Frank, a senior manager from Staten Island, who spoke with a Sopranos-like accent and just happened to own a pizzeria on the side (we’re just saying…), raised his hand in the middle of a training program. Frank was one of those people who always had something interesting to say. When we called on him, Frank gave us the perfect metaphor for energizing your team.
Frank said, “People are like batteries. Our employees come to work drained. They are drained from their personal responsibilities. They have money issues, problems with older parents, children challenges, a stressful commute, and so on. And we expect them to be energized on the job. That’s not realistic! Our job as managers, really, is to charge them up. To get and keep them motivated. If we don’t do it, who will?”
Frank’s comment captures the essence of the team leader challenge: How do you keep your team energized regularly?
The bottom line is that your team’s energy really comes from your energy. How you speak, interact, and behave drives the energy in your team. If you are impatient, then your team is more likely impatient with each other and their customers. If you are receptive to your team’s ideas, then your team most likely listens to each other and their customers.
Your team, in essence, copies you. They absorb your energy. Looking at it negatively, they are infected by your negative behaviors. On the up side, they are strengthened by your positive behaviors.
Look around you at other departments. You will see how each department has a culture which is a reflection of their leader.
Confidence breeds confidence
Let’s look at one key energy element: confidence. Your confidence has a huge impact on your team. Your confidence gives them confidence. If you are comfortable taking risks and making mistakes, then your team will do the same. This creates positive momentum. Then, what once seemed impossible is then possible.
Let’s take Mitch Pisik for example. Mitch was hired a few years ago as the CEO of Breckwell Products, a manufacturer of pellet- and wood-burning stoves. He was brought in to turn around the 30-year-old company. They had stagnated. Nothing new had been developed in more than five years. The employees, to say the least, were not so energized.
After reviewing the financials, meeting with all key customers, and connecting individually with employees, Pisik realized that if they could develop a new, award-winning product, the success would reenergize the employees, attract new customers, and give sales a boost. In short, it would set the company on the road to recovery.
All new products in the industry are launched in annual trade show. New products typically took a year from inception to selling. But they only had five months until the next trade show. The obstacle seemed insurmountable at first—especially to the employees.
Pisik told us: “I brought everyone together. I knew some people would greet the challenge, but I also thought some might be skeptical. They hadn’t had a new product in five years. It was difficult to imagine creating one in five months. You could feel the doubt in the room.”
Let’s stop here. Pisik hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t that they couldn’t be energized. It wasn’t that they were negative. It was just as Frank from Staten Island said: they were depleted. It had been so long since anything positive or interesting happened that everyone had low energy. It was up to Pisik to re-energize them.
Pisik continued, “So I told them, ‘I believe we can do this. I moved my whole family from New York to Texas to help this company. I would not have done it if I didn’t have faith in you. I have accomplished goals like this in other companies. And we are going to do it here!’”
“They were never challenged like this before,” claimed Pisik. “But I believed they were smart enough and capable enough to do it. They just needed someone who believed in them and the company. I was that person.”
Five months later at the trade show, Breckwell won the Best-in-Show Award for new stoves. The victory was written up in all the trade magazines, That new stove, the one that seemed impossible to develop, accounted for 25 percent of sales in the next year (a huge chunk considering the company had 29 other products on the market). The team was so pumped up that they started challenging themselves to create new products and improve existing processes.
The energy and passion at Breckwell was ignited by a leader who had confidence in them. His confidence gave them confidence.
The moral of the story is…take more calculated risks, ask for feedback and take it to heart, and have fun along the way. You’ll soon have a team of energized batteries—ready and charged to tackle the challenges ahead!