As a boss, you’re probably doing all you can to help your team perform at its best. If you’re like some of the most successful leaders (which I hope you are!), you’re focused on setting challenging goals, running effective meetings, and using best practices for delegation.
Still, as you fine-tune your management style, there’s one powerful habit you may be overlooking:
Focusing on how much you energize the people around you.
Although you might think of energy as something that your employees either have or don’t (a.k.a., whether they got enough sleep the night before), the reality is that as a leader, you play a critical role in how motivated they are on a daily basis.
In fact, researchers at the University of Michigan use the term “relational energy” to describe the idea that our energy is not just a function of our own behaviors (like sleep, nutrition, or exercise), but instead can come as a result of our interactions with others.
In one study, they found that when people worked under leaders who were “relational energizers,” they were more motivated to work hard and stay focused on tasks. They also reported feeling more driven and having greater enjoyment for their work. In turn, this lead to increased employee performance.
So, how do you become a more energizing leader? You can get started by working on these four things:
1. Exude a Positive Attitude
There’s a wealth of research out there about the benefits of an optimistic attitude for effective leadership.
You probably didn’t need science to tell you that--after all, it makes sense that someone who’s upbeat would be a lot more exciting to be around compared to someone who’s always complaining.
So, make a concerted effort on a regular basis to be supportive, gracious, and optimistic.
For example, when you disagree with your direct report, don’t just shoot their idea down--instead, respect their opinion and strive to find common ground. When problems arise, focus on what you can fix rather than lamenting about all the things you can’t. Try to stay positive in everything you do, and your can-do spirit will be contagious.
2. Get to Know Your Direct Reports on a Human Level
Energizing leaders don’t just tell people what to do--they focus on cultivating strong, two-way relationships with the people they work with. They take a genuine interest in others’ emotions, concerns, and happiness, and aim to be fully present when talking with them (a.k.a., they care about how they communicate.)
Most importantly, they know how to show a bit of vulnerability--because they know that being honest, realistic, and accountable for their actions forces others to do the same.
3. Share Your Passion With Your Team
Have you ever had a boss who was simply going through the motions without much care for anything they did? It was probably an uphill battle to be productive when your leader wasn’t pulling their weight and showing enthusiasm for their role.
Researchers in their study found that leaders who showed passion for their work were more motivating and energizing to be around.
So, aim to get in touch with what makes your job meaningful to you. Then, communicate this excitement with your employees by sharing your personal goals, projects you’re eager to work on, or the mission you, your department, or your company stands for. The more transparent you are with the “why” behind everything you do, the more likely people will be convinced to get excited and involved.
4. Make Learning a Priority
The study also shows that energizing leaders create environments that’re intellectually stimulating. This means sharing your knowledge and experience with your team and being open to learning from others and receiving feedback.
This also means encouraging open dialogue, creativity, and the questioning of assumptions. A team that engages in frequent, honest conversations is also likely to generate higher quality solutions to problems, since they’ll be able to truly benefit from and factor in all of the individual perspectives.
Finally, keep in mind that at the end of the day, everyone’s different, and what works in motivating one employee may not necessarily work for another.
So, when you’re struggling to figure out how to energize your direct reports, one of the best things you can do is ask them.
Erica Baker, an engineer at Patreon, offers some great questions you can pose in your next one-on-one-meeting with your employees, including “What’s one thing we can do for you to make this week better?” or “Do you have everything you need to do your best work?”
By directly showing you’re invested in giving them the tools they need to succeed, you’re already well on your way to being a truly energizing leader.