Lower level employees won't bother sharing their ideas if they don't think anyone is listening--and often, nobody is!
Energy is about available power. The very essence of business lies in containing human energy and applying it with purpose
Human energy is the most important resource in business today. It’s what keeps the organization alive. Find out if your Team is switched On or Off?
The circuit board is a useful metaphor for today's organization trying to drive significant growth on the current of new ideas and innovation. Like electricity, ideas travel along the path of least resistance to find the shortest, easiest way to make connections and gather momentum inside the company circuitry.
In a “switched on” group or department, the current of ideas is f-l-o-w-i-n-g. One person at a time plugs in; the bulbs begin to light up and ideas are illuminated. In contrast, a group becomes "switched off" when the circuit is interrupted by too much resistance and the flow of energy stops. How often have you heard someone exclaim, "no one here has any good ideas" or "why aren't our people more creative?" No doubt there are good and great ideas littered all over companies that died along the path of GREAT resistance.
Is Your Team Switched On or Off?
Human energy is the most important resource in business today. The maximum energy level is achieved when everyone in the organization is fully energized, which is perhaps an impossible goal. The purpose of the organizational circuit board is to arrange the flow of energy and hold it within its boundaries so that it is harnessed and available for use. The very essence of business lies in containing human energy and applying it with purpose.
The flow of energy can be broken in daily conversations as teams are panning for gold-washed ideas. People need to have their ideas heard--not dismissed. Ideas should be fully explored and talked about as though they can be. Lower level employees won't bother sharing their ideas if they don't think anyone is listening--and often, nobody is! Over time, when the inquiry and exploration of ideas is shut down, the crackle of sparks fades and progress becomes arthritic. See if you recognize some of these idea-ruptures reported here.
Top Energy-Breaking Comments
- Interesting idea, but we don't have the budget.
- That's not our brand, we would never do that.
- Here's what I struggle within that idea.....
- You'll never sell it to senior management.
- I don't think people will want that.
- We already have a brand plan.
- How did you come up with that idea?
- That will cost too much.
- We can't modify the production line.
- Last on the list is what is not said. The body language, the blank stare. These facial and body reactions speak louder than the words, “no, nope, or forget it.” In the martial arts they teach that 90% of communication takes place through body language.
No doubt you will be able to categorize the people you work with into these four groups. Which one are you?
Switched On - Positively charged people
Switched On people are organizational stimulants, constantly moving like electrons in an electrical current. They thrive on the energy of opportunity and operate at the passion level using new ideas to override past expectations and ingrained behaviors. Their eyes reveal an intensity and energy of greater alertness. In excitement, Switched On people display “smiling eyes” where the corners of their eyes crinkle upward.
The Switched On are energized by the gaps they perceive in the market or product versus the ideal they can imagine. Once a new product or service is created it shines a light on the previous gap, and others can suddenly see it too. The bigger the customer need gap an idea jumps, the greater its potency.
Raw ideas have little value unless someone pursues them. The Switched On ought to have the confidence to abandon their assumptions and interact with others to truly, deeply listen to their comments and contribute to optimize the idea. They use their personal energy to iron out the creases to move ideas from stored potential into a performance. Drawing upon the human energy inside a team is the strategy to nurture and progress ideas.
Transformers - People who create opportunities
Transformers are the people who boost energy and creativity in a company. They can sometimes be spotted because they are outwardly comfortable with the unexpected. For them, a surprise contains learning. Transformers use passion and emotion to fuel creativity and when you look closely you can see the sparkle in their eyes. Transformers often operate in the moment, spontaneously, reacting and interacting with their environment, people and resources. They inject energy into a team and strengthen the magnetic field around ideas.
Transformers are capable of creating unique and new combinations from the wide range of stimulus they breathe in from the world around them. As versatile thinkers they smoothly cross multiple disciplines. Internally they are usually known by more people because they are powered by curiosity to explore other departments and projects. They think without guardrails and can see entirely different ways of doing things by building opportunities based on differences. Often labeled as problem solvers or creative thinkers, they are strategic assets to dissolve barriers between groups. Transformers build social capital in the business. They can connect dispersed dialogue like an extension cord.
