The Secret to Boosting Your Team's Energy

Susan Hall
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I've written a couple of posts here and here about about why I'm a fan of Montessori education and just came across another article attributing it to the makeup of Google CEO Larry Page.


But one of Montessori's basic tenets is that interesting work is energizing. I know that sounds so, well, duh! But I saw that in action when my son entered a Montessori kindergarten. So easily overwhelmed and prone to emotional storms, he came home from school bouncing and happy because he had spent the day following his own interests. At the same time, other kids his age in traditional schools, whom I considered better emotionally prepared for kindergarten, were falling apart once they got home from the stress of the day.


Now an article at Fast Company points to new studies that find that not only does interesting work keep you going during fatigue, but it actually replenishes your energy.


In one study, California State University researchers gave subjects a particularly draining task, then varied whether the subsequent task was difficult, but interesting or relatively easy, but boring. They found that though tired, people with the interesting task put in more effort and performed much better than those with the easier, but boring task.


A second study also found improved performance on the task following the interesting task. As writer Heidi Grant Halvorson, a motivational psychologist, put it:

... you don't just do a better job on Task A because you find Task A interesting-you do a better job on follow-up Task B because you found Task A interesting. The replenished energy flows into whatever you do next.

The studies also looked at the effects of mood, but attributed the replenished energy more to interesting work than a good mood.


This has huge implications as companies try to retain their top talent. Other research has boiled down what workers really want into three things: <strong>autonomy, mastery and purpose</strong>. Those closely echo other pieces on what engineers want.


At most companies, the work has to get done whether it's interesting or not. But Halvorson advises that sprinkling in some more interesting work here and there, will surely pay off. And give workers some autonomy in directing not only what they do, but how they do it.


As it turns out, she says, it's not so important that they have actual freedom of choice, but the feeling that they have a choice. Even peripheral choices, such as what to have for lunch at the team meeting, can heighten interest, even if the meeting itself usually is considered boring, she says.

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