After a busy holiday season, January and February may bring some relief to retail executives and their employees. However, these months are also a critical time for leaders to motivate their teams and get them ready for another great year.

Good Leaders Manage Team Energy

One of the most important ways a leader can create a productive environment is to manage the team’s “energy.” No matter the season, there are peaks and valleys of work. Good leaders acknowledge this fact, and when teams know that a leader expects highs and lows, they’re more prepared to push when needed.

Leaders also know that, as individuals, different people carry different types and amounts of energy, which can affect the dynamics of the entire group. Demonstrating an awareness of people’s varying strengths and weaknesses is part of energy management.

An effective leader manages a team’s energy across different settings: within the team, during one-on-one meetings, out on the sales floor, or on the phone. Because there’s no one formula for energy management, the leader needs to navigate each of those settings and provide different aspects of the trust and group dynamics as needed.

Therefore, an effective leader sets up environments where people can show up, share their thoughts, disagree, and offer different points of view and be heard. The leader or manager is there to de-escalate energy in the heat of a tough customer engagement, or to allow it to get intense if it’s needed – while always bringing it back to a place of productivity. This is important if you don’t want your people to burn out and instead maintain a consistently high rate of quality work and goal achievement.

Think of it like a cycling workout. Giving 100 percent effort during the five-minute warmup doesn’t bode well for handling the hills and higher gears. But if you manage the major exertions of energy and take time to rest in between intervals, then it’s much more likely you’ll maintain a good output level where you don’t want to quit.

Teams at work need the same kind of energy management.

Strategies for Managing Energy Across the Team

Here are some strategies that effective leaders use to manage energy across their teams:

  • They model the behaviors and interpersonal code of conduct that are expected of the team. They set clear codes of conduct – “this is how we act” and “this is how we don’t act” – and then they do just that. Great leaders don’t declare customer experience paramount and then treat prospects poorly.
  • They provide clear, positive, specific guidance and context. Leaders must constantly reinforce goals and values. They’re responsible for articulating the WHY behind an initiative, and also for connecting it to reality for the team. They set the context and expectations for how people will work together.
  • Effective leaders figure out stuff with people, as opposed to for them. They bring the team together and do the work collaboratively, asking questions, making suggestions, listening to others, and helping teams to see the bigger picture. By modeling this behavior, it will continue when the leader is not there.
  • The best leaders show respect and discretion for each team member. When speaking to one team member, they never blame or talk poorly about another team member. Instead, they remain calm, listen, evaluate and reflect on what they have been told. They weigh it against the values or code of conduct, then make a decision in accordance with that code. And then they keep moving forward.

One-on-One Energy Management

Great leaders must also keep the energy intensity at a level that works across all individuals on the team. It’s invisible work in many ways, yet crucial to maintaining productivity. They do this in the following ways:

  • Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on the team, and by connecting an individual’s strengths with her core responsibilities. They don’t put people in a position where their weaknesses will be detrimental to the outcome.
  • Providing care for team members who need it. If a team member has a personal issue, the leader helps with that as well. For example, if someone is stressed about an interaction on the phone or the floor, the leader helps find a solution and brings the intensity of the individual’s energy back to something more stable. The problem is solved together so that the team member returns to a productive mind-set.

Make Energy Management a Principle

Think of energy management less as a task and more as a principle — a keystone in the way a leader operates her business. Team members will fortify and grow their connections with each other and with customers when they know that their leader is aware of how they’re doing, and that space is afforded them to be creative, succeed and make mistakes.

This last item in particular is important: managing energy is key to turning mistakes into learning opportunities. An employee who experiences energy management regularly can be more open (and more likely to grow) in a moment of vulnerability when they know their leader has principles in place but allows her team to try new ideas.

Leaders Must Be Self-Aware

All of these leadership behaviors require awareness of the self. If you have an issue or a personal demon that causes you to lose your cool in front of a team, you need to understand where that comes from, and deal with it. Leaders don’t get to drop the ball on these types of things. They always have to show up, even on the bad days. Sometimes this can be incredibly difficult, but it’s part of what it truly means to be a leader.

Juliana Stancampiano, author of “RADICAL OUTCOMES,” is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Oxygen. For more than 15 years, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies, both in them and for them. Her firm’s clients include Microsoft, DXC, Delta Dental (of WA), Starbucks, F5 Networks, Avaya, and Western Digital, among others. Her in-depth experience, along with the research that Oxygen conducts and the articles she has published, has helped to shape the perspective that Oxygen embraces.