Racing heart. Stage fright. I’m standing at the bottom of a small staircase behind the festival stage, which is about to put my band and me in the spotlight. Thousands of people are standing expectantly and bawling in front of the stage. Suddenly I get weak in the knees – and I ask myself, as I do before every gig: How the hell are we going to take the people out there with us and inspire them?
Most of the time, this concern was unfounded. Most of the time, we were able to win the audience over. Almost 13 years later, looking at old band photos, I recently asked myself why that was. Were the songs that good? They certainly weren’t world hits, but we celebrated them. Were we the best in terms of craftsmanship? Certainly not, but we didn’t care. In retrospect, it became clear that we could always win people over when we were at work with genuine enthusiasm, and you felt that we loved what we were doing. It was always then that the spark jumped over.
Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882)
Applied to business, this means that just because a company has the best products on the market and can pay the best salaries, that doesn’t mean it can attract the best talent. Of course, a strong employer brand helps. Of course, good salaries help. Of course, a strong recruiting team helps. But that alone is not enough. Suppose the people in a company are not convinced and enthusiastic about what they do. Why should the talent on the job market be? As a talent, I can sense whether my possible future manager is passionate about their job in the first interview at the latest.
I have also been infected by sincere enthusiasm. By my co-founder Miriam Mertens. Ultimately, her authenticity and her enthusiasm for people-centered leadership persuaded me to found DeepSkill with her – instead of possibly starting another venture. So I, too, caught fire for our shared mission to make the world of work more human. And I am firmly convinced that our employees feel our enthusiasm and thus begin to burn for our idea themselves.
Leadership is an action, not a position.
It is not only musicians and founders who are responsible for inspiring their audience or team for the work and the company and binding them emotionally. Managers also have to master this vital task. According to the Gallup Study 2020, emotional attachment is an important success factor because this attachment implies that the employee is committed to the employer of their own free will. The higher the number of “enthusiastic” team members, the higher the company’s performance and competitiveness.
The study also found that the manager and the lived leadership culture are the key levers for emotional commitment. It is, therefore, important for managers to question themselves. And as a company, it is important to invest in the emotional skills of managers and junior managers.
If musicians can turn people into fans, why shouldn’t founders & executives be able to do the same?
I am firmly convinced: founders and managers can attract talent more strongly than the best employer brand – and turn them into enthusiastic team members through enthusiasm and authenticity. As a musician, I learned that you win fans over when you are authentic and honest.
Just as individuals should not contort themselves to be someone they are not, leadership should not be standardized. Every manager must be prepared to find their leadership style and simultaneously communicate their values and the values of the corporate culture transparently to the outside world. Nothing confuses an employee more than when the manager does not live the established corporate values. This discrepancy causes them to turn away from the company.
Enthusiasm is contagious.
We live in many different social structures and can therefore be strongly influenced by them. The good news is that just as you can be influenced, you can make a big difference, especially at the leadership level.
My three key takeaways on this:
1. Emotions are key: joy and motivation in the task are contagious, not deterrents. The energy that a leader exudes significantly determines the performance and mood of the team.
2. Cooperation instead of competition: enthusiasm does not only arise from within but is primarily characterized by interpersonal interaction. Common goals and values strengthen team cohesion and trust. This creates the opportunity to allow emotionality and to feel enthusiasm for one’s tasks.
3. Room to grow: maintaining enthusiasm requires many opportunities for further development. These should also be anchored in the corporate environment.
Every job interview is a chance to get someone excited about you and your company.
Indeed, not every management job is suitable for someone genuinely enthusiastic about it. And not everyone can choose the job for which they are passionate. But what is worth trying is to recognize the added value in one’s actions for others, the customers. And to derive a positive attitude from this. And, because of the war for talent, above all, to be aware of this: Every conversation with a potential employee is a stage where I have the chance to inspire someone for my company and me. And in the end, that makes all the difference and becomes a decisive competitive advantage in the race for talent.