Even – and especially – in the age of digital business, people can make the biggest difference in how an organization performs. In recent years, there has been growing concern about rising levels of employee burnout and their negative effects on business performance. And for good reason: Workplace stress is reaching record highs. But it’s just as important to recognize the positive impact that an energetic employee can have on business outcomes.
Why Is Energy in the Workplace Important?
Why is energy important? In a word, it’s infectious. Low energy levels, stress, and fatigue can spread across teams, becoming a drag on organizational productivity and performance. Conversely, energetic employees can drive greater engagement, enthusiasm, and activity throughout the organization. The resulting positive energy in the workplace fuels increased productivity, problem-solving, collaboration, and idea-generation.
Indeed, a pair of management researchers who have studied this kind of phenomenon say that there’s usually one person in any network – whom they call “positive energizers” – responsible for most of the forward motion in a group. These individuals perform at higher levels themselves, positively impact those around them in a way that lifts others’ performance, and are found in greater numbers in high-performing organizations than in average-performing ones.
What Does an Energetic Employee Look Like?
What does “energetic” mean? In the business context, energetic employees are self-motivated, “can-do” professionals who are enthusiastic in the workplace. When I consider the high-energy people who bring out the best in others, these characteristics stand out:
- They can welcome challenges and change.
- They can be self-motivated and adept at learning new things.
- They may be able to make time for both day-to-day operations and plans for the future.
- They can be decisive and quick to act, though not impulsively so.
- They can be detail-oriented, consider the impact of their actions, and give consistent effort.
- They may have developed a defined area of expertise.
- They can be good communicators, are social in nature, and use empathy to engage others.
- They may know how to take care of themselves and when to rest in order to perform optimally.
Yet, energetic employees may not be all the same. Some may display the kind of upbeat, cheerleader personality one might assume defines the most enthusiastic performers, while others may be harder to identify. This can make it challenging to differentiate the true high-energy employees from the performance artists who may put on a good show but aren’t really additive to positive energy in the workplace. In any case, in an environment designed to harness their strengths, energetic employees can benefit both the broader company culture and the ultimate success of the organization.
How High-Energy People Can Fuel Better Performance
Many business leaders and managers may “get” the benefits of energetic employees at a gut level. They may have witnessed a supercharged team member infuse the rest of the group with enthusiasm or have watched high-energy employees expand their customer bases in previously stagnating environments. In some cases, their most engaged hires may have been able to envision and execute initiatives in workplaces where innovation had been rare, reignite projects and teams once considered defunct or disbanded, or simply motivate others to achieve better outcomes.
But those beguiled leaders and coworkers may not be aware of the specific mechanisms by which prized performers impact those around them. Here’s a sampling of how it can be done.
1. Energetic employees drive engagement.
Being enthusiastic in the workplace has a way of getting people’s attention. Energetic employees can tend to ignite interest and passion in their colleagues. They may tell stories, share jokes, or employ compelling illustrations to draw others into the mission at hand. And because people can be drawn in by them, the ideas and excitement they convey tend to stick.
As a result, energetic employees can be particularly well suited for onboarding new hires, training fellow employees, winning over customers and prospects, and garnering support for new initiatives. The key point is that these employees don’t just work alongside others; they may inspire their peers and clients to engage in projects at a deeper level.
2. Energetic employees foster innovation.
These kinds of professionals can thrive on a challenge. They can seek out the problems that need solving – even and especially those previously unexpressed. Energetic employees may not be easily deterred. They can often possess a growth mindset and are dissatisfied with whatever organizational hand they’re dealt. Thus, they are not only able but willing and eager to innovate. This kind of employee may take time to investigate new ideas, reevaluate projects in progress, question accepted wisdom, and make changes based not only on knowledge and experience but also on newly discovered insights.
Just as important, those with a positive, enthusiastic mindset may be less daunted by the prospect of failure. Instead, they may recognize failures as sources of valuable lessons that drive further action. This positive workplace energy can model innovation and inspire colleagues to reach for similar experimentation and action.
3. Energetic employees nurture teamwork and collaboration.
Sure, high-energy employees can seem to have deep personal stores of gusto and motivation, independent of the outside world. But those who are more extroverted also can tend to derive strength and momentum from their interactions with colleagues, executive leaders, customers, partners, suppliers, and others in their “ecosystem.” This can position many energetic employees to serve as bridges between team members or clients, able to smooth out conflicts and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect.
For example, they may use their social skills to help further their peers’ goals, rather than come across as judgmental. In turn, the enthusiastic employee can often be seen as the “glue” that holds the team together, helping promote greater levels of collaboration and, perhaps, better outcomes. Put simply, working with others – their teams, departments, organizations, and the larger community – can fuel the high-energy employee, and vice versa.
4. Energetic employees exhibit and instill confidence.
High-energy employees can often be action-oriented and able to make decisions with appropriate alacrity and self-assurance. Their confidence can rub off on any project or team with which they’re involved. For example, their buoyancy can lift other people, whether around the launch of new initiative or for the long haul.
And, although burnout and stress pervade many organizations, high-energy employees can have a knack for understanding where their enthusiasm is best spent. Thus, when others may be wearily going through the motions, enthusiastic workers can tend to remain focused on what matters and optimistic about the outcomes – in other words, they may not be easily deterred. After all, they can also understand that even when things don’t go according to plan, there can always be an opportunity to learn and make changes. This can bolster the resolve of those around them, reassuring them that things will continue to move in a positive direction over time.
Be Sure to Support High-Energy Professionals
Business leaders and managers looking to cultivate a more energetic workplace can start by taking note of existing employees who possess the traits outlined above, and seeking out new hires with the same characteristics. But simply hiring these workers often may not be enough. Organizations that genuinely invest in supporting their most energetic employees – for example, by giving them meaningful work and challenges, a degree of autonomy and respect, and appreciation and praise for their efforts – can see exponential returns in the form of more positive energy in the workplace and improved performance.
It’s also important to try to make sure your top performing employees don’t overlook their wellbeing. Though they may have greater resistance to burnout, they may not be immune to stress or being overwhelmed. Encouraging breaks, vacations, and maintaining a work-life balance can help your employees safeguard their valuable energy reserves.
The Bottom Line
Learning how to recognize the types of people who fuel positive momentum can be important for any entrepreneur seeking to attain better business performance. Energetic employees can have an outsize influence on the overall energy of an organization, thanks to their unique abilities to increase engagement, pursue innovation, build collaborative teams, and instill confidence. Still, it’s essential to support these vibrant employees by not only acknowledging their contributions, but also offering the challenges and autonomy they require. In doing so, you can empower them – and your organization – to thrive.
A version of this article was originally published on September 19, 2011.
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