When I was young, I found it challenging to see how far I could get on a tank of gas. Often I ended up coasting down hills and sometimes driving on fumes; a few times I found myself pushing my car a short distance, or more times than I want to admit, hitching a ride to the nearest gas station. Now I’m wiser—or like to think so. Going too far on less than a quarter tank of fuel would definitely give me “range anxiety”.
Range anxiety is a new dictionary term, typically used to describe today’s electric car owners . It refers to the stress experienced when there’s a real possibility that the battery in a car is going to run out of power before the destination or a suitable charging point is reached.
Understanding personal fuel and your own internal energy
Range anxiety is a helpful way for describing how you feel when you’re running low on “personal fuel”. As a leader, you are expected to do or achieve in a certain way. But without enough fuel in your tank, it’s impossible to “go the distance”, that is, perform well in your job, prove yourself, and consistently achieve great results.
Think of your personal fuel as motivation and passion. Such “fuel” gives you the energy you need to get up each day, achieve desired results, build productive relationships, create, build, and thrive without feeling drained or anxious. Personal fuel literally drives you to do better. When personal fuel starts to dwindle, performance suffers as “range anxiety” sets in.
When you feel range anxiety, the stress of “running out of fuel” begins to worry you—and it shows in your behaviour. If you don’t do something about it, eventually your personal engine starts to sputter and you could literally grind to a halt!
Leaders need to take stock of their personal fuel needs
Many leaders I have the opportunity to work with haven’t considered, planned or integrated their psychological fuel needs into their journey. Too often they expect themselves to go the distance without taking stock of their fuel needs. They compromise their own energy, acting like it comes from a never ending supply that’s right around the corner.
Humans aren’t built with fuel gauges, but we do tend to exhibit certain signs when our personal fuel is heading toward empty. Typically, these can include:
- Lack of energy for lengthy team meetings
- Lack of energy to do detailed work
- Failure to listen well
- Inability to make good decisions in challenging situations.
- Lack of focus and passion
- Apathy and irritability
Find your personal gas stations
Like gassing up a car, it’s amazing how quickly our internal fuel gauge can go from empty to full, and our stress or “range anxiety” dissipates. What most of us need is a better understanding of where we find our personal “gas stations”.
Leaders also need to understand that everyone is fueled differently. Don’t expect your direct reports to be energized the same way you are. This isn’t the time for guess work. The Birkman Method gives you a personal “owners manual” describing what energizes you and your team members.
Once you’ve identified your fuel sources, try these tips for limiting range anxiety:
- Learn to ask for the kind of fuel you need.
- Be proactive. Learn to get your fuel before you show stress.
- Plan on getting even more fuel during difficult legs of your journey.
- Learn what your stress behaviours are telling you and how to read them in others. They are telling you something loud and clear. Are you listening?
- Learn how to quantify your energy. Measure it. Become aware and respond.
There are various sources of personal fuel, for example, a collaborative not competitive environment, time alone, focused goals, the need to be spoken to with respect, etc.
Take a moment and think about your personal fuel. What energizes you? What drains you? If you have a moment, write them down and send me your list.