Decision Making: The Seven Levels of Energy

February 28, 2013

Decision Making: The Seven Levels of Energy

When it comes to decision making, two questions tend to drive our process: “What’s best for me?” and “What’s best for the organization?” We don’t often consider the way decisions are driven by energy: anabolic (positive) and catabolic (negative). I’ve covered these forms of energy in another post. Today, we’ll explore how they relate to decision making and the Seven Levels of Energy that Bruce Schneider identifies in Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core.


Schneider’s Seven Levels of Energy

  1. I lose
  2. I win and you lose
  3. I win and I hope that you win too
  4. You win
  5. We both win or we don’t continue
  6. Everyone always wins
  7. Winning and losing are irrelevant

Schneider’s first two levels of energy (Level 1: I lose and Level 2: I win and you lose) are purely catabolic. They involve somebody losing–you or another person. The effects of losing are felt by the team. When decisions are made using catabolic energy, teams tend to engage in mistrust, gossip, back-stabbing, sarcasm, anger, victim thinking, and conflict. They not only feel in competition with each other; they feel like others must fail in order for them to succeed.

At Level 3: I win and I hope that you win too, decision making is driven by more positive energy than negative, but both are present. You are focused on your win but would also like the other person to win, too (so long as it doesn’t interfere with your success). As a result, team morale and chemistry is superior to Level 1 and Level 2.

At Level 4: You win, decision making is driven by selflessness. Your priority is to allow others to succeed, without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Naturally, you engender team support with your selflessness, but you stifle your own progress to some degree.

At Level 5: We both win or we don’t continue, you move past ego and the need to be right. You are open to a more global perspective and view everything as an opportunity. Judgement of others, ideas, feelings, etc. is nearly suspended. The team is fully on board with the vision, mission, goals, and objectives. The group’s intuition is given weight and often will drive decisions regardless of the “facts.” Twenty years ago, the facts didn’t really support the Starbucks business plan. Gut-level instinct created the Blue Water opportunity. Great execution kept it going.

At Level 6: Everyone always wins, you and your team fully accept intuition and use it to its fullest. The team functions in near perfect harmony. Ideas, feedback, critique can all be shared in an open and fully transparent environment.

At Level 7: Winning and losing are irrelevant, all judgement is suspended. Absolute passion and unconditional love reside at this level.

What sort of decision making do you and your team members engage in? How might you increase your Energy Level?

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