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This content is taken from the University of Michigan's online course, The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Welcome, in this session, you’ll learn whether you’re an energizer or not and what that means for your ability to build mutually supportive relationships that get results. As you know, some people are able to bring out the best in others, whereas other people have a knack for sucking the life out of every interaction. Researchers Rob Cross, Wayne Baker, and Andrew Parker studied the impact of people they refer to as energizers and de-energizers. They conducted research in many different organizations to identify the energizers, what they do differently than others, and the impact on performance.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds The researchers mapped out the social networks in each of these organizations to identify who is connected to whom, and they interviewed people within those networks to identify who are the energizers and de-energizers. They also asked study participants the following question for each of the people in their network, when you interact with this person, how does it typically affect your energy level? And the study participants responded on a scale of one to five, with one being very de-energizing and five being very energizing. They found that the people who were identified as energizers had higher performance ratings, they got promoted more quickly and they inspired more learning and innovation in the organization.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds In another study, researchers Bradley Owens and his colleagues studied networks in a wide variety of organizations to identify the impact energizing bosses had on their direct reports feelings, thoughts and behaviors. They found that employees who worked with energizing bosses were more productive, engaged, committed, helpful to their colleagues and more willing to do work outside their official job descriptions in order to meet organizational goals, they also had less absenteeism, and were less likely to quit. One employee in the study described his boss this way, his energy made me feel that my feedback was very factual and useful, this person motivated me to work harder and I also paid more attention to detail.

Skip to 2 minutes and 29 seconds On days after having meetings with him I got twice as much work done because of the motivational energy that he brought to the room. Says professor Kim Cameron, one of the study researchers, managers spend so much time managing information and influence, but relational energy trumps both of these by a factor of four as an outcome determiner. What specifically do energizers do? They are realistic optimists who communicate a compelling vision, they show respect for others and faith in people’s abilities to achieve their goals. They focus on opportunities rather than roadblocks, they show employees their progress toward important goals, they encourage participation and contribution from employees.

Skip to 3 minutes and 21 seconds Demonstrating that they’re clear about the team and organizational goals yet flexible in how they achieve them. They fully engage in their interactions with others, making others feel heard, appreciated, and respected, and energizers exude integrity by walking the talk, matching their behaviors to their words.

Skip to 3 minutes and 43 seconds People who energize others bring many benefits to their organizations, not only are energizers higher performers, but the people who work with them are higher performers as well because energizers release what researchers call psychological resourcefulness in others. Psychological resourcefulness refers to the commitment, motivation, stamina and the intellectual stimulation that increase people’s willingness and ability to put in extra effort and perform their work to the best of their ability. People are also more likely to listen to energizers and enthusiastically support and implement their ideas, and people prefer to work with energizers so the most talented people want to be on their projects, and other energizers are drawn to working with them.

Skip to 4 minutes and 37 seconds As you can imagine, energizing relationships are precious resources for organizations because they typically don’t cost anything, and they’re hard to copy. They’re also renewable, which means they regenerate themselves and spread rather than get depleted with use. The value of energizing relationships increases over time because of what’s called emotional contagion. Emotions, whether positive or negative, are catchy because people act as role models for appropriate ways of feeling, thinking and behaving, researcher Sigal Barsade explains that people are walking mood inductors who pass their moods onto others. When organizations have an abundance of energizing relationships, they create a virtuous cycle in which positive emotions cascade throughout the organization.

Skip to 5 minutes and 35 seconds And the benefits associated with energizing relationships spread and increase steadily over time, employees find more meaning in their work, they dig deep to find resources within themselves that they didn’t even know they had and they work harder to help their colleagues and clients. In contrast, de-energizers can create a vicious cycle, in which people think more about protecting themselves, rather than contributing to the greater good. When people have to deal with de-energizers, even people who are fully capable of doing good work may not be able to muster the energy to do so, instead they think, as some researchers have said, not now, not in this activity and not with these people.

Skip to 6 minutes and 24 seconds Researchers have found that even if a de-energizer has the information that a person needs, people would rather get second rate information from someone who makes them feel good rather than suffer through an interaction with someone who’s difficult to work with. And people’s instincts to avoid de-energizers makes sense, researchers have found that de-energizers on a team, downers, bullies, and people who don’t follow through on their commitments, can reduce the team’s performance by 30 to 40 percent. The cost of de-energizers is so great because researchers have found that bad is stronger than good, this means that people remember negative interactions more intensely, in more detail, and for longer periods of time than they remember positive interactions.

Skip to 7 minutes and 19 seconds It takes at least two positive interactions to counter the effect of one negative interaction. It’s true that a few bad apples really can spoil the whole barrel. The point to remember here is that relational energy can be an abundant or scarce resource in organizations, and organizations that have an abundance of energy have a hard to copy competitive advantage. It’s important for you to know that there’s nothing in the research that suggests that energizers are extroverted or particularly charismatic, nor do they always focus on the positive. They don’t avoid giving bad news, they don’t avoid making tough decisions or having difficult conversations.

Skip to 8 minutes and 5 seconds But when they do address problems, they do so in a way that focuses on resolving the issues and learning from the experience rather than blaming the people involved. So now you know more about the power of being an energizer and the cost of de-energizers, you can take the assessment that accompanies this session to assess the degree to which you may be an energizer or de-energizer. You can also ask others to answer the questions for you so that you can see how other people perceive you, and after taking the assessment, ask yourself these questions, do your scores lean more toward energizing or de-energizing? Are there some areas in which you are more energizing than others?

Skip to 8 minutes and 51 seconds Are there gaps between how you see yourself and how other people see you? And what’s the most important action you can take to become more energizing to others? Thanks for learning about the power of energizers, and I’ll see you again soon.

Becoming an Energizer

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This video is from the free online course:

The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know

University of Michigan