Tapping Into Team Energy

Oarsome Foursome Gold 1996 – Team Energy for Success

Over many years now I have wondered why some performances have come easy and others have not measured up or lived up to the standards we have expected and hoped for. Why is there a difference between some teams? Why is there a difference between different days, moments and events? Many questions about how and why and team performs and obviously when it performs are critical in understanding how to better prepare teams and how to ultimately tap into the collective energy available by bring people together.

Before getting to far into the collective capacity it is important I share some of my thinking around energy in some of the many forms.

Now energy can be thought of as a bit abstract I agree. When we are energised we know it or at least when we are aware of it we are. We we are drained we know and many people I work with comment when they are drained and how certain strategies are then used to get a boost or pick me up. Many busy people describe being run down or running out of energy. All most as if their tanks are low and yet they don’t have time to full recharge or fuel up.

Energy in its many forms can be understood from the perspective of how we gauge ourselves and often how we gauge others. Energy though relates to physical, emotion, mental and spiritual. As physical goes we need fuel as people like food and drinks. How this is utilised and how this produces and influences our capacity to move and think needs understanding no doubt. Even after so many years of being an elite athlete I am still learning heaps about what goes into my body and how it effects my ability to perform and recover. We need fuel in terms of relationships to though. We need nourishment from others and some times often challenges and stimulus. It’s all energy and feeds us in many ways.

Sport is a great way to look at energy. The game of energy exchange, energy levels, energy influences and energy at play can be seen by the obvious, visible and gross action. Subtly is less obvious and often hard to see or can’t be seen but only felt. Energy into action is something I like to consider as a key to performing and needed to be understand. This applies to people in all sorts of dynamics.

Energy into Action
It’s GAME, Energy Into Action.

Energy into action in sport is easier to see and understand. Like a pitcher throwing a ball. The intentional element of creating an action. Intending on getting the ball past a batter, into the catchers hand. Levels of intent include, hitting a mark, moving the ball, hiding the type of pitch, generating force from the ground through the body to the hand and fingers, and the work done on the ball. It’s all energy into action for the sake of a baseball game.

Other forms of energy do become a little more difficult to understand and trust. Personal energy that comes from our mental and emotional states is fascinating. Learning to focus better brings a sense of energy and power to the activities we do. Being diffused can give as a feeling of wasted energy. Those moments of insight. The flashes of inspiration that come to us in a moment of clarity seem to be uplifting, energising and support us in ways we find hard to comprehend. Creativity is one classic case of you know it when it happens and yet so many people struggle with recreating or harnessing these creative moments when the energy that comes to us can often feel unlimited. This is our brilliance as people our capacity to find solutions and the energy in a solution is wonderful. Do a search on the web for creativity and you will see a World of wonder and frustration. Wonder for the energy creativity brings and frustration for how challenging it can be to find it, or bring ourselves in to this space.

In one sense energy is known often by the contrast in experience. Before a release of energetic thinking it may have been a block or obstacle in our thought process to create the build up before we have the so called break through. Certainly there is a feeling of energy in these moments. As for movement, before we can feel free we often struggle with a sequence, tension and awkwardness before we have it fall into place. This sense of energy in movement and freedom of energy in our movement can be remarkable. Feeling easy and thinking easy is like have more energy for other things. Now is this more energy in the moment or are we just better utilising our energy?

This leads to my thinking about energy being limited or unlimited. While keeping this in the personal and individual space for a moment I have often had the thought that certain energy we have is limited and this I suspect is the physical stuff. However mental and emotional energy seems to be either triggered or controlled by this or the connection is less about the physical and more about another source of energy we have access too. Yes I realise this is far more abstract but I can’t help but think that times we I have felt an unlimited supply of energy that comes from even considering the possibilities of how to make a boat go faster. The ideas and creative juices start to flow and it does feel real and certainly its expansive nature seems from what I can tell to be with out limit. With out limit until I think more physical about it. Questions like how many more thoughts can I have, seem to raine it back in. Restrain it in some way. Thought like how will I possibly do it all or try it all provide a heavy wet blanket to the thought process. Slowing it down and agree it does draw it back to reality. Only thing is prior to the reality check the energy coming from the thinking of possibilities provides that sense of creativity and the boost in energy is noticeable. This kind of boost effects physically how I feel and what I am willing to do or try.

What then of team energy. The combinations and variations of energy individually and how we understand, utilise and access energy is interesting. Add more people and we get some amazing outcomes as we have all seen in life I am sure. Great things can happen when we tap in to team energy but also horrible things can occur when group energy spirals out of control. Or should I say spirals in a direction which can be harmful, damaging and devastating in terms of what we might do to others or the World around us.

