We all know the type. You can feel them when you walk into the room and you can almost see a grey cloud over them. These are the people who put a pair of grey glasses on every day when they leave for work. They see the reason why something won’t work, as their default position. They are the victims; they are helpless to affect change. They are the energy sappers.
I occasionally get to experience this with clients or when delivering training. It only takes one! Then all the attention and time is swallowed up trying to convince that person to take their grey glasses off. Not only does this suck the energy from the room, it is also unfair on the rest of the team.
Some common traits of the sapper is that they constantly air negative views, fail to engage others, favour their own solutions or fail to deliver on the commitments they make and are poor listeners. These actions drain the energy of their colleagues, stifle creativity and hinder progress on initiatives.
Many business leaders believe that energy sappers are the biggest obstacle to success.
So what can you do?
The flip side of the sapper are those people who “energise” others.
They are high performers and help create high performance, high-energy environments. We want energisers in our business and we want to encourage, acknowledge and reward these behaviours. So define your company values and the behaviours that sit behind them. Ensure roles & responsibilities contain a description of ideal behaviours and not just tasks. Recognise and reward great behaviours not just the completion of objectives.
The traits of the energiser are not surprisingly the complete opposite of the sapper: they are open to ideas, inclusive, look for the positive, are great listeners and team players. Energisers bring energy into the room and we want them in our businesses.
So tomorrow morning, as you leave the house, consider what glasses you are going to put on – grey? neutral? or rose tinted? Are you going to be the sapper or the energiser?
This phrase applies in a number of different business scenarios, but let’ just focus on 2 of them:
We all want to win new business and when we are in a place of ‘abundance’ it becomes clearer and easier to be selective and ensure we only take on the ideal type of client. When we need new business we can take on clients that don’t necessarily fit within our core ideal customer – that could be based on what they do, what they are asking for or cultural fit. If you are dealing with a prospect that is proving difficult, demanding or needy then buyer beware because remember “Present behaviour dictates future behaviour” – so if they are like this now, they are likely to be like this (but probably worse) once the relationship develops!
We need to listen to our instincts and have our eyes wide open. When taking on this type of client then boundaries and clear scopes of work become crucial to creating a mutually respectful relationship.
Without a doubt, the number 1 issue for all my clients is finding and retaining great staff and it’s becoming harder and harder to find them.
So when you desperately need to fill a vacancy you may overlook some concerns that you are hearing but choosing to ignore. But again remember “Present behaviour dictates future behaviour” and whatever niggles or concerns you have at interview stage will probably be magnified once they start working for you.
To overcome this smart organisations will have a methodical process to assess the candidate not only against a set of clearly defined roles & responsibilities but also against their company culture. You have to get both parts of this right – their ability to do the job and their ability to fit into your culture and buy into your values. And if you choose to ignore any of your concerns they you are storing up more problems for yourself than just having an empty chair to fill!
So am I saying a ‘leopard cant change its spots’? No, we are all a work in progress and we can all choose how we develop and evolve – that’s if we want to. I doubt a new painful client will want to change their ways (after all it will be your fault not theirs!) and a new member of staff that is proving to be difficult will probably have a lack of self recognition and ultimately will find themselves in the wrong job.
So remember, Present behaviour dictates future behaviour and if your instincts are telling you this then listen to them!
I used to run a marketing company which I sold to a big US firm. I had the opportunity of going to their annual conference in Minneapolis and (like any Brit would be) was surprised to read a sign above reception saying “Please leave any hand guns at reception and pick up when leaving”. I often think about this sign and how it applies to staff members leaving their personal issues and baggage at the front door and knowing it will still be there, for them to pick up, when they leave the office!
When we go to work we all have a duty to be consistent in our behaviours – regardless of what is going on in our personal lives – indeed in some cases, work becomes the safe santary when issues are occuring outside of work.
To be honest, I’m pretty blunt with my view on this – if you have a serious issue then you shouldn’t be in work, otherwise, park it and be consistent (as I say ‘be the best version of yourself you can be every day’) because sure as anything the issue will be the same, regardless of how you behave at work!
I had a recent conversation with a client who has an emotional member of staff and this member of staff likes to share her emotion around. Of course there are 100 reasons why she does this but if we become the ‘rescuer’ to this kind of behaviour then we are only adding fuel to their fire. What a great manager does is support their staff not rescue them. So they need to consider their language and approach carefully.
This issue starts (or stops) with a company’s culture: What is acceptable in the work place? What isn’t? Any new members of staff will quickly get a feel for this and understand what the parameters and boundaries are for acceptable behaviour. And not everything needs a company policy (e.g. personal phone calls) but a clearly defined culture and set of values (which define acceptable behaviours).
So if this issue effects your company consider carefully what is acceptable and of course, make sure you lead by example.
If i got £1 for every time I heard someone say “Oh that’s just how they are”, my pockets would be weighed down.
We choose what behaviours we exhibit (we are not born with them) and therefore we can choose different behaviours……..if we wish.
Of course some people want to stay where they are and remain in their comfort zones, so use the excuse “it’s just the way I am” as a reason to not change. Fortunately many of us don’t feel this way and want to keep developing and evolving as people.
Practise makes perfect
If you want to change a behaviour then by being disciplined and practising the new behaviour, it will soon become part of ‘just who you are”. Research shows that it takes 21 days of practising the new behaviour before it becomes ‘second nature’ to you. That is pretty powerful stuff…..so if for example, you want to have more positive thoughts, then refuse to engage with that negative voice in your head. Do this for 21 days and soon the negative voice will get bored and disappear and be replaced by something more positive and supportive. Think of it like a well trodden path in the forest: its easy to walk down the well known and frequented path (think neural pathways in your brain) but much harder to walk down a different path that is overgrown and unused. If you focus and work hard to walk down the new pathway, then after 21 days that becomes the well trodden pathway and the old one becomes overgrown and lost. Before you know it, you have created a new more positive behaviour.
It’s not always easy to achieve (so get in touch if you want some help) but it is possible with discipline and determination. So next time you hear someone say “that’s just the way they are” you know that is just an excuse, it’s their choice and therefore they could chose something different.