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?
- Avoid hiring them in the first place –easier said than done! (after all we always show the ‘best version of ourselves’ in an interview). But what questions are you asking them to find this out? What previous scenarios are you exploring with them? Also make sure you follow up references and discuss the candidates moods in their previous role
- Address poor behaviours as close to the scenario as possible. Explain we can deliver on tasks in a number of ways from delightful to disaster – and we want them to do it in a delightful way. Get them to ‘stand in other people’s shoes’
- Define ‘energising behaviours’ and reward staff who exhibit these behaviours
- Start a more formal performance management route which could end with them exiting from the business or moving role
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?