Turning The Switch "ON"


Recently, my 87 year old mother in law gave me a laugh with the reflection that she “had to be on” at the church bazaar that day and it was tiring her out. Similarly, anyone in a leadership role or in a client-facing position feels this same pressure to be “on” on a daily basis.


But what does it actually mean to be “on”? Well, in the case of my mother in law, she knows she needs to be on for those events that are important to her and at which she strives to make a good impression. The same goes in the business world. People can tell when you are on, and they can tell when you’re not. For those in a leadership role, your behaviors will set the tone for your team and I’m sure you will agree that any good leader strives to be surrounded by a team of engaged individuals.


Take a moment to consider the behaviors of the people you interact with regularly in your professional and social circles and you will know what I mean. The people whom you identify as “always on” are likely those who maintain a high level of energy throughout your interaction, whether it is a meeting, a presentation, or a one-on-one conversation. They are completely focused and show their interest in the topic by listening and posing meaningful questions. And let’s not forget the importance of non-verbal communication. Many studies have been conducted in this regard but at its simplest form, maintaining eye contact and displaying confident and open/welcoming posture (standing tall, arms uncrossed) will go a long way in making a positive impression.


It’s human nature to want to interact with individuals who are energetic, passionate and engaged. In fact, it’s almost addictive to be around someone who seems to be “always on”. These individuals get you excited about the topic they are discussing and have a way of making you want to be involved. In contrast, we tend to avoid individuals who present themselves as disengaged and uninterested. A conversation with someone who is not “on” will have little impact on your day and will be quickly forgotten. In a client-service industry, “being on” can mean the difference between making or breaking a deal.


Being “on” does not come easily for everyone and even those for whom it comes naturally may find it physically and mentally exhausting. It’s important to understand your communication style and be yourself in your interactions. If you attempt to fake it, it will come across as such. For example, if you are quiet by nature, you can project your energy and passion in a meeting or while discussing a certain topic while maintaining your quiet, calm demeanor.


With increasing demands being placed on individuals at work and at home, it’s important to personally reflect on when it’s important for you to be on and to set yourself on a path that will ensure you can be successful in that regard. Allowing yourself time to recharge your battery will create the internal space required to be on when it is needed. Strategies for this can include:


  • Allowing yourself to flick the switch to “off”. Take some time at the end of each day to set work aside and take part in an activity that you enjoy, whether it is a sporting activity, reading, cooking, or simply spending some quiet moments with your family.


  • Scheduling regular breaks from work every quarter. This could be a adding a couple of days to create an extra-long weekend, or taking a week of vacation. What’s important is not the length of time, but that you completely disconnect from work.


  • Building a strong team and delegating where possible. This will empower those around you and will allow you to put your focus where it most needs to be.


  • Saying no. Take some time to reflect on your goals and clearly define your priorities. When activities and events take you away from them, respect your own boundaries.


In today’s world, being “on” will differentiate you and set you apart as a leader. It will allow you to set the right tone for your team, and get people excited about what you have to offer. If my 87 year old mother in law can do it, so can you.