Leader Energy and Confidence Ring Alarm Bells

executive performance

Leader Energy and Confidence Ring Alarm Bells

Leadership Pulse™ Leader Energy and Confidence Ring Alarm Bells It’s true that leaders don’t know everything in the organization. However, if you want the story of how a business is doing, and if you need to get a picture of the trajectory or potential of a firm, certainly it’s a good bet that talking to the senior leaders and managers will provide you with some deep insights. These are the people talking to customers, managing the employees, looking out for the future of the business and creating the strategy that others follow.

So when those leaders tell you that their personal energy at work is suffering, and their confidence in themselves, their leadership team, their strategy, their ability to execute their vision and their ability to change are all declining, I’d say it’s time to take notice. That’s exactly what we learned in the Leadership Pulse data, collected in March, 2014.

Why do we care about leader energy?

Using a classic definition from physics, energy is the ability to do work. Leaders are telling us, in their responses to the Leadership Pulse, that their ability to do work is suffering. That’s just not good.

Why does confidence matter?

When consumer confidence goes up, individuals buy more. The same thing happens with leadership confidence; when it goes up, individual employees provide more to their organizations. Employees are not purchasing from their organizations, but they are giving their time, commitment and energy to their firms. When confidence is low, employees give less, and they start seeking jobs elsewhere; they give less than 100 per cent at work, and as a result, firm performance spirals downhill.

We learned in the last Leadership Pulse that both energy and confidence are trending in ways that are alarming. It doesn’t necessarily mean negative things will happen, but just like consumer confidence, if something is not done, the trend foresees less than ideal outcomes for businesses.

What is the Leadership Pulse?

Taking a step back, let’s examine the Leadership Pulse. For those of you new to the process, the Leadership Pulse started in 2003, and it is an ongoing short survey (we call it a Pulse Dialogue- short and meant to engage the participants in dialogue that drives learning). This short Pulse goes out to a sample of leaders around the globe; however, the majority are still in North America. We ask the leaders to respond to a short set of questions, and each time period we ask them about their energy at work. We also select a second topic, which varies during the year. The March, 2014 pulse, which is the subject of this report, focused on energy, confidence and direction.

How the Leadership Pulse works

  • Short Pulse Dialogue sent out to sample (takes about 3 to 5 minutes to complete)
  • Kept open for 3 to 4 weeks
  • Pulse stopped
  • Reports released to all participants. Each person in the Leadership Pulse receives a personal report, showing his/her own scores vs. the benchmarks for the industry chosen
  • Webinars provided soon after the survey closes to review basic findings
  • Deeper analysis done, findings reviewed and technical report prepared ( this document is the technical report)
  • Another set of webinars and discussions roll out
  • We hope the participants take action – by learning through data, there is a chance to learn and make changes to improve performance
  • That’s what we’re all about – data-driven leadership learning from a group of peers who are running businesses and who want to engage in change

Data Driven Leadership Learning!


What’s in this report

On the next pages you will find results from the Leadership Pulse study. The Pulse Dialogue process was conducted in late March, early April 2014.

Call to action

We are worried about leaders and managers. When they say their personal energy at work is nearing what we call the danger zone, this should cause alarm. When leaders tell you that their situation is bad enough that it’s reducing their confidence to deliver, then yes, something should be done.

What amazes me about business today is the amount of money being spent on things like leadership development and employee engagement, and very few people seem to have an understanding of a key concept like employee energy. We’ve been studying energy in detail since 1996 because it matters to bottom-line performance.

What we know, with millions of data points, is that when you do something to improve human energy at work, you take action to improve the organization. We have seen organizations make dramatic turn-arounds by focusing on energy at work.

Energy = ability to do work

High performance, growth and innovation come from OPTIMIZING AND DIRECTING human energy at work. The secret to success is all about energy conversion – converting potential to moving energy and then directing that energy at firm objectives.

Scientists know how to measure energy overall – they look at what it takes to transform potential energy to kinetic or moving energy. What does it take to increase temperature by one degree, for example?

We are examining what it takes to move leaders to their best energy – and we don’t stop there. For firms to succeed, optimal energy levels are not enough – energy needs to be directed and redirected in order to achieve desired goals.

Key learnings about energy at work

When we investigate energy in organizations, we learn that energy, in most organizations, is in a suboptimal state because 70% of respondents say they are lacking direction.

Direction is critical – and direction is NOT strategy. Direction is all about what I am supposed to do today. Why is this a problem? Because in the last week, someone somewhere probably dumped a significant number of new projects on you, and that person failed to take something away. How long can we keep adding to the scope and type of work (not just amount of work) and think employees, leaders or managers can just keep on converting that potential to moving energy beforrunning out of potential energy?

If you are driving your car, you know you have to refill the gas tank to keep moving forward. Manufacturing experts recognize that preventative maintenance is critical to success. Athletes who work out don’t just push as hard as they can and never stop; they aim for a target heart rate and they carefully plan their exercise routines.

At work we just keep dumping more work on people. And the environment keeps on changing. Managers are having a tough time keeping up.

Just for a moment – forget employee engagement – stop talking about commitment – and start diagnosing the energy of your leaders and managers. These things all matter, but they indirectly affect performance through employee energy. So why not spend time to understand the direct line variables?


Executive Leadership Advice

Author: Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne

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