Energy Boost

I sit in an old German Brauhaus on the outskirts of Frankfurt with Martin, the European General Manager of a global manufacturing firm, and our talk quickly settles on members of his staff.

“Sabine, your assistant, was immensely helpful to me all day,” I let him know.

Martin chuckles and says. “You know, I inherited her from my predecessor.” I know the history behind this comment. When Martin became GM, he inherited quite a few folks who did not perform all that well.

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Please indulge a little travel metaphor.

If you’ve ever flown Singapore Airlines, you know. The flight attendants pamper you from the second you board. They make you feel cherished.

If you’ve ever flown Spirit Air – uhuh, you have experienced the dark side of travel. A calculated disregard for your well-being from the moment you arrive. No effort – truly none – to put you in a joyful state of mind.

Imagine that every day, as you rush from meeting to phone call to networking lunch to yet another meeting, you are your own inner flight attendant. So – which airline are you flying? Spirit, or Singapore Air?

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As we excavate our salads, sitting on the porch of Ft. Lauderdale’s Riverside Hotel, Marge Schiller slips me a copy of her book.

“Inscribe it, please,” I beg. I’m a fan of appreciative inquiry, and I am tickled to receive a copy of Marge’s Appreciative Leaders: In the Eye of the Beholder.

Let’s “plerk” together and see what happens, the inscription reads.

Plerk – that’s play and work, Marge, right?

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My professional life began in showbiz. First time I got a job in “the real world,” I was in my mid-thirties. Trainer for a Social Services Agency in New York City. And I had this very real fear: What would it be like to work with “these people” in the real world? Showbiz had been a culture of play; was I about to rot in a culture of drudgery?

Surprise! “These people” were fun. Heck, our meetings were a lot more fun than any of the meetings we ever had in my theatre life!

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You know who they are, right?

They hurtle toward you at a party, corner you in the hall. Ramble on about something or other, whining complaining joyless stressed. Rabid narcissism in extravagant bloom, venom raging under a veneer of social grace. On and on and on they go, and not a word they say interests you …

Yep. They’re the energy vampires, sucking you dry.

A minute or two in their presence, and you feel your spirit shrink, life draining right out of your soul.

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“He’s my absolutely favorite client,” Dan Oropesa, the Relationship Manager at my firm, proclaims with great conviction as we sit at the computer, charting the next few months of my life.

He’s talking about Rich, the head of a large securities firm, a fellow I coach.

Here’s the part I want you to get: Dan has never met Rich, never even spoken with him on the phone. This is a business relationship charged solely by emails to schedule appointments. The ridiculously mundane stuff of conducting business.

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I travel a bit in my work. This often means that someone else is driving me.

Early on a Sunday morning, the sky is clear and the sun already bright. I listen to a tale my driver, Lance, tells me as we zoom North on I-405 from Laguna Niguel.

I often stand at LAX, waiting to pick up a passenger, Lance, a retired air force pilot, explains. I stand in the baggage claim area, hold up the name sign, and nobody sees me. They walk by, their faces glued to their smartphones. Yesterday, I saw a woman walk right by me five times. Back and forth.

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“I’m not an aesthetics guy,” Brian Murphy says as we start a skype call.

Brian’s the VP of a Manufacturing Company. He makes this observation because I just noted the motivational poster that hangs on the wall behind him. Brian proceeds to tell me about the moment when Phyllis, the head of HR, first dropped in to visit his new office. “She didn’t say anything,” Brian chuckles, “but I could tell by the frown on her face that I better do something with this space.”

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Five past noon, and I slide into a seat at the Sakurabana sushi bar in Boston’s Financial District. Two ladies sit to my right. Robed in flawless corporate couture, they hurl comments back and forth with the lightning speed of ping pong champs. Their volleys are ferocious, intense. Here’s a comment that leaps out:

“But she’s CRAZY!” the lady sitting to my immediate right says to the other one.

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Here’s a world record that grabbed my attention. On September 1, 2011, George Lee Andrews left the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera after continuously appearing in a principal role since it first opened on January 26, 1988. 23 years. That makes Andrews the longest-running performer in a single show in Broadway history.

Whew. I hear that thumping Andrew Lloyd Webber score now, anesthetizing my brain. 8 shows a week, 23 years. I think I would have gone stark raving mad!

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