What Effect Do You Have on People? Are You a Net Positive or a Negative?

At a recent event, I noticed the dramatic difference between an entrepreneur’s demeanor when he interacted with me, compared to moments later when he interacted with another person.

With me, Jack expressed enthusiasm and optimism for his start-up business (which, btw, I believe will be a game-changer for monetizing the social sharing of images on Pinterest and through other social media). As I asked him questions and listened intently, he eagerly shared new developments and spoke freely about his plans.

Then, a man who I’ll call Walter, came by and started to talk with Jack. Walter also knows Jack and knows that Jack’s business has tremendous potential. After shaking hands, he immediately asked Jack about his progress in a particular aspect of his business.

A change in tone — and demeanor

His tone was challenging and one-up, like Jack was the young acolyte sitting at the master’s feet. Jack is not some 19-year-old starry-eyed Elon Musk-wannabe. He is a 60-year-old with a successful track record. When Jack shared his update, Walter responded dismissively, as if Jack’s response didn’t quite make the grade.

As Walter continued with his questions and comments, delivered in a smugly superior way, I could see Jack’s light begin to dim.

He started explaining to Walter why the next step hadn’t yet happened. After a bit more back and forth, Jack no longer looked like the enthusiastic, possibility-filled entrepreneur that he is. His demeanor was that of a chastened student who had been admonished to get his act together.

I’ve observed Walter’s interactions over time and he has a very impressed-with-himself style. A friend who knows him describes him as always having to be the smartest guy in the room.

I share this story because I’d like you to consider how you affect people, especially when your role is to facilitate innovative thought and stimulate empowered action. I encourage you to examine this because research shows that how you affect people emotionally and energetically has a dramatic effect on your ability to get results from and through others.

So, what about you?

Think about recent interactions you’ve had where your role was to help stimulate creative thought, generate solutions, or inspire action. Then ask yourself this:

  • Do you know if your effect was a net positive or net negative?
  • Did your presence call forth that person’s smartest, most enthusiastic, most optimistic, “Can-Do” self, o, did they feel pinned to the wall or smothered with a wet blanket?

Your answer to these questions will have a HUGE impact on whether people respond to you with results or resistance. It will determine whether others want to work with you or avoid you.

Research by Dr. Rob Cross from the University of Virginia revealed the huge productivity impact of whether an employee was experienced by others as an “upper” or a “downer.” They studied what factors accounted for a person’s ability to get things done in their organization.

They discovered that whether someone was seen as being an “Energizer” or as a “De-Energizer” was more important than any other factor studied — by a factor of 4! In other words, no other factor came close to the impact being an “Energizer” or “De-Energizer” had on a person’s ability to “get results through other people.”

It’s not just important for leaders

While this research clearly has serious implications for any leader who wants to get better results, it also applies to every individual contributor and every project manager who wants to get better results from their team members and from their inter-departmental colleagues.

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This research also has huge implications for consultants, account reps from professional service firms, and vendors. If people find you uplifting to be around , they will obviously be far more desirous of your company than if you are transactional and cold-toast-interesting.

Matt Sabljak, co-founder of SRH Marketing demonstrates the kind of intentionality all professional service providers should bring to their interactions. In a recent interview about his firm’s approach to delivering an exceptional client experience, he shared his intention whenever he meets a client or potential client:

As a marketing agency, as a story-telling agency, it is our responsibility to be the most inspiring, creative partner our clients ever had. When we interact with clients, we should always inspire them and push them to new heights of creativity.”

Interestingly, Matt and his co-founders don’t try to demonstrate their intellectual horsepower — like Walter does when he interacts with people, and most creative types try to do. Instead, they focus on how they can “make clients not only feel smart, but be smart.”

In other words, they intentionally apply the “Energizer” principle to elicit their client’s best selves. Not only does this help the client generate better results in their meetings, it also makes the client feel great about themselves. Being an Energizer also makes Matt and his colleagues a welcome oasis of fun and positivity in the midst of a hard day, rather than just another vendor meeting to endure.

Making the “Energizer” effect work

Here are three (3) ways you can make the Energizer Effect work for you.

1. Reflect on whether you currently engage in “Energizer” behaviors such as:

    • Asking unique and insight-provoking questions;
    • Giving your 100 percent focused attention when people speak;
    • Truly being interested in other people (faking doesn’t count);
    • Acknowledging key points that people make;
    • Asking the other person if they would like advice rather than making that your default response;
    • Being enthusiastic in a way that fits your personality (you don’t have to be all Tony Robbins on someone to be enthusiastic)
    • Encouraging others, especially when they are facing challenges
    • Asking exploratory questions about ideas you don’t think are viable, rather than just shooting them down
    • Consciously engaging people as a human being, rather than in a transactional, all-business way

2. Ask for feedback from people who will be candid with you about what you do in your interactions that are uppers and what you do that they experience as a downer.

3. Become more conscious and intentional about being an “Energizer” when you engage with others. Look for opportunities to encourage and uplift.

David Lee is the founder and principal of HumanNature@work and the creator of Stories That Change. He's an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance, morale, and engagement. He is also the author of "Managing Employee Stress and Safety," as well over 100 articles and book chapters. You can download more of his articles at HumanNature@work, contact him at david@humannatureatwork.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/humannaturework.

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