was coming that would affect all their jobs. Why did this always happen to him? Now he would have to tell his team that they would no longer be able to work the way they were used to. He wasn’t even sure how to go about telling them. This was going to be a bad meeting.
Lisa had the same news to share with her team. At first, she was frustrated and wanted to blame the upper management for mishandling the company situation, but then she realized there were opportunities here. She began to plan her strategy to share the information with her team.
Two different leaders. Two different approaches. What happened?
John went into the meeting without a plan. What would it matter any way? He blurted out the news to his staff. Some sat in shock, others got angry at the company. The meeting turned into a gripe session with everyone walking away focused on what might happen. Over the next weeks John had individual meetings with team members and told them to prepare for the worst, to find other jobs. The team’s productivity went down. The atmosphere became negative and filled with conflict and disillusionment. And, eventually, the entire team was let go.
John’s initial response was that of victim. He felt there was nothing he could do, and anything he tried wouldn’t work. This lowest negative response allowed John to avoid taking action or making decisions about how to move forward with the team. He took the situation personally. John’s reaction was the first, and most catabolic, or negative, of the seven levels of energetic response we can have.
Some of John’s team exhibited the second level of catabolic, or negative, reaction: conflict. Some of them were angry or frustrated with themselves. “I never should have taken this job!” “Why didn’t I put my resume out last year when I thought about it?” Some blamed others and became antagonistic and defiant. “I should have seen this coming. This organization never supported our team!” “I’ll bet that rat, Eric, has been filling John’s supervisors with lies about our team’s work.”
The Wise Manager Plan
As we said earlier, energy attracts the same type of energy in others. As the manager, if you show up in a level one “victim” energy, or a level two “conflict” energy (a pretty common manager energy, by the way), you will attract that kind of energy in your employees. How you show up is how they respond.
So, what do you, the manager, do when confronted with a difficult task or situation? You raise yours and your team’s level of energy. Here are some things you can do to help raise them to a higher level of energy.
Listen. As they talk about how they are feeling, they are releasing the negative energy. Acknowledge that you hear what they are saying. “You’re saying, _____.”, and validate their feelings (“Of course, you feel that way under these circumstances.”). This doesn’t mean you agree with them, just that you hear their thoughts and feelings.
Ask questions to begin identifying other ways to look at the situation. These questions can help the person begin to see things in a more positive light:
What are three things that could be a positive outcome for you?
What is the benefit of staying in this current mindset?
If you could do something about this situation, what would you do differently?
What might your best friend tell you to do?
What do you want to do about this situation?
Let It Go!
When you notice that you or your employees are expressing anger, blame, or frustration; or that there is a focus on black or white, right or wrong, good or bad judgments, this is a sign of level two energy.
Level two is filled with force and takes lots of effort. Managers often feel that their job is difficult because their employees won’t do what they want them to. Employees might feel their manager is a control freak. There is a lot of micromanagement at this level, and people are focused on the “pecking order” in the office.
To help people move from this negative level two energy to a more positive way of dealing with the situation, here are some things you can do.
Begin to remove judgment. Level two energy is about getting “my way” no matter what, focusing on problems, and judging others. Ask these questions to help the person begin to take another perspective:
What can you do to help this situation become a win-win situation for everyone instead of one that others will fight against?
What’s a gray area here (instead of the black/white, right/wrong, good/bad judgments)?
Process the emotion.
“It’s okay to feel this way. How do you want to deal with this emotion?”
Help the person to take responsibility.
“How is your interpretation of this situation creating your response?”
“What’s a completely opposite perspective?
What happened to Lisa’s team?
What energy did Lisa attract with her approach? What do you think?
Want to learn more about turning negativity in your workplace to profitability? Connect with me, Joy Humbarger, on LinkedIn, or tweet me on Twitter. Let Maximize Your Leadership help your team and profits grow!