Everyone interacts differently in the office, based on their role and personality, but most people sort into one of two types with respect to their impact on other people: energy sources and energy sinks. The CEO has to be open to all, and to motivate and energize all, and so I become very aware of the net gain or drain of interaction with my coworkers – and everyone at all levels of the company is consciously or unconsciously impacting the energy level of the people around them.
- Bring you problems for you to solve. They’ll arrive with a problem, dump it on you and ask what you are going to do about it. Particularly sink-ish when they phone you up with the problem on Friday afternoon and get it off their chest so you can worry about it all weekend.
- Have a negative outlook. Every solution you come up with they shoot it down without chewing on it first, and they drag down other people in the discussion who are trying to find a positive solution. Some people are consistently negative – about movies, about food, about their spouse. It’s exhausting!
- Take cheap shots up. Some people think it’s OK to be positive down their organization, positive to peers and attack up. The logic is something like “well you wanted the job so you just have to take it”. Very negative to other people in the room and, inside, very tiring for the leader. Equally draining are people who are obsequious – also does not move the business forward.
- Are non interactive. They sit silent in a problem solving discussion. Especially frustrating when you know they are smart and have ideas to contribute so you work extra hard to help them participate and overcome whatever inhibition is holding them back.
In contrast energy sources:
- Bring solutions with the problems. Even if they don’t have a good solution to some killer problem you are facing together, they try get the brainstorming going until the team comes up with a reasonable idea.
- Bring smart, out of the box solutions. The people who are willing to listen to an issue, think and then take the risk of an unusual or creative solution are particularly energizing, even if half their ideas are bad ones. They open up the solution space for everyone.
- See issues as bumps in the road, not roadblocks.
- See you a fellow traveler on the road (whatever level of management you are at), working together to move the company forward. They don’t take cheap shots or kiss up.
- Have a positive outlook. Some people know how to look for the silver lining – it’s in their nature – and these people often become leaders of their teams, whether they have an official manager role or not.
- Understand that executives are human. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone gets stumped at times and energy sources know that and detect when to be demanding and when to offer an ear to listen. As CEO you can never expect support from below, you need to be self reliant, but it sure is helpful sometimes when it’s offered no strings attached.
Think about which are you in what circumstances – and is your behavior and impact on your coworkers conscious? And if you behave differently with co-workers who are at or below your level in the org chart than you do with coworkers above you why is that and is it justified or helpful to your company?
The top image is of Centaurus A which is two colliding galaxies around a super massive black hole. The bottom image is our Sun.