“I’m at 5%” and Other Ways to Say The We Are “Running On Fumes”

By Catherine Lang-Cline

You have an important call and you look down on your cell phone and it says that you are at 5% for battery life. How does that make you feel?

You are on a long road trip in the middle of nowhere and you pass the first exit with a gas stop that you have seen in a while, only to see your gas light come on. What are you going to do?

When things occur like this, it triggers panic. We are not at our best. That phone call is either going to be very rushed or we need to find a cord and a place to plug-in. That drive suddenly got very interesting as we are going to hope for the best with the next exit or find a place to turn around and head back to get some gas. 

That brings us to…us. What do we do when our battery is low? Do we immediately look for a recharge or a refuel? Or do we keep pushing on and hoping for the best? Or do we rush and not do our best? What about our teams, what are they doing? 

Right now we are all in a pandemic, an economic crisis, some have to teach their children at home, as well as many more things taking away our energy. It might be time to check our batteries. It might be time to ask our team if they are running low on fuel. We all know if you ask “how are you doing?” the response will be, “I’m fine.” Instead try, “Let’s do a battery check. What level would you say that you are at today?”  Accept any answer that they are willing to give you. Keep asking, because you might see it change based on the day. This will help you as a manager know who is working at full-power, or with a full tank, and who might be struggling. If they are struggling…that’s right, they are not able to give 100%.

As leaders, if our teams are struggling with energy, it is our job to help where we can. It might be as easy as allowing them time to refuel. Make sure that they are taking a lunch break, if they are balancing home and work can you shift their hours or offer them more freedom in completing tasks? Does some responsibility need to be temporarily removed? This is all temporary, and if the person is a great employee, it is worth trying to keep them. Even if they have to trim down on their hours.

We have been asking our teams to do a lot and they do appreciate that they have jobs and want to do well. We also have to remember that they may not run at the same speed as we do and might also be dealing with things that we are unaware of. Rather than trying to drain them of that last bit of energy be aware they will perform better with a refuel or a recharge.

Finally, let’s talk to those that manage people. As managers, we also need to be fully aware of our fuel level. It is the only way that we can do our best work. Is it getting low? Take a few minutes to recharge. Driving on fumes? Hop off on that exit and refuel, stretch your legs, maybe take a little walk. Our teams rely on us for a lot and we need to be as close to 100% as possible, even though our energy gets drained quicker with more responsibility. So throughout your day, check the levels, and work as strong as ever.