I could have tried to tell my daughters “don’t be so emotional!” but that wouldn’t have solved the problem. I couldn’t tell them to be opposite of who they were. That wouldn’t have been fair and would have created a layer of anxiety that would have eaten away at them. So I decided to find an outlet for them to learn to channel her energy—I enrolled my oldest daughter in a local theater class. She was the youngest in the class, but she had a blast and learned that she could channel and control her emotions instead of muting them. She had found a creative outlet to channel her emotional energies.
Over time, I realized that it wasn’t just my young, emotional daughters that need an outlet for their different energies—we all do. When I was younger, I used dance as a way to explore my feelings about different things going on in my life. I’m dedicated to running, as it’s a way for me to get out my “stress” energy and think through challenging problems. I read, learn, and seek out intelligent discussions to get out my “nerd” energy. Spending time laughing with my friends releases another form of energy in me. What’s interesting about all these activities is they not only “release” a type of energy, but they also create more positive energy in me that I use to tackle some of the more “energy draining” tasks.
This concept of finding the right channels for your energy also applies to your work teams. Think of the energy a “bad apple” spreads on a team. When a person is frustrated and decides to gossip around the water cooler instead of addressing an issue directly, there are a ripple of negative consequences. Other people pick up on that negative energy and might not be as happy and positive at work. Coalition building starts to happen. And worst of all, the issue that is frustrating that bad apple in the first place is never resolved. As a manager, it is critical that you have your pulse on the different energy levels of your team, and when you start to sense negative energy, that you take action to find the right channel for it.
If an employee is frustrated with a person, work with him/her to resolve the conflict. If s/he is frustrated with a task, see if you can either help, reassign, or remove it from his/her task list. If the person is just negative or there’s not a way to resolve the conflict or frustration, have a real and direct conversation about whether or not the role that employee has is the right fit for him/her. I’ve often found that having these conversations is the kindest thing you could do. By proactively helping an employee find the right job—or giving him/her space to do it on his/her own, everyone ends up much more satisfied and less frustrated in the long run. (And as a side note, the rest of the team is usually happy to have the negative energy leave the team.)
The reverse is also true. If you have an employee that has a positive energy that isn’t being fully brought to his/her job, you’re missing out on an opportunity for increased discretionary effort and personal fulfillment. I’ve discovered this quite a few times in my career. By just listening for people’s passion and excitement around different topics and areas, I’ve helped them find “side projects” that really added to their fulfillment, loyalty, and energy. In this case, instead of a “bad apple”, you’re creating a “fruit basket” because, just as negative energy spreads, so does positive energy.
Finding the right channels for different energies requires active listening, patience, and creative application, but the payoff is big in the form of reduced stressed, higher fulfillment and happiness, and more positive energy.
What are creative channels for energy you need to find for yourself, your family, and your team?