Elmer entered his office as he had every Monday morning.  He shared cordial ‘good mornings’ with his administrative assistant and Chuck, one of his sales people, as he made his way to his office.  While the day seemed normal by all accounts, Elmer felt out of sorts.  He noticed something that he couldn’t quite identify.  There was a quiet in the office.

Elmer had started his engineering firm five years ago, designing exterior lighting systems for municipalities.  His company  started with a bang and quickly developed enough momentum to hire 5-engineers, 2-sales people and an administrator.  After losing a recent contract to a competitor, Elmer was getting concerned that their startup firm had lost its luster.  The quiet in his office seemed to reflect this.  While his engineers were busy working with some current clients, they would dawn their headphones and disconnect from the rest of the world.  His sales reps seemed to be busy, but he never heard them talking with customers on the phone; and he noticed their calendars did not seem to be full of appointments.  His administrative assistant seemed like she was making work to do, but really wasn’t that busy.

Elmer decided to give Coach Russ a call.  Russ was a business coach that Elmer had used when he first started his business.  Elmer felt like Russ may be able to better diagnose exactly what was going on in his office.  Maybe he could inject the ambition he was missing from his startup days.

After the small-talk, Russ asked, “What’s prompted you to call me, Elmer?”

Elmer responded, “I don’t know how to say this.  I walked into the office today, and the atmosphere seems BLAH.”

“What do you think has contributed to the BLAH?”

“I really don’t know.  I was hoping that you could help me with that.”

“Let me ask you.  Would you say the overall energy level is low in your office?”

“Yes.  That’s it.  Our energy level is low.  It must be that I’m not motivating my people, right?”

“You know as well as I, that employers can’t be held responsible for motivating their employees.  However, it’s your responsibility to create an energized environment.”

Elmer chuckled, “What do you mean?  Am I supposed to electrify the air or something?”

“Yes… something like that.  Let’s meet and I’ll fill you in on how you can energize your workplace.”


Coach Russ and Elmer met at a local coffee shop to talk further.

Elmer started, “I think you nailed it, Russ.  We have low energy in our office.  I have to be honest… I think this low energy may be coming from me.  I just don’t know if I’m the right guy to energize my workplace.”

Russ responded, “As I mentioned over the phone, you can’t force anyone to increase or decrease their level of motivation or energy.  As the leader, you can create an energized environment.”

“I’m curious to hear more about this energized environment.  How, exactly do I create such an environment?”

“First, let’s get straight on what I mean by ENERGY.  Make sense?”

“Sure.”

“There are five levels of energy that are most relevant to business owners.  The lowest level of energy is called Victim Energy.  This shows up as a type of entitlement energy. Employers can exhibit this level of energy by feeling they are being controlled by their employees.  Employees exhibit this level of energy when they expect to have benefits, high compensation, time off and all sorts of perks as an entitlement. Do you think this energy level exists in any part of your firm?”

“I think my sales people may be showing some of this.  They tell me it’s impossible for them to make sales at our current price structure.  In yet, a recent competitor just won an opportunity we were competing for with a higher price than ours.”

Russ smiled, “Interesting.  What did you say to your sales people about this?”

Elmer said, “I really didn’t feel like I would help them by pointing it out. They’d worked hard to win this deal; and I didn’t want to rub in the loss.”

“Alright.  How are your sales people trying to recover from this loss?”

“I don’t know.  I looked at their calendars and they don’t seem to have too many appointments set up to gain new customers.”

“Got it.  What did you say to your sales people about this revelation of no appointments?”

“I haven’t talked to them yet.  I was angry when I first noticed this, and felt like I needed to calm down before I talked with them.”

“Got it.  I don’t want to get too deep into this one issue.  Let me describe the other four levels of energy.  The second lowest level of energy is called Conflict Energy.  It is the anger you felt when you saw the lacking appointments on your sales people’s calendars.”

Elmer looked confused, “Are you saying that anger is better than being passive?”

“You have to remember here, that I am talking about energy levels.  If you are angry, that shows that you care.  If you are a victim, you have accepted defeat and have disconnected.   While Conflict Energy is a step up from Victim Energy, it is still a relatively low level of energy.  Unfortunately, it is the most common form of energy found in our modern workplace.”

“I’m curious to hear what energy levels are next.”

“The third level of energy is called Acceptance Energy.  People who use this energy are great at coping with external activities and moving forward.  This coping may be ignoring a person with a difficult personality or finding a way to succeed regardless of other obstacles.”

“Wow!  It seems if our firm got to this level, we’d be doing pretty good.”

“There’s no question that you would be doing great if everyone in your office operated at Acceptance Energy.  Let me introduce you to the last two levels of energy.  The fourth level of energy is Compassion Energy.  You can create business success by caring for coworkers, employees, and customers.”

“I’m not sure I like this one.  What if we give up everything to satisfy customers and end up losing money as a company?”

Russ chuckled, “Having compassion for others doesn’t mean that you have to lose in any way.  This is the type of thinking that exists with Conflict Energy.  The idea that in order for you to win, someone else has to lose.”

