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Energizers Catalyze Agility

If you have spent any time within an organization you have had the opportunity to experience the energy from the people around you. In some cases, there is a noticeable buzz around a team or project in which ideas flow freely and individuals are able to easily build upon the viewpoints of others. Other times, these interactions are simply grueling. You walk away depleted or de-energized. These day-to-day interactions matter significantly. They can act as a catalyst for agility, or they can demoralize people into simply becoming mere passengers on the bus, content to live out the status quo.

Network researchers Rob Cross and Wayne Baker conducted a comprehensive study of energy in which they analyzed seven large organizational networks across a financial services firm, a petrochemical business, a government agency, a strategy firm, and three technology companies. They followed up with a series of detailed interviews within each of these firms. Their focus was to more deeply understand the interactions and relationships with people they had identified as either energizing or de-energizing in the networks. What they discovered was amazing: energy—particularly from a person whom they labeled as an “energizer”—has a significant impact on agility. Most leaders spend their time managing performance and information. According to Cross and Baker’s research, however, managing energy amplifies progress by a factor of four.

Energizers enhance employee performance in terms of productivity, absenteeism, engagement, and job retention. Baker found that high-achieving organizations, have three times more positive energizers than average organizations. There are several reasons for this. First, energizers have the distinct ability to actively engage others in progressing an idea forward. They inspire idea diffusion across a network. Second, they enthusiastically encourage others to take action. By the end of a conversation with an energizer, people are compelled to act. Furthermore, not only do energizers have an infectious impact on others, but they also have the ability to inspire more discretionary effort. Finally, energizers attract other people toward an initiative. That is, they attract clusters of people to join in for the cause. Energizers simply open up Adaptive Space for others to prosper. They catalyze agility.

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