Even with today’s largely virtual work environment, the collective energy of a team is easily sensed by the attitude and general “undercurrent” of mood within the group. While this energetic field is not a quantitative measure, the impact of positive team energy is exponential. This is what I call, powered-up!
Let’s look at a real-time example of a powered-up team at its best – Apple. Apple had to shutter 400+ retail stores outside China and put a work from home initiative in place. And yet in the face of this business crisis, Apple pivoted to source face masks and is now designing, producing and shipping face shields for medical workers. They brought together key functions such as design, engineering, packaging, and operations teams to work with suppliers to accomplish this feat – and the first shipment arrived at a California hospital last week.
What do you think the team energy feels like at Apple? It appears to be industrious, linked to the greater good, contains a sense of urgency balanced by the quality of the product needed for healthcare workers. This positive collective energy was probably already present at Apple, and perhaps just heightened or activated in the face of societal need and a leadership team with a vision.
“For Apple, this is a labor of love and gratitude and we will share more of our efforts over time.”
– Chief Executive, Tim Cook
High-performing teams exhibit patterns in their energy that expedite decision making, fuel optimism, and boost productivity. Learn how to power-up with these three tips. 2
1. Read the energy
Awareness of the team’s collective energy is the first step. Take a moment to think about a recent, high stakes meeting within your team. Look beyond the meeting outcome or what was hotly debated. Rather, look at the undercurrent of emotion or feelings across the group as a whole (the collective). This is the energy we want to identify and then begin to shape for the “good” of all. Below is a quick checklist for capturing the essence of the group’s energy.
- • What did the initial atmosphere of the meeting feel like (e.g. chaotic, clear, calm)?
- • Were there any verbal or visual cues that leaned positive or negative (e.g. large sighs, head in hands, etc.)?
- • What did the decision-making feel like (e.g. clear, inclusive, etc.)?
- • At the close, were there clear assignments and specific next steps?
- • How was the energy and outlook at the close of the meeting?
Below is an example of my notes after a recent client meeting where visual identity work was reviewed and the team was asked to select one direction from the three presented. . . but struggled to make a decision.
- • Initial atmosphere of the meeting? Calm and methodical; clear agenda
- • Visual or verbal cues? It was a Zoom meeting and the CEO joined upfront with a big smile to say he endorsed the strategy; he very engaged and positive. Once he left the call, people started to ask questions about the three visual directions and focused on the negative or problematic aspects.
- • Decision making? Subjective opinions started to emerge and there was not alignment around a single visual direction.
- • At the close, were there clear assignments and specific next steps? Proposal made to document the criteria for evaluation and to give everyone 24 hours to return feedback.
- • How was the energy and outlook at the close of the meeting? Slightly anxious, but open to “grading” the ideas using a format.
The takeaway? Based on reading the anxious energy, the project sponsor stepped forward to inject some objectivity and structure to what could otherwise be subjective and personal opinions. The team then returned specific and tangible feedback in writing that then enabled factual decision making.
2. Choose to influence the energy
Once you name the overriding energetic footprint of your team, it is your leadership responsibility to pause and notice how YOU influence this environment. For example, if you recognize that your team is leveraging sarcasm and skepticism as a regular part of your culture, how do you want to lead and participate?
Three ways to shift a conversation: 3
- • Reframing: If sarcasm pervades, you can move the conversation back towards the issue at hand with something like “Let’s look at this from a few different perspectives. . .” and provide 1-2 tangible examples to get people refocused.
- • Building from yes: Build off the other lone voices in the room who might be trying to contribute ideas with a “what I like about that is. . . “.
- • Naming what is in the space: You can directly acknowledge that the team is stuck in a sarcasm and skepticism rut and suggest a way forward. “Guys, I know this is a discouraging time, and my hope is that we can identify some ways to solve for __ today despite these challenges. Can we put the jokes aside to brainstorm for 10 minutes?”
Beyond sensing the environment, leaders choose to take timely action to contribute to the agenda and shape the energetic narrative of the team.
3. Start with your meetings
Leaders spend almost 50% of their time in meetings. Meetings are the perfect place to witness team energy in motion – at its best and worst! You can begin to influence the collective energy of the team, beginning with the meetings you own and organize.
Team meeting success factors:
- • Set a clear agenda and leadership intention: Prior to starting the meeting, reflect on the leadership energy you want to bring to this meeting. Think of this as your leadership stance for the meeting. Then, I like to state the objective of the meeting right up front so everyone is clear what is to be accomplished.
- • Build a shared understanding of the “issue”: If you have new attendees or there is a change in the project scope, take the time to summarize the facts (current state) and re-iterate the main focus or decision required.
- • Close with a call to action: At the close of every meeting, circle back to the agenda and recap on what was discussed, agreed upon and then very specific next steps. This can include steps you are personally going to take. Sending these “calls to action” in a follow-up email leaves you a blueprint for moving forward.
Another reason to focus on meetings is that you usually witness your impact immediately. Based on your leadership energy, others will step forward and begin to mirror your positive energy.
Hopefully, these tips for powering-up your team’s energy provide a boost and a smile. To learn more about leadership principles for today’s workplace, visit www.leadershipherocode.com.