Identifying Energizers and Sappers

Quote of the Week

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
~Vince Lombardi

Identifying Energizers and Sappers

by David Cottrell

In theory, every person on your team is a source of energy for your organization.  But in reality, some team members create energy while others sap or destroy energy.  If you know your team well, you already know which team members are sappers and which ones are the energizers.

High-energy performers test the limits and spur themselves and others on to even greater results.  These are the people who will push you up and add energy to your reservoir.  They spark others to perform.  It’s fun to watch them in action.  A team full of energized people is typically easy to motivate but challenging to manage because their high energy level requires constant direction and focus.

At the other end of the spectrum are the sappers.  You know who they are – they complain and whine, and think of every reason possible why plans and strategies will not work.  They are the people who pull you down and sap your energy.  They blame others for their issues and don’t accept responsibility for what they control.  Their negativity and cynicism effectively sucks out the energy right out of the room.  A team dominated by energy sappers is relatively easy to lead because there is little forward movement or activity.  But it is very challenging to motivate these team members to achieve results because they are content with mediocrity.

Your organizational energy is not the sum of your individuals.  It is dependent on the ratio of energizers to sappers.  If you have more sappers than energizers, the energy will be drained, and in fact the energizers may eventually become sappers.  As unfortunate as it is, a negative, cynical person has a far greater impact on the energy of the team than a positive person.  Adding a positive person does not counter a sapper; in fact it probably takes at least three energizers to counter the energy drained by one sapper (Cottrell, p. 33-34).

Cottrell, D. (2009).  Monday morning motivation: five steps to energize your team, customers, and profits.  New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Reprinted with permission from the OSU Leadership Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, (614) 292-3114,

Coaching Call to Action

This week take some time to look at who you are being both at work and outside of work.  Are they different?  What if you were to align them so that you were being the same in both places?  What will you do more of, keep the same, stop doing?