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Executive Coach: Get Energy for Leadership Role by Decreasing Drains

Imagine that you're interviewing for a new job. Your focus is on the salary, benefits, location and, ideally, opportunities for career growth and the ability to make an impact on the organization.

But what if you observe critical warning signs from your interviewers? Wouldn't you be worried if your initial interviewer seemed exhausted, disorganized or simply inattentive to your answers?

What if, as you made the interview rounds within an organization, you began to notice that others, including your potential boss, appeared to lack energy or enthusiasm?

These observations should definitely influence your decision-making process. This advice might sound obvious, but many job seekers forget to focus on whether a potential boss seems likely to help his employees not just survive but thrive.

Such a leader has the emotional intelligence, or EQ, to respond to the inherent stress that comes with a successful workplace.

Building Personal Capacity

Now let's talk about the kind of leader you want to be. If you're reading this column, chances are you're in a leadership position and your stress management techniques are having a far-reaching effect on your IT group -- maybe even the entire company.

Anyone in a leadership role has extensive influence on his employees' state of mind. Consider this: A study by McBer and Co. reveals that 50% to 70% of employees say that an organization's climate can be traced to the actions of one person: the organization's leader.

If you head an IT team, you can build personal capacity -- something akin to increasing the size of your hard drive -- so that you can absorb, process and retain information without maxing out or damaging relationships. But you need to take stock of the positive and negative influences in your life to make a positive impact on those around you.

With many of my clients, I do a simple activity known as energy inventory. On a piece of paper, make two columns and label the left column "Energy Drains" and the right column "Energy Boosts." Think about all the factors that might fit into these two categories: a direct report who's fond of complaining (a drain) and going to the gym (a boost).

You get the idea: Make a list of the hobbies you love and the meetings you dread, everything from reading vendor pitches to playing golf. Then consider how you might integrate more energy boosts in-to your daily routine while decreasing the amount of time you spend on energy drains. Energy boosts, including simple things like a laugh with a good friend, build capacity and optimism. Put some boundaries around the energy drains so that they don't consume your day.

Boosting the Boosts

Building personal capacity is more about managing energy than managing time. Take a close look at your daily stress level and get feedback from trusted colleagues so you better understand how your style is perceived. I recommend that clients complete a daily energy inventory just as they would a daily task calendar. This helps determine which boosts you can integrate daily to build more capacity.

Sometimes striking this balance can be tough. But good leaders find ways to minimize stress and, in turn, to maximize the performance and moods of people around them. An effective CIO will keep filling the reservoir so that personal capacity doesn't get too low. More boosts and fewer drains will allow you to float rather than get stuck in the mud.

Angie O'Donnell is an executive coach at Insight Performance in Dedham, Mass. She can be reached at EQforIT@ciodecisions.com.

This was first published in April 2007

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