The Eyes of a Leader: The Drain Model

Happy New Year! One of my favorite parts of January (aside from my birthday!) is hanging up a pristine new calendar and seeing the big blank year ahead of me. It’s a little like holding the New Year’s clean slate right in my hands, just waiting to be written. As I jot down the birthdays and family get togethers, I also take an afternoon to frame up a larger view of what I’d like to accomplish in the year ahead. My husband and I sit down with last year’s calendar, review accomplishments and set backs, and then make new goals for the next year. It’s one of my favorite afternoons of the year.

The turning of the calendar to January 2016 usually has everyone setting goals for the new year ahead. I’m curious, when you set your 2016 goals, did you also identify what might get in the way of achieving your goals? I’m guessing that most of you did not do this. This is not a common practice like goal setting. I’d like to introduce you to a concept called the Drain Model that we teach in our Personify Leadership course. This model helps leaders look at their goals and vision and proactively identify potential drains that may take energy, either yours or the team’s, away from the goal.

Drs. Carl Larson and Frank LaFasto conducted an in-depth study at The University of Denver during which they interviewed over 6,000 team members and leaders to identify exactly what it is that makes teams work well. The result of their research led to the publishing of their book, “When Teams Work Best,” as well as the introduction of their Drain Model, part of which we will discuss now. We’ll talk about why it’s called the Drain Model shortly.

One of the key findings in their study was this idea of energy and focus. Larson and LaFasto describe the team’s energy in three ways: Mental, Physical and Spiritual.

  • Mental energy represents your knowledge, expertise and intellectual horsepower.
  • Physical energy is pretty straight forward. It is your stamina, your body exerting the energy needed to do the job.
  • They describe Spiritual energy as something that really tends to get overlooked in team dynamics: your emotional energy, motivation, desire and team spirit. These are all things that are inspired from you as a leader.  Leaders can require mental and physical energy of their people, but spiritual energy is not something we can demand. It is inspired.

Two things must happen in order for an individual or a team to reach their goals. First, the goal has to be very clear. If the goal is not clear it will be tough to align your energy or your team’s energy. Second, you need all three types of energy focused on the goal to be successful.

Let’s revisit the energy and goal model. At any given time during the year, leaders and teams will encounter challenges and set-backs.  This is a fact, but that does not mean we need to have as many as we do. Larson and LaFasto defined these set-backs as drains. Drains are the things that pull our mental, physical and spiritual energy away from the goal. When drains occur they will derail your success and dilute and deflate your effectiveness.

Taking a look at your 2016 goals.  Can you proactively identify potential drains that may take your energy away from achieving your goals?  I encourage you to go back through your goals and list out what some of your potential drains might be.  Find someone who can be your Accountability Partner throughout the year and share your goals for 2016 with them.  Meet with them on a regular basis, even if it is a weekly text message to see how you are progressing.  Here’s to a successful 2016!!

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