How to give your team energy they need

How to Give Your Team Energy They Need

Lead like it’s the first time to give your team energy.

Early in my career, I learned a vital leadership lesson about how to give your team energy. I was working with an education nonprofit that supported children who lived in poverty.

During the summer, we would frequently take these students bowling, hiking, or swimming. It was new to them, an inexpensive way to build mentoring relationships, and fun. Or at least, it could be fun if we allowed it to be.

As an adult, the eleventh time you take kids bowling doesn’t have the same novelty. On a steamy Monday morning in late July, a senior leader, Sue, must have seen the malaise creeping into us. She looked each of us in the eye and said, “Never forget that it’s their first time. Honor that experience for them.”

As a leader, you’ve shown up to a team meeting, started a new project, helped a team member over an obstacle. The novelty can wear off.

You’ve been there. Done that. Have the tee-shirt. The scars. Maybe a little cynicism.

How can you recapture that spark and energy?

Find Your Rock Star

Recently I heard comedian Conan O’Brien interview Bruce Springsteen. The Boss, who is known for the incredible energy he and the E-Street Band bring to every performance, talked about his approach to performance. “I want to be on the frontier—on the edges of my own psychological, emotional spiritual frontier. I want to be working there until the day I die.”

That, Springsteen says, is the difference between a professional and a careerist.

As you move forward and live life, he says, your life blossoms and so you can never actually sing the same song twice. You’re always a new and different person.

The interview called to mind the first and only time I saw the band Kansas perform live. They were opening for the band Yes. This was decades after both bands’ heyday.

But you wouldn’t have known it.

Kansas has two or three songs most rock fans know. They’ve probably performed that catalog thousands of times in venues ranging from huge stadiums in the 1970s to tents at state fairs.

When I saw them, it was in a smaller theater where I was standing in the back. And …

They. Brought. It.

To this day it’s one of the most energetic performances I’ve ever seen. The same few songs. “Dust in the Wind”—sang with the passion and perspective of people who have lived and seen life. “Carry on My Wayward Son”—filled with conviction, wisdom, and hope. “Point of Know Return”—carried the passion, challenge of adventure, and even an invitation to leadership.

They gave everything they had, and I’ll never forget it.

What must it be like performing those same few songs over and over across decades?

It was a challenge to me to show up for what matters most with all the energy and passion I can bring. To find what is new and fresh and meaningful.

Give Your Team Energy

Today, where can you give your team energy by showing up like it’s the first time?

  • Reconnect to your why. What’s the deepest meaning and purpose behind your work? Refresh yourself and your team in the “Why?” behind every “What?”
  • Focus on who you serve. You and your team exist to do something for someone. Who are they? How do you help them? Ask your clients, customers, or constituents to share a few words with your team about how the work they do matters.
  • Practice your craft. This is my takeaway from Bruce Springsteen’s conversation: You’re a different person. You are (hopefully) a better leader. The activity might be rote, routine, and even boring, but you’re not. You’re a different person. How does this new you bring their best self to the task and team?
  • Look through the eyes of a new team member. This was Sue’s challenge to us as adult mentors. It’s their first time going bowling. Find that magic. You’ve solved this problem fifty-five times, but your newest person is just learning and the magic of expanding their capacity is waiting for your leadership.

Your Turn

Life will always include some level of the mundane and routine. As a leader, you can give your team energy to meet these challenges.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s your best suggestion to meet the routine or boring aspects of work and energize your team?

37 Questions to Ask Yourself When Your Team Lacks Energy

I was giving a keynote on Saturday to large group of administrative professionals. My speech followed the recognition lunch. In addition to their formal awards, they did one of my favorites, “Stand up if _____.” “Stand up if you’ve received your certification (nearly everyone in the room stood).” “Stand up, if you’ve achieved another important professional milestone (again, the room looked like a standing ovation).” “Stand up if you made a significant contribution as a volunteer this year (nearly all again.)” “Stand up if you’ve received any kind of recognition this year at your job (about 2% of the room stood).” I’m sure the intention wasn’t to prove that point, but it raised an important issue. These hard-working admins in vital roles, felt their contributions were not being recognized as they should.

Earlier that week I was working with a group of frontline leaders who supervise construction workers. I asked “What can you tell me about your team members? Are they married? Do they have kids? What do they like to do for fun?” One of the guys admitted. “Well, I only find out about that stuff when it becomes a problem. Like if they have to call take their kid to the doctors and miss work. Now that I think about it, it’s always in a negative context.”

If you’re full of energy, but your team looks like they need a good shot of an energy drink to get going, ask yourself these questions.

37 Questions to Ask Yourself if Your Team Lacks Energy

Do I SEE them for who they are?

  • What do I know about my team members as people (e.g. What do they do for fun? What is their significant other’s name?) This free tool can help. connections worksheet
  • Do I know about their additional talents and skills (those not necessarily used in their core job) that we could tap into for special projects or events?
  • Do I help them leverage and develop their strengths?

Do I TRUST them?

  • Do I rely on them to make decisions in their areas of expertise?
  • Am I able to be vulnerable with them?


  • How do I advocate for them and their careers?
  • Who needs more support?
  • Have I ensured they have adequate tools and resources to be effective?

Am I CONNECTING with them?

  • Does my team truly understand what we’re trying to accomplish and why?
  • Do we have times that we talk about things other than work?
  • Do we enjoy being around one another?

Am I HEARING what they are telling me?

  • How could I make it easier for them to give me feedback?
  • When someone gives me bad news, how do I respond?
  • Do I ask for their opinions?


  • Do I involve them in decisions?
  • Am I willing to share sensitive information?
  • Do I give them opportunities to present to my boss?


  • Do we take time to understand our successes as well as our failures?
  • How do I help my team become more resilient to setbacks?
  • What could we start doing today that would have the biggest impact on our results?

Am I RECOGNIZING their contributions?

  • Do I provide a good mix of positive and constructive feedback?
  • Do I say “thank you” enough?
  • Do I know how each of my team members likes to be recognized?


  • Do we find time to enjoy our work and one another?
  • Do I create an environment that fosters creativity and fun?

Am I REAL with them?

  • Do I share my thoughts and feelings with candor?
  • Do I explain the reasons behind controversial decisions?

In other news.

energize your leadership16 Authors from around the world met through social media and discovered a shared passion–leadership. We all have varying backgrounds ranging from senior leaders within organizations to consultants, coaches, bloggers, and authors. Today we announce the launch of our collaborative book, Energize Your Leadership. See the video trailer here, or visit our site.