Energiser or De-Energiser?

That’s where the Energizer Effect comes into play.

This is based on the work of University of Virginia’s Dr. Rob Cross and his associates.

Dr. Cross and his team’s research with over 60 organizations on how to create a more collaborative culture, has revealed something that was at first startling to the researchers, but not so surprising once you think about it.

What they found was that the number one factor determining an individual’s overall productivity, and whether they were perceived as a ‘go to’ person, was whether they were a…

…De-Energizer or an Energizer.

In other words, people who uplifted others, who encouraged others to explore possibilities, who truly listened, and who showed respect for different points of view…

…These people made things happen.

Conversely, people perceived as de-energizers were avoided whenever possible. People didn’t want to hear what they had to say and would find ways to work around them.

In his writings, Dr. Cross identifies core behaviours of both groups:


  1. Communicate a compelling vision when advocating an idea.
  2. Create opportunities for others to make meaningful contributions.
  3. Actively engage others when discussing issues.
  4. Facilitate progress toward a goal, without forcing their preconceived agenda, but not wallowing in unproductive meanderings and time wasting meetings.


  1. Constantly air negative viewpoints.
  2. Fail to listen to others.
  3. Favor their own solutions.
  4. Do not keep commitments.

When asked about the what makes someone a De-Energizer, interviewees repeatedly talked about how De-Energizers:

drained the energy of the other co-workers and groups, stifled creativity and hindered progress on initiatives“.

Conversely, researchers reported that:

To a person, (our interviewees) indicated that energizing interactions enabled them to see new possibilities by integrating different expertise or perspectives. Energizing interactions helped overcome natural disconnects between people with different backgrounds and expertise by creating the social space – the mutual respect, confidence and openness – that enabled possibilities to emerge.

In terms of implementation, energizers excel at attracting others to an initiative and convincing them to act on their ideas. The energizer’s ability to enthuse helps them get discretionary effort – and more of it – from those around them.

Source: “Charged Up: Managing the Energy that Drives Innovation” from The Network Roundtable at the University of Virginia.

Are You More of an Energizer or a De-Energizer?

To find out, answer the following questions in this simple self-assessment. While Dr. Rob Cross’s original self-assessment consists of 8 questions, I took the liberty to modify some of his questions and added a few more:

  1. Do you make an effort to include relationship development in your day-to-day actions?
  2. Do you keep your commitments (and if you drop the ball, to you apologize)?
  3. Do you address tough issues honestly, openly, and authentically?
  4. Do you look for how things can work, rather than why they won’t?
  5. When you disagree with someone, do you examine and analyze the idea, rather than judge the person offering the idea?
  6. Are you ‘present’ and engaged in conversations and meetings, rather than distracted or multi-tasking?
  7. Are you open to others’ point of view or is your goal to show others why you are right?
  8. Do you use your expertise and intellect to facilitate discovery, rather than to display your intelligence or find a solution quickly so you can end the conversation?
  9. Do you look for opportunities to catch people doing things right, rather than point out their mistakes or minor slip-ups?
  10. Do you use humor to lighten the mood rather than as a weapon to put others down?
  11. Do you offer help to others rather than focus primarily on how others can help you achieve your objectives?

How to Put This to Use

  1. Notice the people you interact with over the next week. Notice whether you feel uplifted or drained after dealing with them. Notice if they’re an ‘upper’ or a ‘downer’ and then examine what did they do to create that effect. Use what you notice to ask yourself “Do I do these things?” (whether Energizers or De-Energizers).
  2. Pay attention to what comes out of your mouth. Ask yourself “Is it primarily negative or positive?”

a. Negative = focusing on what’s wrong, why things won’t work, gossip, etc.
b. Positive = the positive aspects of the current situation, hidden opportunities ideas for making improvements, contributions people have made, how helpful someone has been, the positive aspects of the current situation, hidden opportunities, etc.

  1. Notice if you focus on things you can’t do anything about, or on those things you can influence.
  2. When people are bringing up ideas or talking about difficulties, notice if you get into “It won’t work” or “Ain’t it awful” type statements. If you do, switch to possibility talk. Invite them to explore possibilities and how you, together, can make the situation work.

By practicing becoming even more of an Energizer, you will be doing what you can to improve morale, teamwork, and overall esprit de corps.

Good luck and… if you and your team are doing a great job with this, I’d love to hear from you.

This article is written by David Lee