3 Tips for Becoming an Energizing Team Member
September 30, 2009
It's not just the Energizer Bunny that needs to keep things going with its never-quit energy. According to Harvard's business professor and chronicler of leadership and innovation, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, becoming an energizer (Harvard Business Blog) is an essential leadership skill.
Kanter's article on leadership and personal effectiveness is aimed at organization leaders, but the benefits of positive energy apply equally to anyone who has a role on a group or team. That covers just about all of us, and I think it applies particularly well to those on engineering teams or technical projects. Kanter writes:
"Some people become leaders no matter what their chosen path because their positive energy is so uplifting. Even in tough times, they always find a way. They seem to live life on their own terms even when having to comply with someone else's requirements…. Their energy makes them magnets attracting other people…. [Energy] is a form of power available to anyone in any circumstances. While inspiration is a long-term proposition, energy is necessary on a daily basis, just to keep going."
Kanter cites three key characteristics of people who are energizers:
1. A relentless focus on the bright side. "Energizers find the positive and run with it," she writes.
I don't think it's possible to be a creative pessimist. When I see engineers create new solutions to material handling problems, whether it's a whole new concept in feeder technology or a new take on an old problem such as inducing better material flow from a material that doesn't want to flow, I find there's a creative energy and excitement in the process that flows through the entire organization.
2. Redefining negatives as positives. Kanter writes, "Energizers are can-do people. They do not like to stay in negative territory, even when there are things that are genuinely depressing…. 'Positive thinking' and 'counting blessings' can sound like naïve cliches. But energizers are not fools…. Studies show that optimists are more likely to listen to negative information than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it."
Consider the story we reported early this year on the overwhelming problems faced in making clean water available to some of the poorest and most dangerous communities in Haiti. Those who wanted to help faced as depressing a situation as can be imagined, and yet a small non-profit organization in Washington, DC, with the help of equipment designed and manufactured by Norweco, installed and trained local teams to use and maintain low-tech chlorinators that have brought safe drinking water to 23 of the most depressed neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince.
3. Fast response time. Kanter holds, "Energizers don't dawdle. Energizers don't tell you all the reasons something can't be done. They just get to it…. They are very responsive to emails or phone calls, even if the fast response is that they can't respond yet…. Because they are so responsive, others go to them for information or connections. In the process, energizers get more information and a bigger personal network, which are the assets necessary for success."
The days of the lone scientist or engineer working solo for the big breakthrough are largely behind us. Today, technical solutions require technical teams with a variety of skills and knowledge. The larger your network of skilled people who know and support what you're working on, the greater you chances of success.
Kanter concludes, "The nice thing about this form of energy is that it is potentially abundant, renewable, and free. The only requirements for energizers are that they stay active, positive, responsive, and on mission."