Monday Mornings with Madison

Enthusiasm: The Best Workplace Contagion

In the book entitled Be Yourself – Discover the Life You Were Meant to Live, author John Mason writes that “Every great and commanding movement in the history of the world incorporated enthusiasm.  Nothing great was or will be achieved without it.”  The poet and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson agreed, saying “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Mason added that, “In a survey, two hundred national leaders were asked what makes a person successful.  Eighty percent (of the respondents) listed enthusiasm as the most important quality.   Some pursue happiness – others create it.  A person who is enthusiastic soon has enthusiastic followers.”

Indeed, enthusiasm is the rocket fuel propelling achievement.  Thus, it is an especially important quality in the workplace and critically important to leadership.  Although many employers value and are impressed by confidence in their employees, enthusiasm is probably more valuable. Unlike confidence which is inwardly focused, enthusiasm is outwardly focused.  While confidence speaks to certainty – perhaps even false certainty – enthusiasm speaks to creativity and joy.  While confidence can come across to others as arrogance, enthusiasm is usually seen as enjoyment.  What’s more, unlike confidence, enthusiasm is highly infectious.  Confidence fuels an individual but enthusiasm fuels a team.  So why isn’t enthusiasm valued more highly?  Why doesn’t every job description start with “Looking for an enthusiastic candidate to….”  And how can a company reward and encourage enthusiasm in the workplace?

The Value of Enthusiasm

Some may see enthusiasm as the cotton candy of personal qualities.  Just as cotton candy is sweet and fun but not very nutritious, enthusiasm is seen as cute but not essential to success.  Indeed, serious people are perceived as sensible and thoughtful, while highly enthusiastic people are seen as vacuous and shallow.  However, enthusiasm is undervalued as a work trait.  Enthusiasm fuels action at work the way the sugar in cotton candy delivers a burst of energy to the body.

Enthusiasm is an attitude; a frame of mind that is exemplified in what a person says and does.  It shows in everything.  Enthusiasm is exemplified by:

  • a joyful tone of voice
  • a positive, open smile
  • upright posture
  • eye contact with others,
  • words that are positive and uplifting to others

When a manager or employee is enthusiastic, colleagues, peers, and management notice.  When that person maintains that same level of enthusiasm over time, it causes others to gravitate toward him.  It is a magnet and it is contagious.  Enthusiastic employees are also fully-engaged employees, and that benefits the company and customers alike.

Increasing Workplace Enthusiasm

If enthusiasm helps to engage and activate employees, then every company should be cultivating employee enthusiasm.  So how does a company nurture enthusiasm within its employees?  Here are some tips.

1. Recruit for Enthusiasm

Identify what makes individuals successful in the company’s culture, and recruit for those skills. The culture will keep them enthusiastic and happy, and exceed all expectations.

2. Engage, Empower, and Enrich Employees

Invite employees to become part of the company’s vision.  Empower them to be a force of change. Ask them to develop solutions to major business issues and give them a role and the responsibility for implementing the solutions.  Offer flexibility in every area —hours, benefits, tasks.  Provide ongoing training and personal development — growth opportunities.  Give employees freedom to choose projects and find challenging work based on interests, skills, and passion.  Provide internal promotion and transfer opportunities.  Employees who feel that they matter and are making a difference are generally enthusiastic.

3. Foster Creativity and Innovation

Beyond simply improving the physical environment, create a workplace that focuses on how people feel.  Gauge the energy in the various departments. How connected do departments and teams feel?  Make changes to ensure that the work environment fuels a positive, uplifting attitude.

4. Appreciate and Reward Employees

Reward employees regularly and meaningfully to create a culture of appreciation.

Encourage fun in the workplace.  Establish a mentoring program. Keep in touch with employees at all levels through face-to-face interactions.  Offer constant informal feedback.  Support frequent contests, celebrations, and teambuilding activities.

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful tools in a leader or manager’s arsenal.  Business leaders can and should leverage enthusiasm to motivate teams and entire organizations to overcome challenges and reach goals, and to keep staff revved and engaged.  Enthusiasm can serve as the fuel that ignites teams to action and delivers success.

Quote of the Week

“Enthusiasm… the sustaining power of all great action.” Samuel Smiles

© 2016, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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