Let me tune in further here to an experience recently involving the new crew I raced with this last season. For those who follow this blog you will know from many post about many things that happened along the way. What I want to do here is to share some of the benefits of team energy and how it related to our last two week building towards our race in the final.

Two week before the final we did some race work with other crews and it was pretty poor. Physically and emotionally we hit a wall. Energy levels seemed to drop and the result was a slow and tired movement in the boat. It surprised how it set in and the work on the water just lost any luster. The life had drained from what we were doing in a way that things felt unresponsive and heavy.

From that weekend it become the mission to tap back into the team energy through belief in a few processes and elements of our final phase of preparation leading to the final race. These involved doing far less training. Less volume but greater focus. Less seriousness and some more fun. Things like throwing the frizzbee around and going for swims in the lake in Bled felt refreshing, they felt energising. Walking and riding to the boat park become fun activities which involved plenty of light hearted humor.

During each day we put in a place a simple process of one row on the water of no more the 8km. We included a daily relaxation session and visualisation. Energy came up quickly and excitement and purpose about getting on the water returned. The visualisation session had something in them as they spark conversations and a sense of energy from anticipation. The activities like frizzbee become dynamic at times and other times quiet casual. Yet during and after the energy was noticeable. Obvious being at a major event was something that enabled the feeling of energy to rise.

We spoke regularly about our race plan and the excitement and preparedness was interesting as we dialogued about building up over the two weeks. The focus, the communication, the support, the sharing, the challenges, the questions, the solutions, the ideas, the thoughts and feelings all played out in a way that was energetically absorbed, felt and enjoyed. Yes I speak from my personal experience here but I could see as the days passed that as team we were tapping in to our groups energy. Harnessing it to be able to race well. To race in a way that we probably hadn’t done in training in one sense.

Australian Four – Team Energy for Best Race in Final

Post the final some people seemed surprised by our performance. I guess some thought we would do better and yet many expected us to potentially do worse I suspect. We raced like a confident crew. We races with courage. Boldness was the order of the day. The energy build up came because of uncertainty and because we agreed to do things a certain way. The race was a release of energy. For me the contrast was come from much of our training. Inconsistency and a lack of efficiency was visible to others and felt by us. Like all good athletes we kept working at it. Reminders were often used about belief that we would perform. This all has energy in it. Like the little steam train saying I think I can and changing to I know I can, we to transitioned.

Once a team gathers momentum they as a collective can be hard to stop. Mass matters and a mass of energy directed by a group of people has great power. For year I have rowed in smaller combinations like pair with just two of us on the water together and a team of three including our coach. To come back into a four reminded me of the larger group and the challenges but also the opportunities. Add to the numbers and make it an eight and I hear regularly the eight is about belief. It’s about using the energy of the whole to create a performance. Big boats need more energy and have the capacity to to tap into more energy. It really is less physical and more abstract with size.

Recently while working with group of executives I set them a task of taking a collective of thoughts on what would make a goal setting session worthwhile. The group number about 20 and when left to there own the challenge of tapping into group dynamics and group energy to achieve became clear. Disengagement, frustration and angst all started to play out. The team energy was diffused and competing. They as a resource we under utilising themselves. After much time and a few prompts things started to shift. Peoples energy morphed from the negative to the positive and the influence, support and willingness to engage began to shape the group. Final the outcome was amazing with a clear and simple list consolidated from the original work. People looked happy almost in flow. Smiles and nodes could be observed and a calms strong energy I think was felt. I stood there watching and final remark, ‘Now do you see?’ More of a question but with out the need for them to respond. Group energy had played out in a most wonderful way.

The above example like many of the rowing examples could be seen to align to Bruce Tuckman’s model of stages of team development. Below the surface of the described stages I think it the under current of energy flows. It involves blockages, channels, flows, resistance, releases and realisations. Tapping into team energy is critical for achieving many great things. I have mentioned this before but their really is no individual, we are all connected in some way. We are all connected by energy. Why then would we not trust it and why then would we not focus more on tapping into how we energise each other. How we influence as team or group seems to have much to do with how we feel and the choices we make about how we want or need other to feel around us.

In sporting teams it obvious we need to tapping into team energy and yet still we struggle at times and quiet often we grapple with how to harness the teams energy. Sport is visual and promoted. Team sport has its place as an obvious domain of team energy. It is no different to any work place though, and what of our families and various communities we are involved in.

Imagine what what could be possible if you tapped into team energy more effectively? What could we all achieve and experience?

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