Who was the best boss you ever had? Did they energize you? Did they find something special in you before you even knew it? Did they acknowledge you for a skill or ability? When they did, did you accomplish more than you ever dreamed you could?
Hopefully, we all have come across at least one boss that did this for us. I can remember a boss early in my career as a reporter. He called me to say he needed me to do an investigative report on a new technology supported by highly influential wealthy backers. He believed I’d do a fair job and get to the bottom of whether it was real or a hoax. I remembered his faith in me gave me the confidence to ignore my own doubts and report the story. (It was a hoax.)
Tony Schwartz, the author of the new book, “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance” says the most productive role of a boss is to provide energy and motivate employees. Schwartz writes in the Harvard Business Review, “Above all else, a leader is the chief energy officer. The most fundamental job of a leader is to recruit, mobilize, inspire, focus, direct, and regularly refuel the energy of those they lead.”
In fact, Schwartz and his colleagues asked thousands of people over the past decade to define what makes a good boss. Here are the top ten most common answers:
“Only three of those qualities have anything to do with intellect. More than two-thirds are emotional qualities — and they’re all positive ones, Schwartz says.
But to be able to energize others, you have to make sure you’re not depleting your own energy but refueling it. Schwartz studied peak performers and star athletes to see where they get their energy and how they consistently excel. The answer isn’t in grinding it out for long hours like we often do at work with no breaks. He was the president of LGE Performance Systems, a training company and coauthored The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy Not Time. He says the key is in creating rituals that support us. That could mean getting more sleep by going to bed earlier, eating a good breakfast with our family (emotional sustenance) or planning and scheduling physical exercise. Schwartz also says taking frequent mental and physical breaks during work is very important for refueling our energy.
We all tap into our energy when we are passionate about our work and when we are helping others. It’s where we get our motivation. Yet, Schwartz says it is overlooked as a resource in most organizations that work on developing employees’ skills, knowledge, and competence.
So, if a big (or the biggest) driver of employee excellence and motivation is energy, why wouldn’t organizations want to curate it?