Recently, I was with someone who found it amusing to make sarcastic digs when the opportunity arose. Those comments were funny when taken at face value. However, when they were aimed at someone in particular, they were hurtful and even undermined the individual.
I noticed a few things as a result of this type of behaviour.
- It divided the room. Those that enjoyed that type of behaviour and those that didn’t.
- You could tell the people in the room that were learning this sort of behaviour from their boss, because they were trying to mimic it.
- You could tell those people that were being affected by it negatively as they withdrew into themselves.
- The overall energy levels in the room dropped as people on both sides were uncertain about when they would be next.
This brand of humour starts to be oppressive and can cause unnecessary offense. My Grandmother used to say that “Sarcasm was the lowest form of wit”. In the beginning people find it funny and then they laugh because they feel they should. However, ultimately it becomes an embarrassment to people and starts to undermine relationships.
One thing I have learnt is that organizations thrive on energy. The higher the energy, the more proactive,responsive and dynamic the organization. As a leader, our job is to encourage positive energy levels.
What sort of energy do you add to your relationships? You are adding energy all the time and the question is … is it constructive energy or destructive energy?
Constructive energy creates constructive ideas, constructive thought patterns, higher activity levels and higher results. Destructive energy destroys ideas, destroys creativity and slows the pace and ultimately lowers the level of results.
Have you ever had that person who walks into the room and it is like a ‘damp towel’ has been thrown on the room. You can nearly hear the moan as people struggle to stay positive. It is like trying to swim in the pool knowing that someone has pulled the plug and you will now need to swim against the flow to stop being sucked in.
It can be as simple as something they say, their approach, or their demeanor.
If we understand this then we realise that the role of the leader is to encourage energy that drives the business. We also need to be aware of how quickly we can kill the energy by comments we make or things we do. The trouble is, some of the things that kill the energy are things we don’t even notice we do. They are habits we have created and we don’t realize the impact of them. In fact we can be lulled into a belief that they are positive when they are not.
Let us go back to the example of sarcasm. People still laugh but what we don’t notice is that the laugh is an embarrassed or false laugh because they feel they should rather than because they are enjoying it. We think that we are causing them to laugh, which means they are enjoying themselves. We think we have added positive energy when in reality we are taking energy away from the room.
So consider these questions:
- What habits have you got that may be taking energy out of your people?
- When you interact with your team, are you adding or taking away energy?
- Do you take time to consider (and even plan) how you can constructively add energy to your people, or do you rely on hoping that what you do has a positive effect?
These are simple but powerful questions and I implore you to consider them carefully. This year you will hear a lot from me about the importance of energy and so all these questions are important.
Have a great month and I look forward to seeing you next month.
Best wishes, Paul