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4
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Become a Positive Energizer

1-on-1’s are the best opportunity to make a positive contribution to your team.

Author

Nate Melo

The Harvard Business Review recently published this research-based article that describes "positive relational energy" and how the predictive power of this trait has been underutilized in leadership success. This week we'll spotlight the role of an engineering leader and how becoming a "positive energizer" can affect software teams.

Most of us can think of someone who enters a room (or a virtual call) and has an "aura" around them that radiates positivity. We often attribute this positivity to personality and discount the intention and effort that contribute to this impression. As a result, we don’t view positivity as a skill that we can develop. The good news is that this is wrong. The better news is that there are opportunities in which you can grow this skill as an engineering leader in order to become a positive energizer.

“...leaders are the single most important factor in accounting for an organization’s performance.”

Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron, HBR.org

🏆 Why would I want to be a positive energizer?

If you are a manager and a positive energizer you will likely see a threefold impact on yourself, your team, and your company.

The research shows that:

In your professional life, being a positive energizer means that you will “perform better than others and positively impact the performance of others.”

Your team will also have “greater job satisfaction, well-being, engagement, performance, and relationships with their family.” With 8 hours of mental dedication to work or time spent in the office, the effect you have as a leader will surely contribute to an employee’s happiness at home.

Your company will see an “increase in collaboration, productivity, quality, and financial performance.”

Most engineering managers devote around 30 minutes per week (or 2 hours per month) to 1-on-1’s with each team member. Some managers use this time for progress updates, but in most cases, 1-on-1’s are the best opportunity to make a positive contribution to the engineers.


💪 What does it mean to be a positive energizer?

A positive energizer is an individual that makes uplifting contributions towards another on a regular basis. Contributions are made through genuinely kind and honest communication that leaves the other person feeling enthused, recharged, or confident. These contributions are made through body language, communication, and attitude, among others.

Body Language

When passing by a stranger in the office for the first time, eye contact and a smile or nod projects a positive and friendly impression. What if you were to furrow your eyebrows and look to the ground instead? Not so friendly. This simple interaction can define the early trajectory of your impression on an individual. Beyond first impressions, many elements of body language contribute to your expression: leaning in, smiling, facial expressions, folding arms, fiddling with pens, eye contact, and even your cadence of breathing.

The recent challenge of working from home is that we only see others from the shoulders up. Depending on our camera position we may not even look like we are facing them! (Is there proof that our peers are even wearing pants?) This makes it difficult to gauge others but presents an opportunity for positive energizers to provide their undivided attention in a way that is authentic.

Communication

A positive energizer is not an overbearing wrecking ball of outward expression. They strive to make positive contributions by including, celebrating, and recognizing the achievements of others. This means that they listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to respond and become an active listener, which is described by Edward de Bono: “He does not jump ahead nor does he rush to judge nor does he sit there formulating his own reply. He focuses directly on what is being said. He listens to more than is being said.”

The challenge of remote work means that video and instant messaging (Slack, Teams, etc.) have become main channels of communication. Most of us have our own way of messaging and it ranges from emoji-heavy messages with obvious emotion to very straight-to-the-point messages. Over instant messaging we don’t get the feedback of body language or tone of voice that we get in person or on video. This can be a struggle, especially when dealing with new or unfamiliar employees who have yet to develop a personal relationship with you. They can’t yet attach your tone to your message and this leaves room for misinterpretation. The difference between “call me.” and “Hey! Can you please call me? 😊” can make a big difference in how that message is received.

Attitude

Positive attitude at work is described as “...optimistic realism, where you recognize the bad and negative aspects of a situation and still choose to focus on the good.

During a retrospective, for example, a positive energizer will ensure that they congratulate the team or outstanding members on their victories even if the project and process was less than satisfactory. They accept that the team did not live up to their potential, and focus on the opportunity for growth while ensuring that efforts of their peers did not go unnoticed.

BambooHR describes 16 methods of staying positive at work and we want to echo a few of them that you can practice immediately as a manager.

  1. Find the positive. There is good to be found everywhere if you look for it - so insist upon your optimism towards your team, projects, and goals.
  2. Practice gratitude. It’s more than the phrase “Thank you”. It’s recognizing the effort behind a gesture. Think “Thank you for going out of your way for me.” vs. “Thanks for the coffee.”.
  3. Celebrate often. You have a team with various levels of success every day. Celebrate those victories, no matter how small!


🚫 What does it NOT mean?

Faking it.

Stress, deadlines, blockers, and real-life problems are all very real obstacles and being a positive energizer does not mean sugar-coating them or just "letting it go". Positive energizers approach these issues with "the active demonstration of [their] values". They understand that addressing an issue when it's presented will garner more respect from their team vs. prolonging a solution and losing faith from their team regarding accountability.

Definitive personality traits of a positive energizer do not exist - but you will know one when you interact with them. They may turn your day from bad to good, spark your motivation, or leave you feeling optimistic. The positive energizer you see tomorrow could be the goofy marketing person, a powerful speaker on the leadership team, or a smile from a stranger before you even make it to the office.

Interested in increasing your positive relational energy? Start here:

  • Reflect on your own interactions. Did you contribute to energizing others? Did you de-energize them? What could you have done or said differently?
  • Yale offers a course through Coursera on The Science of Well-Being.
  • Read: How Full is Your Bucket? (A favorite on our Marketing Team at CodeGem.)
  • Use productivity tools that support growth & engagement. (Like CodeGem!)