When It Comes To Energy – Don't Do What I Did To Jennifer


Chapter three of my book Everyday Leadership speaks to the ever-present concern of great leaders: motivation, or motor-vation! How do you get people’s engines going? Given our national, state, and business challenges, which one of us doesn’t need to get the engines roaring?

In one part of the chapter, I offer a tongue-in-cheek list of energy Don’ts – the kinds of things that suck the energy right out of your group. The following story has been often on my mind as my wife endures: three hours of sleep on her office floor last night, and still at negotiations at 11 tonight (Sunday), as talks have dragged on to midnight nearly every one of the past ten nights. If like me you need to support someone – a bride, a boss, a teammate or teenager – don’t do what I did about a year ago during the thick of her campaign for governor:

Jennifer was doing her typical morning ritual. Up just after 5:00, reading the papers, reading a briefing book, putting on her make-up (and armor!). Oh, and punctuating all that with radio interviews. She had just finished one with Paul W. Smith, the most listened-to morning drive-time guy in Detroit. “Jen, you did a nice job,” I offered, and without pausing went on, “But you know where you said Y, I think it might have been better to say Z, because when you say Y, I think some people take it the wrong way, and they are going to react much more harshly than they ought to. So if you just said it a little differently, you would have been more effective.” I was trying to help.

Jennifer listened, looked at me and said something I’ll never forget: “Could you just once tell me what you think I should say before I start the interview?!” Whew. What a wake-up call. What had I been doing to her – thinking all the time I was helping? Think of the last time somebody second-guessed you, the way I had been second-guessing Jennifer on a weekly basis. What did it do to your motivation, to your energy level? How often do you tell your kid in the car about how they passed when they should have shot? Or how someone should have done some Y instead of some Z?

As my friend M.A. always says, “feedback is a gift,” but there are much better ways to do it than to second-guess and dwell on a past that by definition can’t be changed! Don’t skip the hard work of framing feedback well, if you’re going to

Lead with your best self,