“Isn’t that the way business works?  Isn’t there always a winner and a loser?”

“Sadly, too many in business owners think this way.  Let me ask you, ‘Who benefits when you win a contract to design a municipality’s lighting system?”

Elmer thought for a minute and then responded, “I guess the municipality wins because they are getting professionally design lighting.  We win because we are getting money to perform the work. And, or competitors lose because they did not get picked to do the project.”

“When I talk about Compassion Energy, I’m talking about having empathy for all involved and acting in a way that benefits those you are thinking about.  A sales person who has strong empathy for their customer will often win accounts.  If the sales person is interested in a big commission check; and not listening to customer’s stated needs, they’ll try to win by boasting about features that don’t even matter to the customer.”

Elmer interrupted, “Darn it!  I think this may have been exactly what happened on our last proposal.  How can I get my sales people to get Compassion Energy?”

Russ smiled, “I’ll let you know how you can shift the energy level of all of your people in a minute.  Let me describe the fifth level of energy.  This is the level that I want all of my business owner clients and their employees to strive for.  This fifth level of energy is called Opportunity Energy.  The core thought at this level is Win/Win.  People operating at this level will see positive opportunities even in losses.”

“Are you saying that we can find an opportunity in our most recent loss?”

“Of course.  Have your sales people contacted the customer they just lost and asked what they could have done to win the account?”

“My sales people told me that the competitor had a relationship with the mayor and that’s why they won.”

Russ smiled, “If that was true, then what should your sales people be doing?”

“I guess they should be making relationships of their own.”

“You see?  Always an opportunity.  That’s the fifth level.  It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you should always know from your customer exactly why.”

“If level five is where you want all of your clients, why do you bother with all of the other levels.  Why not just say, Opportunity Energy is the way to go; and then have them focus on one thing, instead of all of the rest of the levels?”

“Great question.  The reality is that while you may want to strive for higher levels of energy, it may be more appropriate to use lower levels as well.”

“Are you kidding me?  How can I know which ones to use and when?”

“Whenever you have a key decision to make, you need to consider five different options through five different energy levels.  I call this exercise, ‘climbing the ladder’.  We’ve been talking a lot about this sale you most recently lost.  Tell me, what your proposal would have looked like at each different level of energy?”

“I suppose at Victim Energy, we wouldn’t have made a proposal because we would have already given up.  At Conflict Energy, we would have compared our advantages and highlighted the disadvantages of our competitor.  Actually, I think this is what we did.  At Acceptance Energy, we may have focused more on our advantages and avoided highlighting any disadvantages of our competition.  At Compassion Energy, we would have focused more specifically on the needs of the customer and how our solutions would make life easier for the folks at the municipality.  At Opportunity Energy, we would have discussed more about how a partnership between our firm and their municipality would extend quite a bit beyond the lighting project they were contemplating.”

“Great job, Elmer.  How do you think your sales team will do in the future, if they were to start thinking about these various energy levels?”

“I think they may laugh at me for suggesting such a thing.”

“That may be…. but if it made them more successful, I’m guessing they’d start taking energy more seriously.”

“I suppose.  Russ, I appreciate what you’ve taught me today about energy levels, but I’m not quite sure how any of this will help motivate my staff.”

Russ smiled, “As I said before, you don’t motivate your staff.  All you need to do is have the same conversation I had with you and get them to be aware of how their thinking is setting the overall energy in the workplace.  No employee wants to come to a low-energy workplace.  They want their workplace to be energized just as much as you do.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if your sales people filled their calendars with relationship-building appointments without you asking them?”

“Of course it would.”

“If you introduced your sales people to these energy concepts, which level do you think they would choose?”

“I suppose they would choose level five…. especially, if they felt it would earn them higher commission checks.”

“If they choose, then you don’t have to dictate.  Right?”

“You’re right, Russ.  The energy level in our office would rise because my staff would start choosing to think and act at higher energy levels.”

“You got it.”


Elmer was excited about his new found information.  He invited Coach Russ to give his energy talk to his entire staff.  He was surprised at how differently he and the rest of his staff started acting once they started using the ‘climbing the ladder’ exercise on a regular basis.  It seemed like his staff was more engaged in their work; and he could feel the level of energy had changed at the office.  He routinely heard his sales people having great conversations with prospects who were excited to hire Elmer’s firm to design their lighting systems.  Even his engineers were taking off their headphones to engage in sales strategy meetings with sales people.  Elmer’s office was energized, and all he had to do was educate his people on five simple energy levels.


As a business coach, I help my business owner clients change their mindset in a way that allows them the freedom and profitability they have always hoped for, but never thought possible.  I write weekly blog posts just like this one; and am developing a robust online training system for business owners.   If you want to stay up to date with all of the cool stuff that is going on at Jeff Schuster Business Coaching and receive two awesome business coaching tools, sign up here.


Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster.  I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”.  I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace.  I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013.  I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.