Engage Your Enthusiasm

It seems that we’re supposed to be enthusiastic about everything these days. Social media posts show smiling people doing wonderful things, all day every day. But, realistically, a person can’t be enthusiastic about everything. Some days we have a hard time being enthusiastic about anything. Without getting overly philosophical, we really ought to be able to be enthusiastic about our jobs, given how much time we spend there and how big a part of our lives they are. This is especially true if we are in executive positions.

As an executive, you are the leader of your unit or organization, and you will set the emotional tone for the people with whom you work. If you tend to be pessimistic about what is going on in the business and outside in the bigger world, that attitude will filter down to everyone else. You might see a lot of scowls, poor performance, and even resignations. But if you’re optimistic about the future and the possibilities for the organization, others will sense your enthusiasm and mirror it. You are likely to see people taking informed risks, performing above expectations, and associates who want to transfer into your unit.

This enthusiasm is called “Engagement,” because you are emotionally and actively engaged with your job, the business, and opportunities for the future. Your engagement level will probably fluctuate somewhat over time, but it should be especially strong during times of change. Change is usually difficult for people and others will look to you to initiate enthusiasm for how the change will improve their lives.

If you tend to be naturally enthusiastic about everything you do, congratulations! But if you, like most people, struggle at times to be as engaged as you know you need to be, here are a few tips that might help.

  • Check your work/life balance. Are you regularly working far more hours a week than you really can maintain? If so, you might need to change your priorities for a while until you regain your enthusiasm for your work. Also, if you’re expecting your staff to work 50-80 hours a week on a regular basis, you will probably be dealing with retention issues. Cutting back expectations to a more manageable level will probably help everyone on your team to be more engaged.

  • Instead of always thinking about how difficult everything is, remember those initiatives of yours that have succeeded. You would not have been promoted to an executive position if your initiatives had regularly failed. So, for a few minutes every day, remember your successes and tell yourself that you can succeed again.

  • Develop a support network to help each other through difficult times. This might mean reaching out to your peers in other parts of the organization and scheduling regular meetings to discuss your ongoing struggles and successes at work. Chances are that, if you are struggling, others are, too, and you can help each other.

  • Consider what has happened to lower your level of engagement. Once you discover what changed, you might need to do something to help the situation. This might involve talking with a person whom you find difficult to deal with about the circumstances, scaling back on the number of change initiatives your team is undertaking at any one time, or letting go of some aspects of your job that you find overly difficult or frustrating.

  • Consider how you truly feel about your job or organization at this time. If you can’t find a way to increase your engagement level, you might need to consider stepping aside as leader or making some other major change. Your team deserves a leader who is enthusiastic about the future, just as you deserve a job that excites you. Once you are honest with yourself, you will be able to make the changes that are necessary to revive your enthusiasm.

Effective leaders are enthusiastic about their work, and this enthusiasm and drive inspire others to perform at increasingly high levels. Enthusiasm will often turn difficult situations around, and optimism is contagious. No one is enthusiastic all the time, but, given some thought and effort, you can increase your engagement and therefore, your effectiveness.  

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