Have you ever wondered while being served by someone if there was somewhere else they’d rather be? For example, the customer service person who seems irritated that you’ve interrupted them with your question, or the hospitality worker who’s struggling to muster the strength to do anything beyond what they absolutely have to do?
It isn’t difficult to appreciate, through our own experiences of poor customer service, how the ways in which people choose to behave play a key role in the loyalty we feel. The simple truth is the depth of trust and respect anyone feels toward your business is influenced by every member of your team, including the disengaged and lethargic among them.
While, in some cases, poor behaviours reflect poor attitudes, in many circumstances the real issue is a lack of energy. When people are drained of energy they are entirely more likely to think, feel and behave in ways that undermine success. When tired, most people struggle to think straight let alone behave successfully.
Reflect for a moment on the depth of energy you bring to work every day. Contemplate also the levels of energy your team invest and what this means for the standard of results they achieve. Whether the measure of success be financial performance, customer engagement, innovation, quality or productivity, there is no doubt energy is playing a role in creating the outcomes achieved by you and your team.
Errors, rework, delays, unhappy customers and lost momentum are just some of the adverse consequences of people lacking the energy they need to think, feel and behave in ways that allow them to be at their best. Contemplate when you have made a mistake because you struggled to focus or invest all you needed to.
Scientists have found sleep deprivation alone can have a profound impact on how effectively we conduct ourselves at work. Research shows a lack of sleep can lead to eroded mental and emotional functioning. Our capacity to concentrate, learn and remember are undermined and our tendency to be irrational in our emotional responses is heightened.
Sleep-deprived participants in a University of Pennsylvania study experienced greater stress and anger when asked to complete a simple cognitive test. Another study by Harvard Medical School and the University of California found that, when shown emotionally negative images, participants’ activity levels in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional control centre, were 60% higher than the levels in those who were well-rested.
Of course, sleep deprivation isn’t the only reason some people lack energy; poor diets, inadequate exercise, draining relationships or isolation, stressful or unfulfilling jobs and mental illness are equally common. While leaders aren’t always in a position to remove the drainers in people’s lives, there are steps you can take to support your team to be energised. Among the most important of those is to educate.
Help people to understand the link between their energy levels and the effectiveness of their thinking and actions. Build a clear line of sight between how people approach their jobs and the outcomes that are created. Ensure every member of your team understands that commercial results are underpinned by your organisation’s culture, which is in turn created by every individual’s mindset and behaviour.
Invest in your team’s understanding of what they can do to nurture the strength of their own spirit and build the reserves of energy they need to not only perform but maintain pace and standards through tough times or scenarios. Initiatives, such as seminars focused on mental, physical and emotional health, are one way to lift awareness and inspire people to take ownership for the vitality they are able to bring to their job.
As is always the case, the most important thing you can do is to lead by example. Demonstrate your own commitment to managing your energy levels and people are entirely more likely to get on board and leverage any programs you implement. For example, there is little point in providing corporate health programs if your leadership actions create a ‘work long hours to get ahead’ culture. Begin by honestly reflecting on your own priorities and what changes you need to make to ensure you have the energy you need to be at your best every day.