Business leaders need to think about their energy level

Energy Levels At Work

Energy level would seem to be a fairly important concept in business. We spend a lot of time being busy and a lot of time in meetings, and as you rise up a chain, those things only intensify. The problem is, those ideas — meetings and conference calls and generally being busy — can sap your energy. But, almost every study of human existence ever has shown that higher energy tends to lead to higher performance and growth. But if managers are always dragging at the end of the day (or even by the middle of the day) because of their obligations … that seems bad, right? 

I’ve experienced this first-hand probably about 100+ times. I’m actually thinking about writing a post later this week on how people determine their real priorities — I need to do more research on that, though — because it’s always been interesting to me. Think about this: if everything is a priority, is anything really a priority? (That’s one angle to take.) And then think about this: how do you determine what really needs to get done? Is it just based on the level it emanates from, or is it based on some connection to the work?

I’ve never really had a job where I do a lot around revenue-generation, to be honest. It makes me sad sometimes because I think I do have ideas that could help companies make money, but I always seem to be in this space that isn’t explicitly facing in that direction. As such, I feel pretty far down the chain pretty often, and it can usually seem like my ideas aren’t being acknowledged or listened to.

There’s an aspect of all that where I tend to get meeting times with people — at different jobs I’ve had — after they’ve already had about 10 other meetings (because I’m a lower priority). They have no energy level often, and you know the ideas you’re discussing aren’t resonating. First off, more important people have given them deliverables earlier in the day. Second off, they have no real energy level. They’re dragging. They may not have eaten. What’s going to come out of this, honestly?

Fast Company just wrote an article about this whole concept, citing research from University of Nebraska business professor Theresa Wellburne, who has about 1 million data points on leaders and energy levels. The basic findings:

According to the most recent report, 82% of business leaders aren’t working at their optimal energy level. Of the 540 participants, 61% said they were working below their best energy level, while 21% reported working above their optimal energy level. The findings are problematic to Welbourne, who notes that research from hundreds of thousands of people shows optimizing and directing energy drives high performance and growth.

Think about that: 82 percent of leaders aren’t working at their optimal energy level. That means that 8 in 10 managers might be working below their optimal level, which means that 4/5 of your company’s leadership isn’t aligning their work life in a way that’s best-suited to drive growth.

Studies and research are full of these little nuggets — like if you changed one small thing at work, things could be so much better — that oftentimes, it can feel like bullshit. But you can change a few things about energy level. Consider:

  • Get up and walk around more (heck, go talk to people on your team)
  • Do some exercise routine in office, or set yourself up for a guaranteed 1-hour away
  • Change meeting formats — so rather than sitting in the same weekly meeting in the same format, change it sometimes to a restaurant, or Skype, or a treadmill, or whatever else
  • Take 2 hours of your in-office calendar every day and block it off — so people trying to schedule think you have meetings — and use that for doodling, thinking about the big picture, or otherwise re-engaging your day
  • Bring energy-driven snacks to work and grab one 1-2 times a day

If you have more energy, you’ll project better to your team, you’ll probably get more done, and you’ll enjoy the process of being at work and engaging with others more (as opposed to moving from meeting to meeting to debrief). So think about this stuff, ya filthy animal.


Ted Bauer