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Using Infectious Energy to Unlock Discretionary Effort

If you’ve ever hired a motivational speaker then you’ll be familiar with the power of a single person to energise an entire room. If they’re good, your team will be talking about them after the event. If they’re great, they’ll have managed to discretely weave in a little magic that ties their message in neatly with your objectives for the fiscal.

So, what is it about a motivational speaker that makes them so valuable on the corporate circuit? Usually there’s a story that follows the “triumph in the face of extreme adversity” narrative but these stories are not difficult to come by. What is difficult to come by is someone who can tell their story with the infectious energy to move/inspire/excite others.

Most business leaders I work with don’t think of themselves as motivational speakers (or aspire to be one), but the conversations I have with them frequently turn to the importance of the energy given off by the leadership team being vital to business success.

“Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal. Great leadership works through the emotions.” From ‘The New Leaders’ by Daniel Goleman

An emotional state

If reflecting on your impact on others feels a little like navel-gazing, then consider a time when one person has lifted the mood of a meeting or caused it to come crashing down. As a leader your team will match and mirror your behaviour, stamina and attitude – whether you like it or not, you set the tone for the emotional state of the business.

So why does this matter? It matters because even if you’ve got the best incentive plan, the smartest offices and the most flexible benefits package going, the effort that an individual puts in is only ever discretionary.

Bare minimum or giving it your all?

Here’s a few everyday examples of discretionary effort in action that most of us will recognise:

  • Online training – skip through or read each question thoroughly?

  • Company documentation – deep dive or a quick scan?

  • Meeting etiquette – actively listening or checking your messages?

When you look at discretionary effort across an entire business, at any point in time you could have people scraping by doing the bare minimum whilst others are giving it their all. The result is you have pockets of the business doing well where others are not performing. For anyone trying to grow a business, this is an extremely frustrating place to be.

The idea with infectious energy is that by amplifying your own positive behaviours and attributes (it could even be as simple as being more aware of your general demeanour), you can set the tone of your business. This gives you a greater chance of creating a culture whereby everyone wants to grow.

Nobody wants an ‘average year’

Infectious energy is not part of incredibleresults service portfolio, but it is a conversation that we’re interested in exploring with likeminded businesses. Here’s my takeaways based on the discussions we’ve had so far:

  • Think of it as generating ambition even in situations which are not competitive. Nobody says, “I hope I have an average year”. Think of infectious energy as the catalyst for helping people in your business achieve their ambitions to do better and grow.

  • Conduct 360 Degree feedback – and act on it. Reach out to colleagues, employees and external partners and ask them what it’s like to work with you. Once you have their feedback, share with them what you’ve learned and where you’d like them to call you out (ie: “Next time I walk into a meeting and I’m obviously annoyed – point it out to me.”)

  • Create a reading list and share it / what you’ve learned with your team. This enables you to vocalise your commitment to growth in a way that is professional but provides your team with some personal insight.

So, what do you think?

If you’re interested in exploring infectious energy and its power to unlock discretionary effort, then I’d love to talk. Get in touch with me or the team at or comment below.

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