There is a new imperative for coaches – and that is to help leaders and managers understand how to release the energy of their people and their teams.
I’m talking here about that sort of energy that’s characterised by people’s full engagement in work, by the momentum that becomes apparent when employees bring a positive attitude to work, and by the vibrancy that exists within an organisation when energy is flowing freely. Indeed, it is my contention that there is nothing as important to a leader as their awareness of energy and their ability to help that energy to flow.
Their success or failure should be judged on nothing less than whether there is more or less energy coursing through the organisation as a result of their leadership tenure.
Expert coaching can help leaders and managers to appreciate the impact of energy in the workplace, but let us start here by ensuring that we’re clear about the different forms of energy that manifest at work.
Energy at work
‘Can do’ energy – The first type of energy that people always bring to work is one that is very familiar and which we can identify as physical energy. This is the energy that gets people to work in the mornings and that they use to fulfil their tasks and their projects.
But leaders and managers can’t rely on this ‘can do’ energy alone. On its own, it is limited. You can compare it to running a race; after a time your muscles get tired, your body needs a rest, and if this is your only source of energy your performance will, in time, tail off.
Coaches must master energy
I liken leaders and coaches who get used to looking for and addressing such blocks of energy within their organisations as practitioners of verbal acupuncture. Acupuncturists believe that all the energy that anyone needs is available to them at all times. It’s their task to release it by stimulating the necessary pressure points. A leader or coach can follow exactly the same practice, except that in their case – instead of acupuncture needles – they can use skilful questions and directed conversations with those people who have responsibility in the areas in which the energy is stuck. These are Leadership Conversations.
Coaches and energy awareness
Finally, turning my attention to the coach. When coaches are working with leaders and managers – either on a 1:1 basis or providing input to teams – their own awareness of energy and their skills in knowing how to release it are critical.
There are some coaches who have begun to build an appreciation of the role of energy at work but this is, in truth, a new and emerging area. For people to become masters in working with energy, it is my experience that they need to learn and practise how to pay exquisite attention to what’s happening in the present as well as to what is important.
There is, I believe, no one way in which this awareness should be developed. In my own life the way I became aware of the power of energy was through my practice as a student and then teacher of karate-do – a discipline which has provided me with some wonderful ways of understanding how energy is directly applicable to individuals, teams and businesses. The practice of karate-do continually confronts the student with both their potential and their self-imposed limits. It teaches physical, mental and emotional skills and encourages practitioners at all times to be clear about their purpose as well as to live in, and enjoy, the present. And it’s exactly this level of deep attention and truth seeking that coaches need to use with their clients.
So how can you develop your mastery in this area? If you’re a coach reading this, then it’s your task to develop such profound skills on which you can draw to help your clients. You don’t need to be an expert in karate, but you will, I believe, need to have practised some discipline that, as a minimum, has taught you how to be congruent, has shown you how to be aware of your own energy alignment, and has developed your ability to ask those simple but incisive questions that help your clients to unlock the flow of their energy.
To exemplify the point that energy is not the province of coaching but can be drawn from any discipline, let me finish with a quote by Martha Graham, the dancer and choreographer, who had great insights into the role of energy at work and who spoke very clearly about it. Her area of expertise was, of course, one where the expression of energy was everything and where it had an immediate impact on the audience.
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
It’s my conviction that, in our own ways, we are all looking to express ourselves creatively; we all want our energy to flow. The coach who is committed to helping people achieve this aim is already working with the grain and is in touch with the deepest of human ambitions.
How energised or inspired do you feel at work?
Colin Reeve founder of RA, Leadership Expert & Speaker, Author & Karate Master