The dangerous assumptions about energy and pace to get results

What is your tendency towards energy and pace?

Having a high level of energy is often associated with high productivity, high efficiency, and, generally, better performance.

Is this right?

From a behavioral standpoint, individuals with a high energy level seek excitement and get satisfaction by being involved in many activities with tight deadlines.

They are self-starters, often multi-taskers, and self-motivated. They have a sense of urgency. They get things done.

It sounds like a great trait to be effective, right?

But high energy and pace don’t necessarily mean effectiveness, quality, and better performance.

When I assess managers and executives and work on their effectiveness, I always find very interesting differences in their leadership approach and style.

Individuals with high energy may tend to rush their decision-making process, overlook details, favor time over quality. They may feel accomplished by doing things right, not necessarily by doing things great.

On the other hand, individuals with a low energy level, favor patience and calmness over pace. They are normally very methodical task focus and they are good with routine processes.

They have a preference to live and work at a relatively unhurried pace. They may achieve results in a relaxed atmosphere free of what they feel is undue or unjustified urgency.

So…what does this mean in terms of performance?

Not much…unless we introduce a third element: the context where individuals perform.

In the corporate world, for example, the context is essentially the company culture.

Culture is how we do stuff. It’s the way things happen underneath the surface. It goes beyond the formal procedures and processes. It’s a set of behaviors that are encouraged and accepted in an organization.

These behaviours are consistently reinforced by the leadership’s own behaviours and attitudes with the right structures and incentives in place. But it is also a set of behaviours that are discouraged and not tolerated.

I believe you can see the connection now.

If high energy and pace are key elements of company culture, individuals with low energy won’t necessarily be able to perform as expected. Not because they aren’t capable. But because they might be in the wrong environment based on their style and tendency to slow down.

Their leadership approach could be frustrating to their more energetic colleagues and bosses, who may express more enthusiasm for moving on to continuing phases of strategic initiatives.

This is pretty common in fast-moving organizations. For example, the tech industry or organizations in their infancy or growth mode.

In this situation, low energy, which leads to a lack of urgency, could be detrimental if expedient results are expected or delivery timelines are tight.

On the other hand, company cultures built around quality over quantity and time could allow low energy individuals to perform better than high energy individuals. In this situation, high energy individuals could become disengaged if they are held to slightly relaxed deadlines.

Fostering a work environment largely focused on a job well done can also motivate more lively individuals to broaden their focus, learn more, and think outside the box. In other words, boosting creativity to get high performance.

Bottom line…high energy is not an absolute value.

The best leaders are actually those able to adapt their leadership style based on the context where they operate and the team they have. They are not at the extremes of the scale.

They understand when it’s time to increase the pace as well as when it’s time to wait and be patient. They “dance” in the moment based on the business situation, the people they work with, the change of priorities.

When they are with clients too. If there is a clash between their level of energy and pace, it’s difficult to work well together unless they learn how to adapt.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter if you have a tendency for high or low energy as long as you are in the right context or you are able to be extremely flexible and adaptable to change your style based on circumstances.

This is what real leaders do.

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