Last week — in the midst of these uncertain times — I surveyed you, inquiring: What kinds of things generate energy for you in these challenging times? Well over 800 of you clicked onto the survey and chose among the 11 answers, selecting the first, second and third most important things that create energy for you. The results are the focus for this Reading for Leading (RFL).
Before I get to the top three let me mention what came in last of the 11 choices. The very smallest percentage of you said you gain considerable energy when “management provides encouragement to the group” (barely 1% named it most important; less than 5% thought it was second or third most important). Why do you suspect it’s so low? My suspicion is two-fold: That encouragement is aimed at the “group,” and that it is rather generic “encouragement.” It suggests to me that most people want specificity, not generality, and personalization not broad-brush, organizational strokes. The data seems to suggest that leaders of large-scale organizations are almost wasting their time by offering generic, organization-wide encouragement, and must instead generate much more specific and individualized positive feedback.
So what were the things that came out on top, as generating the most energy in difficult times? There are two answers that ran neck and neck, well ahead of the rest of the field of answers. 452 out of 859 respondents (53%) said they felt energized when “I am asked to contribute in meaningful ways.” 224 (26%) respondents named this as the most important thing for generating energy (26%). In a statistical tie, 454 out of 859 (53%) respondents said they felt energized when “I am accomplishing things at work.” Meanwhile, 188 (22%) named this as the most important thing that generates energy. (The fourth most important contributor to energy was “management thanks me personally for good work,” (29%) which reinforces the point made in the first paragraph: get personal! The third and fifth most important factors were, respectively, “I see that the organization is looking at opportunities to get better, stronger,” (38%) and “The organization is making progress on its goals.” (23%))
Perhaps these answers reflect the self-selected group who receive Reading for Leading every Monday. Perhaps you all are just a great take charge, first person, proactive, get ‘er done group. But likely you’re hitting on deeply important truths that pertain to a group broader than yourselves. People create a sense of optimism and energy when they’re accomplishing things, and people like to, want to, feel energized by being asked to do great work. The moral of the story could hardly be clearer: Give people opportunities to do great things and this will generate energy.
The data teaches a good lesson for managers. Yet it reaches well beyond the business world. For example, offering meaningful work and the opportunity to accomplish something is the key to hanging on to volunteers. And I would suggest it may be the most important thing we can do in raising children, even, or especially, adolescents. They will feel most energized about their place in the organization (or family) if given opportunities to accomplish things in it.
Now is the time to focus on how we create opportunities for everyone to make meaningful contributions. Not only does it benefit the group, but it’s the best to way to energize those individuals to
Lead with their best self!