Is it a good thing to build a work culture and environment where there is a sense of excitement? Is work even the appropriate place to have a constant buzz that is generated by my leader and perpetuated by the rest of us? Should we need the energy that excitement brings with it or should we be able to find that sort of drive from within? Simply put: What is the role of excitement in high performing teams?
I wondered whether my uncertainty about the topic of excitement was actually a reflection of my generation: Would a Millennial (born c.1980-2000ish!) even think to ask such a question at all? Don’t you young-guns out there live for the buzz and wouldn't you want to be working in a job that provides its fair share of excitement? Then I reflected on the many Millennial leaders that I know and they don’t all crave excitement at work any more than I did (note the tense I’ve used here … we’re coming to that). In this post we’ll explore the concept of excitement in the workplace, especially through the lens of leadership.
Serious vs committed
Like many of you, I would guess, I was raised to respect authority - unquestioningly - and also to view work as a place where serious endeavour and application were rewarded in an idealised meritocracy. Yes, I know: Well-intentioned but naive. It was also the legacy of the the last vestiges of the Victorian work-ethic coursing through my genes.
Much of this hard-work ethic was helpful of course but the thing that it also prompted as a by-product, was that I found it hard to do anything other than find work an incredibly serious place. In my early career I was always careful not to be seen to be enjoying myself because I was surrounded by my own leaders and managers, who viewed work similarly to the way I did: All work and no play. This is how it’s supposed to be. This is our lot.
But there is a serious flaw in the way leaders are thinking if 'deadly-serious' is the over-riding organisational tone: It assumes that a ‘serious’ environment is the same as (or at least produces) a committed attitude. When I look back on it now, I worked hard but I’m not so sure I was actually as ‘committed’ as my level of furrowed-brow would have suggested I was. I was simply trying to show that I took the work seriously - which I did. I just wonder if I would have been even more committed if there had been a little more excitement.
The inspirational leader
Reflecting further, I came to recognise that I was not very keen on leaders that made a lot of noise, tried to shift me from my current state against my will and constantly threw the limelight back onto themselves. The “whoopers and the hollerers” were not thoughtful or serious enough in my view, to lead effectively and I certainly did not want to lead in that way when I got my turn.
And with hundreds of meetings over the last 17 years with highly effective leaders under my belt, I’m even more convinced that ‘fluff’ doesn’t cut it. All noise and no substance is not leadership, at best it’s cheerleading; at worst it’s inefficient and patronising. But I’m equally sure that a sterile environment that fails to seize opportunities for building genuine excitement about whatever is trying to be achieved, is not leadership either. At best it’s controlling; at worst, it fails to maximise the parts of being human that excels and produces incredible results when energised to do so.
Inspiring leadership is less about leading the company song every morning (you’ve got one of those, right?) than it is communicating a vision of what the business, function or team is going to achieve. Usually that needs to be something significant and worthy of others giving themselves over to. It needs to be something I can engage with at a visceral level and in order for me to do that I need to be excited enough to throw all my energies into it: Inspire me with that type of excitement and you will get both: A serious approach to the results and a highly committed attitude to the work.
As my leader, you win through a thoughtful application of excitement.
Performance Edge help develop leaders who are serious about their work but not so serious about themselves ... If that sounds like the sort of leadership bench you want to grow, we can help. Contact us here.