The New Energy Crisis – People at Work (or Not)

Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

This week’s article is written by Joshua Freedman, author, Master Certified Coach (ICF), and the CEO and co-founder of Six Seconds, the global community for EQ. It is a companion piece to his interview on Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future titled The Human Energy Crisis at Work, which aired on August 1st, 2023. 

Intro from “FauxMo:”

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

Listen to the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future via Apple PodcastsTuneInStitcherSpotify, Amazon Music, AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One.

The brutal fact: People are disengaging because companies are failing their people. We’re in a time of profound complexity and chaos, and it seems this mess IS the ‘new normal.’ It’s a test, and few companies are passing it

If half of your people are burned out, how well will your business handle the next stress? The data is clear. In global studies from Microsoft, Six Seconds, Deloitte, and Gallup, research says “employees are struggling.”

As David Minze puts it, one of the most essential steps is for leaders to confront reality – the signs are there, but leaders are ignoring them: “Laziness, apathy, and dissidence are merely symptoms of bigger problems that can affect employee performance. And by the time many of those symptoms surface, remediation to improve employee engagement might be impossible.”

Do you want people to follow you out of fear — or trust?

The human brain is Not a Fan of uncertainty; we treat it as danger – and one of the most common reactions is attempting to control. You can see it as some senior leaders create ‘back to work’ mandates or call for ‘get back to the grind.’ And that reactive, controlling stance is a recipe for failure that comes from a common confusion:

Motivation and compliance are not the same thing.

Motivation is driven by trust, purpose, commitment, belonging and growth. The fire is on the inside.

Compliance is driven by fear. The fire is on the outside.

Motivation is relational. Compliance is transactional. Motivation is about engaged people going beyond. Compliance is about doing the minimum.

The lack of engagement is exacerbated by larger trends – for example, around the world, people are more lonely and isolated. That isolation is significantly worse for younger people, amplifying issues of generational differences in the workplace, and impairing future success.

The focus on compliance, the lack of purpose and connection, and weak management, are all rooted in poor emotional intelligence, and it’s costing businesses billions of dollars.

How to solve the “human energy crisis”

Get your head out of the sand. The first step, according to Jeff Kinsley – America’s Director for EQ Biz, and former senior HR Director for LAC at FedEx, is to stop denying the problem. “Companies are pushing themselves to the point of no return by not engaging themselves to, at the minimum, do a temperature check on their people.”

Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s Chief People Officer, says to ask better questions: Instead of asking “How are you,” ask questions that get to the essence of energy, such as, “Do you feel like you are doing meaningful work?”

In Six Seconds’ research on high-performing teams, we found three simple, powerful, renewal sources of human energy at work – which we can measure in minutes… and it’s all about emotion:

Teams that experience more joy at work are 10x more likely to be high achieving.

Scores on trust predict over 70% in variation of performance outcomes.

And teams that celebrate both success and failure are 25x as likely to have long-term success.

Some readers will say, “That’s too touchy-feely,” but maybe it’s time to rethink that bias. After all, it’s what’s led us to the state where less than 2 in 10 employees are engaged…maybe it’s time to stop pretending people are just rational – and get smarter about feelings at work.



Joshua is the author of five books, articles, case studies, and psychometric assessments related to emotional intelligence (EQ). He’s a Master Certified Coach (ICF) and the CEO and co-founder of Six Seconds, the global community for EQ. Six Seconds is the world’s first & largest network of emotional intelligence practitioners and researchers, with 25 offices globally. As a consultant, facilitator, or coach, Joshua’s clients include FedEx, Intel, Etihad Airways, Amazon, Microsoft, the UN, and all branches of the US armed services. Joshua co-developed Six Seconds’ EQ Certification Training which he has delivered on five continents as a master trainer to thousands of professionals seeking practical tools for learning and teaching emotional intelligence.



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Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-Creating Our Future via Apple PodcastsTuneInStitcherSpotify, Amazon Music, AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

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