Energy Flows Where Attention Goes

How a leader can improve another person's performance, by giving more attention to the positive traits than the negative

Have you heard the saying "Energy Flows, Where Attention Goes?" It is one of the important principles in the law of attraction". Here's an example of how this principle applies in the workplace.

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Jody get's a promotion

Jody (names all changed for confidentiality reasons) came into coaching, not long after she'd received a promotion. A role in which she has 10 direct reports and approximately 200 indirect reports.

Jody took over the leadership of the division, from a very popular leader who had been side-ways moved. The Senior Leadership didn't believe Jody's predecessor was capable of moving this team, at the rapid pace they needed, to a new way of operating to remain viable.

Jody's team is resistant toward her

Jody's appointment wasn't greeted with open arms by her new team. Some team members were quite resentful ... they weren't happy with the new direction (their old way was easy, safe and comfortable). They missed their former leader and weren't pleased with an 'outsider' coming in.

From the start, several team members were looking for reasons to dislike and find fault with Jody. To find reasons to resist the new direction she was taking the division. To Jody's credit, she was very sensitive to this. Therefore, she worked hard to build trust between herself and her 10 direct reports.

Joshua is 'poisonous'

Things seemed to be progressing nicely. Then, after about a month or so in the role, Jody started to ask for guidance on how to deal with Joshua. Jody felt that Joshua had flamed much of the early tension in the team (toward her). She sensed that while he got his job done, he was poisonous.

For a few weeks, "Joshua Issues" became a theme of our coaching sessions. Each time we talked there was another Joshua challenge. She was kept finding fault with what he did and said.

Indeed, Joshua would at times behave in ways that would have been challenging to both Jody, and the team. However, because I was coaching others who interacted with Joshua, I had contrasting, more positive views of him.

It was time for a new approach

Time to help Jody to find a new way to view the situation. She was so caught up in finding 'wrongs' with Joshua, that she was no longer, rational, impartial or fair. The more she focused on what was wrong with him, the more he seemed to perform poorly (at least from Jody's perspective).

A leadership principle (that all leaders should be aware of) is:

"When you become a better leader, you have better team members."

So the challenge for Jody was to become a better leader of Joshua.

Rather than finding fault, laying blame and criticizing, it was her responsibility to discover a new way to lead Joshua. A way that engaged, inspired, and energized him.

When You become a better leader

You End Up With Better Followers


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Sometimes your truth isn't the full truth

I shared with her the positive things that others tell me about Joshua. Times where he's inspired his team to go over and above, to help other divisions. Providing exceptional customer service that reflected well on Jody's division. A picture in complete contrast to the one she had built up.

I invited Jody to pretend that tomorrow was her very first time to meet Joshua. That the only knowledge she had of him was what I had given her. She promised that, that evening she would visualize seeing Joshua as a valuable team member. One who contributed to the team's success.

Throughout the next week, Jody was to notice, and record, all the good things that Joshua did during that week. When appropriate, she should make sincere, and encouraging comments to him about his impact.

At the end of the first week, Jody had a list of 30 positive things that Joshua had done. Things that she realized she likely would have dismissed or not noticed, had she not been making an effort to write them down.

About a fortnight after Jody started to give attention to the good things Joshua did. They were at the point where trust had begun to be re-built. A degree of acceptance, and willingness to communicate, at a 'real' level had unfolded. It was at this point that they were able to discuss what had happened, and agree how they would treat each other in the future.

Within the space of a month, the relationship was turned around.

Where attention goes energy flows

When Jody had been giving her full attention to all that Joshua did poorly, the ONLY things she noticed were the things that aggravated her. This focus convinced her that he was someone of little worth to her team. And, as per the law of attraction, what she focused on was what she attracted.

When Jody focused on looking for the good in Joshua, and being a supportive, encouraging  leader - then like magic, Joshua became the type of team member she wanted.

Will this always work? No, not always. Sometimes, no matter how good you are as a leader and where you focus, the other person remains a real challenge.

More often than not though, when you focus on the good and reinforce it, you create some quick shifts. Depending on your history, the person may initially not trust you, or your efforts. So do make sure please, that this comes from a genuine place or you will end up with egg on your face!

The key to why it works is this:

Firstly, all any one of us wants is to be approved of, and loved. When you get approval/acceptance - it feels good.

You want more of this good feeling - so you do more of what it is that generates good feelings.

You also tend to like people who cause you to feel good. If you're a leader who focuses on the good in others, surely it stands to reason you will attract good performance.

Secondly, when people feel approved of, it makes them feel safe. When people feel safe, it is easier for you to talk about any areas of concern you may have. Think of someone you know whom you feel safe with. I bet that person could give you some 'tough love', and you would be okay with that. Contrast it with someone you don't feel safe with. If they were to point out a flaw in your behavior or capability - how might you feel/respond?

So, who is your challenging person? Whom do you need to turn around?

Whether it's someone at work, your partner, your kids or the next door neighbor - how can you change what you focus on, to get different results? What do you need to do differently?

Don't take the easy option, which is to decide the person is a problem and you don't need to, (or shouldn't have to), change/do things differently.

The trickier, yet far more rewarding, path is to turn things around by focusing on becoming a better you.  By using the universal law of ... energy flows, where attention goes.

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