Without question, the worst part of my otherwise amazing business school experience was being immersed in the anxious negative energy created from being one of the five hundred Type A MBA students going through interview season together. I have vivid memories walking through the beautiful Winter Garden at Chicago Booth (below) and feeling overwhelmed by the high-stress energy of my classmates throughout recruiting season. Just from walking into the Winter Garden, where my classmates often gathered, I immediately felt the anxiety in the air. Even before I could observe body language or converse with any of my friends, the nervous energy and uncertainty was pumping through my veins.
Now, contrast this anxious energy with the energy you feel walking into a stadium on the day of the big game. Again, unaided by conversations or body language, we immediately feel the positive and energy and excitement that’s around us. The energy that surrounds us – positive or negative – has a tremendous impact on how we behave. Our bodies are wired to respond differently based on the energy we’re surrounded by. Positive energy begets positive action and negative energy gives our brains the green light to allow negative thoughts to creep into our minds. Sometimes we consciously feel this energy, but mostly we gather our cues subconsciously.
What if we could change the energy we’re surrounded by? What if we could make the energy our entire team was living and breathing more positive and more conducive to collaboration? What if we were simply too positive to be negative? How would that impact our productivity?
As is often the case, there’s good news and bad news.
First, the good news: You can change the energy your team is surrounded by every single day with minimal effort.
The bad news? You probably won’t do it because changing your own energy is outside your comfort zone.
People don’t work at startups for the high salaries (these so-called high salaries don’t exist at start-ups); people come to be part of a team pursuing relentless positive action. So, why not be the leader that gives your team a boost of positive infectious energy every time you walk into the room?
My trusted friend Bryan is always in a good mode, even when he’s having a bad day. He greets me with a huge smile and immediately starts asking questions about the topics he knows are important to me. Not surprisingly, I feel better every time after talking to Bryan. We can all learn a lot from Bryan’s ability to positively impact those around him…and his ability to rock spandex shorts.
Try asking yourself three questions:
What are the three words that describe the energy my favorite boss brings into the room?
What are the three words that describe the energy my closest colleague brings into the room?
And most importantly….what are the three words that describe the energy that I fill a room with when I walk in?
Okay, so now that you’re thinking about energy, let’s create inertia towards developing an amazing environment. You with me?
First, set the baseline level of energy in the office each morning by pausing to smile, wave, and say Good Morning when you see everyone on your team for the first time. Yes, it’s simple….but then again, most good ideas are. It’s all about execution, so get to work and try it – you might be surprised by the impact you can have by setting the energy as positive and welcoming first thing in the morning.
Second, be sure your team is leaving with a positive experience each and every day by repeating the morning ritual of saying goodbye with a smile and a wave. This small burst of positive energy makes a huge impact on team morale. In case the grand finale at firework shows isn’t enough to convince you, consider the following: Someone I once hired told me that they left their previous job primarily because their old boss was a grump. This hire’s strongest memory of his old boss? A patented mumbling goodbye delivered in an infamously annoyed tone. Who wants to end the day feeling disconnected from their work? Not me…so why not share a heartfelt goodbye with a smile each day?
There’s real science behind the notion that first and final impressions have a disproportionate impact on how people remember people and situations. Good servers always smile and say thank you at the end of a meal. This small positive gesture both boosts tips for servers and illustrates the importance of leaving a positive final impression in any situation. And we all know you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
The energy of leaders has a huge impact on the team and oddly enough, the magnitude of their impact is a blind spot for too many leaders. Regardless of title or position, we can all influence the energy and attitude of our team. Bring the right energy & your team will be happier and more engaged.
If you pay attention (read: give a shit), you can learn an incredible amount about what’s going on with someone, including yourself, based on their first 30 seconds in the room. Remember, both positive and negative energy are infectious. Teams quickly build on the positive or negative energy in the room, so be mindful of the baseline energy you establish. It’s scary to see just how much one person with negative energy can bring down a team. Create the right energy in the room and good things happen. See the Josh Smith effect.
So, why not start by changing your energy today? Each morning & evening when your team enters or exits the office, I challenge each of us to take the two seconds to lift up our heads, smile and wish our colleagues well. Who knows, maybe we’ll even carry our positive energy with us for the rest of the day?