This is an excerpt from The Core 4, by Brimstone’s Managing Founder, Bob Weiler. The book explores the foundational capabilities of any organization, from a small group to a global enterprise—leadership, change, alignment, and energy. These core drivers are critical to accelerating growth, performance, and profitability.
An energized, engaged, committed, and insistent organization is remarkable, and possibly unstoppable.
I heard an insight from Jack Welch that has stuck with me for years: “The world will belong to passionate, driven leaders—people who not only have enormous amounts of energy, but who can energize those whom they lead.”
You create the conditions for winning by using leadership, the change agenda, and alignment to energize people. Energizing an organization is an art and a science.
We all know that an energized, engaged, committed, and insistent organization is remarkable, and possibly unstoppable. With the right people in the right seats on the bus, as Jim Collins wrote, such an organization doesn’t merely achieve results—its people find faster ways to achieve them. Energizing your organization means others can be out in front of you with ideas and solutions, solving problems without waiting for you to make a decision.
Energizing your leadership team and your organization is a leader’s job number one. I am not referring to motivating individuals. That energy has to be built into an individual’s DNA, and some people are more energized than others. But at the organizational level, it’s critical to get people excited about the work they do and the challenges they face. Knowing what success looks and feels like can further motivate an already naturally motivated organization—and get more from that organization.
Leverage Your Team
I am not a great runner or bicycle rider, although I have done a number of ultra versions of both events. When I first started training, I saw it as a solitary effort. You’re out running for hours on your own, focusing on yourself and the course, blocking out (at least mentally) the wind, rain, and other forces that can get in your way. While my training was adequate, I found that I was hitting plateaus that kept me from getting better.
I started talking with people who had been doing running events much longer than I had, and who were better at them. I bet you know what I found. They told me that training for marathons or ultra-marathons (and running them) is actually a team sport. The best marathoners train with others, and sometimes they even run the events as a team— leveraging their teammates to improve emotionally, physically, and psychologically. In short, they energize each other by taking on the challenge together.
Leaders in business know that energizing the organization is also a team sport. They know when to let others help, delegating some responsibility. Delegating can be a challenge for many leaders, who are often very controlling by nature—it’s part of their driven personalities. There are times to be controlling, of course. All organizations and teams need central control sometimes. But good leaders know that giving up some control will pay dividends down the road. They’ve gone through the stages of identifying goals, roles, an agenda and roadmap, and building strong interpersonal relationships amongst the team. They’re confident in the core strengths of their leadership team and organization—confident enough to delegate the right responsibility to the right people at the right time. They’re willing to let others take actions that will positively excite their organization—and help it win. I believe that if you can’t delegate responsibilities, it’s very hard to sustain your leadership—especially in larger, more complex organizations.
Adjust the Energy
Leaders learn that energizing an organization takes attention, coordination, and cadence. Energy itself is just action waiting to happen. Leaders know how to align that energy with the direction of the company’s desired goals. And they’ve learned how to recognize and account for the many outside forces they can’t control, but that still pressure their organizations. They work hard to recognize when to let the organizational excitement rise to meet a major challenge, and when to bank it to allow time for recovery and planning before taking on a new challenge. It’s about adjusting to what many call the rhythm of the business.
But how do you maintain energy in the face of daunting challenges?
Successful leadership teams constantly keep an eye on the inputs, ensuring that energy (fuel) is coming in—not just to their individual teams, but also to teams across the organization. They help people get more involved and give them a louder voice. They get in front of people and let them help find better ways of running the business. The goal? To develop the organization, re-energize the teams, and prepare everyone to meet the ever-changing needs of their business.
Monitor Outside Factors
We’ve also seen leadership teams react (and overreact) to external factors and spin their organization out of control. Surprises in the marketplace, natural disasters, the defection of a key executive, an aggressive competitor, a new technology, and other issues can affect the energy at an organization’s core. The leaders we’ve worked with understand these potential distractions, and are vigilant about monitoring them and responding effectively.
Because we live in a world and society bombarded with information, people within organizations often know about marketplace changes as soon as (or even before) leadership does. And they’re likely to draw their own conclusions about what those changes mean for the business. The leaders we work with know that these self-conclusions can totally distract an organization and drain its energy, so they work hard to provide truthful, accurate, and helpful information about marketplace changes and, in fact, all changes. They quickly communicate the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the organization—at least what they can legally disclose. They help set a clear direction for how the organization should respond. They lead by example, knowing there are times when leaders need to be in front and times they need to be in back.