First class coach

I'm on my company's career fast-track and have been regarded as a bit of a whizzkid up to now, but recently I've lost my oomph.

by Miranda Kennett
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I don't seem to feel very motivated and energetic. How can I recapture my past form?

'What is a man without energy? Nothing - nothing at all,' says Mark Twain, and you are right to be concerned that you are not your former high-energy self.

There are lots of reasons why people lose their professional sparkle.

I'm sure you can get yours back, but whether in the same job or at the same company depends on the root cause of this drop in performance. I suggest some detective work to establish what is having this negative effect on you. Try to pinpoint the time when things started to go wrong.

Was it something specific relating to your job, your boss, or the company?

One of my clients identified his reduced job satisfaction as dating from the time when he stopped being a graduate trainee and became just another manager. As a trainee, he'd felt part of a group with a particular identity and status; he had frequent contact with his manager and with learning and development professionals, and regular feedback on his performance.

He'd also received training and was moved around within the organisation to gain experience of different jobs, which kept his interest strong.

Now that he was a manager, few of these satisfiers were available, and he didn't find his senior status and improved remuneration a substitute.

His job was not stretching him and he felt stuck.

Recognising what had happened and that he needed to be the one in charge of his career was helpful. Having a conversation with his boss on his current performance and what could be in store for him if he continued to develop satisfactorily also provided him with some motivating goals.

Although he still looks on his trainee years as a great time in his career, he recognises that high job satisfaction is still possible, and that a greater level of responsibility can bring greater influence and autonomy.

I've also worked recently with the CEO of a company that, after many successful years, was experiencing a downturn. He took the company's poor performance personally, despite the fact that market conditions had strongly contributed to the decline in its fortunes. Harsh comments from his global bosses added to his self-criticism and sent him into a downward spiral of self-doubt that began to affect his performance. When I first met him he was on the verge of resigning.

When we talked over what was going on, it emerged that he'd had no recent pay review, bonus or, more importantly, appraisal from his boss and did not know what the organisation's view of him was. Given their disappointment with the figures, he assumed that he was poorly rated. Assumptions are dangerous, so I arranged for him to get written feedback. When it arrived we looked at it together, making sure he took on board what others valued in him, as well as the ways in which they felt he held himself and the company back, and we reviewed their development suggestions.

He was pleasantly surprised by what he read: there were definite strengths he could build on. We also established that he was overdue a conversation about pay. He engineered one and found he was entitled to a payment, which he duly received. The result was a greatly cheered individual who was ready to start applying his energy and enthusiasm again to the task of turning the company round.

The good thing about the source of demotivation deriving from identifiable shortcomings in our working lives is that we can choose to change them, either within the current organisation or by moving to a more appropriate job. When the lack of oomph relates to our personal lives, easy solutions are harder to come by. For example, the death of a parent, the birth of a child, the beginning or end of a significant relationship ... all these can cause us to re-evaluate our work and its importance. If your personal priorities have shifted, you may need to accept that work will no longer be the driving force in your life, and change your work to reflect your revised priorities more closely.

Perhaps you can't put your malaise down to something specific. It's possible your de-energised state is the result of an accumulation of small dissatisfactions.

If so, I can recommend my colleague Bill Ford's recent book High Energy Habits. It's full of useful tips and techniques for boosting our energy supplies.

Energy is not finite and many factors can amplify and diminish it. Determining what these are is the first step towards regaining your sparkle, and even to shining more brightly in the future.

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