Welcome back, Chris Gaither! Chris is a leadership coach, writer, and "career pivoter extraordinaire." Chis is somebody who listens to his own energy to make career decisions. Chris has tailored his coaching practice to work with sustainability leaders, an area where he is knowledgable, passionate, and impactful. We are talking with Chris about listening to and following our personal energy in both career decisions and life. Welcome, Chris!
Since visiting us over a year ago, Chris feels like he took the craziness of 2020 to reflect and build a coaching/leadership practice that he loves. He has divorced, re-partnered, embraced single parenting, written, meditated, exercised, and processed all that the pandemic brought.
We asked about Chris’s definition of personal energy. He realized that people would talk about wanting to follow a passion, but didn’t know what their passion was. In studying people, Chris realized that energy was a better gauge to follow.
Early in his coaching career, someone asked Chris what makes a successful coaching session. He came up with an answer, although one he now recognizes was BS. She came back with advice for him to listen to his inner reaction to the session. If he ended the conversation with extra energy, it probably meant his client was jazzed as well. In order to follow the energy, we need to tune into it and connect our energy levels to our activities.
Chris has clients do an energy audit of their calendar, printing out a calendar and drawing either up, neutral, or down arrows around each activity to see which activities bring energy and which are depleting. We all have to do some draining activities because we’re adults, but the goal is to do more that fills our energy and less that drains it. The funny thing is that what drains my energy might fill yours, so surround yourself with people who have complementary skills to keep everyone’s energies high.
We asked Chris what he says to people who are depleted just by the nature of what's going on in their lives. Chris distinguishes managing energy vs following it in terms of managing and preventing burnout. Paying attention to the signals from your body; that's important to taking care of yourself. Taking things off your plate, outsourcing, asking for help, and seeing what is going well are also key.
Reflecting on energy is helpful in identifying patterns, but how do you make changes once you see what gives you energy? Look at your ratios and add one thing that gives you energy. Try to get to parity and take small steps.
We are wired to pick up on other people’s energy or moods. We carry it with us. Leaders’ energy affects their entire organization. Chris noticed that when he was working with sustainability leaders who felt frustrated, he started feeling the same way. When we show up with negative energy, others feel it and push back against it.
To give your best, how are you showing up? Are you curious? Empathetic? Passionate? If you come in with positive energy, others will pick up on it and feel connected to you and your mission.
We ask Chris what he tells people who are chronically frustrated. His response is to listen and ask what they are missing, what values they want to honor, and dig into what is making them unhappy. If you can structure your day so that you can reward yourself with the “good stuff,”,you can help bring in positivity.
How do you assess a new role to see if the position will be fulfilling? Step 1: be clear on what you’re looking for. Step 2: look for roles that allow you to bring your strengths forward in terms of your goals. When people follow their energy, it’s contagious and they bring it with them wherever they go. (See [https://www.greenbiz.com/article/we-recognize-our-purpose-our-thousand-watt-grins](Chris’s article on the "thousand-watt grin" from GreenBiz)).
Chris tells us about his coaching journey and building his practice to focus on sustainability leaders. When he started coaching, he found himself helping people to deal with toxic cultures; this was hard because he couldn’t have an impact on actually improving those cultures. Chris followed the energy to work on his clients’ overall organizational health, working with teams on building healthier environments. Chris also looked at which of the people in his coaching brought him the most energy and saw that they all had sustainability in common. He enjoys working with people whose “why” is tied to the overall health of our world.
In his journey, Chris was told that “purpose isn’t an exact address, it’s a neighborhood.” You don’t need to name it, you just need to work towards a moving target that changes with our knowledge and experience.
Lastly, we tap into "values discovery." Brene Brown’s list of values is a great place to start exploring what is most important to us. It’s good to know who we are, and then to explore a company’s written and unwritten values, and how they hold themselves accountable to their values. If their values prevent you from living your values, it’s just not a fit. Make sure you can show up as your authentic self.