Dimmers - People with alternating levels of energy
Dimmers impact the brightness or intensity in a work environment. Their current alternately speeds up or slows down the momentum on a team. They stand back from progress and limit the ability for others to act. A Dimmer's changing energy level can make it difficult to identify them because at times they will switch on to the work they consider to be meaningful. Like the lens on a camera, their eyes zoom in and out based on their level of interest. The natural energy of Dimmer’s eyes pulsates between actively looking and passively seeing. Follow the Dimmer’s gaze to determine whether they are in the on or off position. Their energy flow dims for two reasons:
Firstly, dynamic change or rearrangement in the circuit board puts them outside of their comfort zone. They are moving away from the very skills that have made them successful today. It is important to offer training to enable Dimmers to adopt change because some of your key talent may be in this group. Without it, they will put resistance into the circuitry as they reject changes they are unprepared to adopt. Just when you need to accelerate your performance to compete, the Dimmers are going to slow the business down.
Secondly, their energy wanes if they don't believe their voice is heard. When they are operating within their comfort zone they are "switched on" but when confronted with obstacles or challenges, particularly from people with greater position power, they will "switch off" rather than fight for their views. This quietly drains energy and puts negative emotional energy into a team.
The Human Resources experts typically focus training on technical skills to build new competencies the organization needs to be innovative. The spotlight shines on leadership skills to improve risk-taking and to develop the people with the boldness to champion ideas. However, learning how to manage dialogue is an important area of development training for the Dimmer. On its face it sounds like teaching people how to talk to one another. And, in fact it is. If you prize diversity to drive innovation, you need to hear the opinions and thinking of the Dimmers, and they need the skills to participate in meaningful dialogue. If you don’t see diversity as a way to drive innovation, you have an even bigger problem!
Switched Off - Risk averse people
The Switched Off individual represents a power outage. Fear has hijacked their attitude and they are the first to identify why moving in a new direction is a distraction and not worth doing. They have a history of sycophantic obedience and like to know and behave according to “the rules” for surge protection. Dynamic change represents risk rather than growth. Their eyes reflect back at you like windows at night with the shade pulled down. No light shines through. It is held inside as a natural response to stress.
The Switched Off are soldered into place. The Switched Off may also represent the overworked, overstressed group. They simply view creativity and innovation as energy consuming. Look for your talented but tired in this group where stress has moved to strain causing them to move to the off position.
Tapping into your diverse talent pool is a key way to create and strengthen ideas.
It requires reaching out to the community of Transformers, Dimmers and Switched Off and Switched On colleagues to gain the perspective and experience they possess. They are necessary to enrich your work even if some of them are difficult to engage. Here's what you can expect:
Transformers: If you are receptive, they will help you to play with ideas. Encourage them to identify analogous ideas in other fields to extract learning and open your field of vision. Listen closely to how the Transformer interprets the idea.
Dimmers: Welcome them to suggest ways to improve upon the thinking and they will get involved. Invite them to be part of your idea and find ways for them to travel with it to keep them engaged. Pick Dimmers who can make important contributions on the team based on their area of expertise.
Switched Off: Tell the story of your idea and explain why you need their talent and perspective. The Switched Off will be suspicious of your motivation and won't engage unless they think it is worth their time or effort. Is it worth your time? Yes, if they have access to things that will make your idea work or have the position power to amplify the idea through the operating layers.
Switched On: This group should be your network for the distribution and exchange of energy you need to transport ideas. They should be the advisors whose counsel you value; people capable of opening doors for you to access to the expertise and resources your idea will need. An internal network of Switched On people is necessary if you want systemic innovation in the business. If you can’t readily list the people in your network, you need to devote serious personal energy to build one.