A client asked me today how to protect the enthusiasm in his people. His firm has a ton of it and he has the good sense to recognize its value. The question is apt. How do leaders protect, nurture and keep the energy, passion, and interest of people alive at work? What does it cost to lose enthusiasm?

The hard truth? You can’t buy it, pay people for it, or generate more with pretty posters. But if you lose it, you’ll enter a corporate flat spin.

The more gingerly you treat those who have it, the worse off you are. The more you side-step tough issues for fear of killing it, the worse off you are. The more you placate those who don’t have it…you guessed it, the worse off you are.

What works?

  • Challenge
  • Opportunity
  • Impossible goals
  • Select people who have enthusiasm
  • Remove shackles
  • Stop meddling

Enthusiastic people are motivated. Their energy and drive will be sustained if they have the opportunity and tools to perform and derive a sense of accomplishment.

The most talented and enthusiastic people will leave when they are confined or constrained. Share on X

Companies take the highly motivated person for granted, turning their attention instead to those with mediocre or little motivation. Trying to raise “engagement” scores. This is like trying to stoke a fire by ignoring your best kindling. You can wear yourself out fanning the flames of damp sticks, adding lighter fluid and match after match. But the result is never as good, nor the return on investment so high as when you start with the right stuff in the first place.

When the stakes are high or your goals are grand, you can’t afford to rely on lighter fluid and wadded up newspapers to keep the fires burning bright. Start with the people who have the motivation and the enthusiasm to go after the goals and remove barriers.

I remember a former boss saying “I need to light a fire under you.” Good luck buster, you are the one who doused it. Good thing for me, I had the sense to find a better place.

Are you stoking the fires of enthusiasm or dousing them?

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