What energy are you projecting into a room?
Over a year ago, leadership advisor Molly Tschang changed my life with a single observation. “I’m not sure,” she began tactfully, “That you are projecting the energy to others that you think you are projecting.”
By “energy,” the creator of SayItSkillfully.com meant whether I am interested or disinterested, attentive or bored, engaged or aloof, friendly or cautious, supportive or skeptical, or any one of many energetic possibilities.
Her observation was dead-on accurate. I had grown out of touch with how others perceive me, so that I was often a bit disconnected from reality. As a CEO recently counseled me, “Self-awareness is not how you feel about yourself. It is having an accurate perception of how others perceive you.”
- What felt to me like I was paying attention… felt to others like I was a low-energy presence in the room
- What felt to me like enthusiasm… felt to others like mild interest
- What felt to me like warmth… felt to others like cautious curiosity
And so on.
Molly’s single statement continues to lead me on a journey of self-discovery and exploration. It also made me realize that I am not alone: the vast majority of people—this probably includes you—generally fail to make a conscious decision about the energy they will inject into a meeting, phone call or personal interaction.
That is a BIG mistake.
To illustrate, let’s take a simple and common occurrence. A busy executive races into a meeting room. S/he is running late and feeling stressed, and these feelings sabotage the energy s/he brings into the meeting, making the participants feel like:
- They don’t matter
- They shouldn’t talk too long
- They have done something wrong, or are on the verge of doing something wrong
In contrast, that same executive could have paused for 20 seconds before entering, recognized the stress s/he is feeling, and made a conscious decision not to let that color his/her behavior during this completely unrelated meeting.
Here’s my greatest revelation: I’ve found that it’s not at all difficult to shift my state and control the energy I’m projecting. The difficult parts are:
- Recognizing that I can and should make a conscious decision about the energy I project in each interaction, and…
- Remembering to do it
The bottom line, for you…
When it comes to the energy you bring others, never wing it. Make a conscious decision regarding whether you want to bring urgency, levity, compassion or some other mental state into the room.
To do this, strive to form a more complete understanding of the ways that others perceive you. Ask close friends and colleagues, “How did I come across in that meeting?” Be fully accepting of their feedback. When possible, make audio and video recordings of yourself at work. For example, increasing numbers of calls are now via a tool such as Zoom, so it’s easy to review the saved file.
One last point: when two or more people occupy the same room, your presence sparks physical changes in the other(s). Work hard to ensure those changes are positive.