Guest post from Achim Nowak:
We love to run personality profiles on our leaders. These profiles offer cognitive frameworks to help us better understand our behavior preferences and tendencies. They may also, I fear, entirely miss the heart of the matter.
Sandy Pentland and Daniel Olguin at MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab outfitted five executives with devices that recorded data on their social signals – not what they said, but their tone of voice, gesticulation, proximity to others, personal energy, and more. All that is not spoken. Pentland and Olguin call these signals honest signals.
The honest signals of these executives were tracked just days before each appeared before a panel of judges to present a business plan. Without reading or hearing their pitches to the panel, without any inkling at all of what the executives would actually propose, Pentland and Olguin forecast who would present the winning plan. Accurately, of course.
When asked which honest signals are most clearly identified with successful people, Pentland’s answer is emphatic: “The more successful people are more energetic.” (Harvard Business Review, January 2010)
A resounding YES to this insight! It entirely matches what I witness in my work as an executive coach. No matter how skilled any of us are at what we do - if our personal energy is not expansive, visceral, infectious, our impact in the world is significantly hampered. And yet, we tend to avoid a deeper conversation about the energy experience. Carl Jung’s division of personality types into introverts and extroverts still serves as the most prevalent Western benchmark of how we access energy. Introverts, according to Jung, tend to derive energy from thoughts and ideas while extroverts tend to derive it from other people.
This energy-duality-lens is limiting and simply not very helpful. Let us, instead, have a conversation about personal energy that transcends simplistic cognitive labels. Let us consider the presence of a “big energy.” Cultures throughout history have found language to describe this energy. The most common phrase attributed to it is “life force.” The Hindus call it prana, the Japanese ki, the Chinese qi or chi. There are almost 100 other names associated with this energy in as many different cultures. More importantly, there are very specific techniques for accessing this “big” energy. They are easily learned.
So - let us introduce our leaders to expansive energy frameworks and practices. Here are four which they may find immediately energizing:
Our spinal cord acts as an energy highway that allows energy to move from the base
to the top of the head and out. Seven major chakras serve as energy centers that
line our spine, beginning at its base and leading up to the crown of our head.
Techniques for opening our chakras are readily learned. The moment we know how
to access the chakras, our energetic connections with others are heightened!
Chi is the Chinese term for “life force.” Its presence is the underlying principle for all
Chinese medicine. Unlike the kundalini energy which we access through our chakras, chi travels through energy channels called meridians that crisscross our entire body. When these channels are open, we are vitalized!
Practices such as qi gong, reiki, acupuncture, tai chi, Alexander Technique, reflexology, and yoga unleash the flow of chi.
Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) is an annoyingly academic name for a rather intuitive approach to noticing the verbal and energetic cues of another person. By mirroring and matching the cues we receive, we get on the same wavelength with the other person and accelerate the connection. We end up “being in synch.” NLP techniques are common-sense and readily learned.
4. Symbolic Imagery
For individuals who are stirred by symbols and mythic imagery, power animals may be a fast track to accessing vast hidden energies. All Native American cultures incorporate the primal energy of animals into their world view. They call it “power animals.” Very specific practices can be learned to help us connect with the energy of power animals.
The beauty of these four areas of energy knowledge? They are available to every one of us. They have been practiced with great success by introverts and extroverts. Once learned, they propel us toward more energetic connections with every person we meet. That is powerful indeed!
Achim Nowak is the author of Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within (Skyhorse, 2013) and Power Speaking: The art of the Exceptional Public Speaker (Allworth Press). An internationally recognized authority on leadership presence, Achim has coached Fortune 500 executives around the globe. He is the founder and president ofInfluens, a coaching and training firm based in South Florida.