It's probably no surprise to you that when your energy is low your work suffers, but too high energy (constant interruptions and deadlines) can kill your productivity too.
Since 2003, Theresa Welbourne, founder of eePulse, Inc., a leadership consulting firm, business professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been studying energy levels of business leaders through regular surveys. To date, she’s accumulated more than a million data points.
According to the most recent report, 82% of business leaders aren’t working at their optimal energy level. Of the 540 participants, 61% said they were working below their best energy level, while 21% reported working above their optimal energy level. The findings are problematic to Welbourne, who notes that research from hundreds of thousands of people shows optimizing and directing energy drives high performance and growth.
"The things we taught people as tried-and-true leadership and management [methods] just don’t work anymore," she says. "If you’re creating an environment where people can’t focus and do their work, that affects productivity," she says. We spoke with Welbourne to find out what causes this disconnect, and what can be done to fix the problem. Here’s what she suggests:
"Energy reflects performance," Welbourne says. Because energy fluctuates, Welbourne suggests regularly checking in with your leadership team, asking two questions:
- Where are you on energy?
- Where are you at your best?
If you know how they’re doing, it gives you good insight into how the rest of the organization is doing, she says.
Being above or below your optimal energy rate can cause problems. Leaders who are constantly interrupted are in an over-energized state that leads to loss of productivity and burnout, Welbourne notes. On the other hand, leaders working too far below their optimal energy level often avoid challenges and are bored.
Routine kills energy, Welbourne says. Therefore, it’s important for businesses to cut the red tape and shake things up a bit. If you can’t get rid of weekly meetings, switch the day, time, and location.
Welbourne suggests checking in with your leadership team via Skype to find out what everyone’s working on. This works better than listening to the same reports in the same format week after week. The key, she says, is to replicate the startup experience.
"The appearance of less bureaucracy makes people more energized at work," she says.
You measure sales, quality, and growth—why not add employee energy to the mix? One benefit of checking in regularly is receiving information about productivity problems in a timely manner, when you can course-correct.
For example, Welbourne was working with a call center client and had weekly check-ins with employees. One question she asked was whether anything was getting in the way of employee productivity. A respondent mentioned that the new security staff wouldn’t allow anyone into the building before 8 a.m., and they weren’t able to get to their desks and start work until 8:15 a.m. Because of these regular check-ins, the problem was immediately corrected.
Not every company needs to check in that frequently. If there’s a high rate of change in your company (such as merger or growth), Welbourne recommends weekly or bi-weekly check-ins. Other companies can check in once a month.