Experienced leaders know that people have a finite supply of energy and that in the face of too many energy demands people begin to lose productive capability and may display unproductive behaviors related to stress and overload. They also know that energy levels rise when people feel engaged and involved and fall when people feel controlled and victimized.
As you prepare to introduce a new initiative to a group of people that will require them to make changes in their mindsets and/or behaviors, it can be helpful to estimate energy demands and match them against the group’s available energy. If overload seems likely, you can decide whether to slow things down, reduce competing demands, or revise your approach.
Use the following questions to evaluate the energy demands of an initiative. Start by identifying the various groups who will be affected; the answers may differ by group. Then gather a small group of people who are familiar with the requirements of the initiative to discuss these questions. For each question, agree on a rating using a scale ranging from 1=none to 10=extremely high.
- Physical Energy: How physically demanding will this initiative be? Take into account the need to lift and move things, stay awake for long periods of time, endure discomfort and physical risk, and any negative impact on healthy physical habits (nutrition, hydration, movement, etc.)
- Mental Energy: How mentally demanding will this initiative be? Take into account the need to learn new ways of doing things, concentrate and focus attention, oversee complex processes, solve problems, and deal with high levels of distraction.
- Emotional Energy: How emotionally demanding will this initiative be? Take into account the level of difficult feelings people are likely to experience (including worry, anger, sadness, fear, uncertainty, and loneliness) as well as the need to deal with other emotional challenges such as tough interpersonal situations, harm to friends, family, and co-workers, a lack of social support, and a negative workplace climate.
- Spiritual Energy: How spiritually demanding will this initiative be? Take into account potential challenges to personal values and integrity, the loss of elements that are related to a personal sense of purpose or identity, and obstacles that people might face in trying to do what is right or fair.
- Other Energy Demands: To what extent are other sources of energy drain present, including lack of control or involvement in initiative planning, a sense of being treated unfairly, a history of unsuccessful change, or anything else you can anticipate that is likely to cause the initiative to be particularly demanding.
It’s also helpful to look at the energy boosters that may accompany the initiative. Here are some questions to help you think about these. Use the same 10-point scale as you did before:
- Physical Energy: To what extent will people experience higher levels of physical well-being during or as a result of the initiative?
- Mental Energy: To what extent will people experience higher levels of mental energy (learning valuable skills, solving interesting problems, being able to focus and concentrate) during or as a result of the initiative?
- Emotional Energy: To what extent will people experience higher levels of emotional energy (greater happiness, increased self-awareness, stronger relationships) during or as a result of the initiative?
- Spiritual Energy: To what extent will people experience higher levels of spiritual energy (greater alignment with personal values, contributing to a larger cause, personal growth) during or as a result of the initiative?
- Other Energy Boosters: To what extent are other positive sources of energy present, including high levels of engagement, contributing to important organizational outcomes, the opportunity to be seen as a positive example, or anything else you can anticipate that is likely to cause the initiative to be particularly energizing.
Add up your ratings for the 5 Energy Demand questions, and your ratings for the 5 Energy Booster questions, and compare them. You can use this data along with the qualitative information that came from discussing the questions to decide if you need to change anything about how you are implementing the initiative.