Want to Improve Morale? Learn from Jimmy Fallon

Last Updated Aug 10, 2011 2:12 PM EDT

Jimmy Fallon loves his job. And it shows!

Given the fact that so often celebrities do more complaining than celebrating, it is refreshing to hear Fallon expound on his career and why he is happy doing comedy. In an interview a few months ago with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, Fallon talked about landing his dream job â€" becoming a cast member on Saturday Night Live. As happy as he was on SNL, he wanted to try other areas such as film, and eventually he got the role of host on NBC's The Late Night.

What caught my attention and stayed in mind ever since is Fallon's sheer enthusiasm for what he does. He loves to make people laugh and he likes being a member of a creative team, working with writers and honing his craft.

That is a good lesson for anyone in management: Share your enthusiasm for what you do!

Life is tough, goes the adage, but work does not need to be so hard all the time. Research I have conducted for a forthcoming book reveals that employees look to management to help provide meaning for what they do. One of the best ways managers can do this is to generate enthusiasm.

Here are some suggestions on how to spread enthusiasm:

Speak up. Employees need to know their boss cares about the work. Some managers are very vocal; they are like middle school coaches, always teaching and always spreading cheer. Other managers are soft-spoken preferring to chat one to one with employees about what they do and how it matters to the team. It doesn't matter which approach you choose--but employees need to hear it from you.

Show employees their work has meaning: To take satisfaction in your work, you need to know it has meaning. Help your employees discover the meaning by connecting their work to the mission. Talk about how what they do makes a difference. You can have them visit customers to see how their product or service performs, for instance.

Celebrate the outcomes. When things are going well, make certain you mark the milestones. Spring for a lunch for the team, or have an after-work social hour. Spread the atta-boys and atta-girls around by praising people for individual actions they took to help the project succeed. [If you don't tie the praise to specific actions, it loses impact.]

The Limits of Enthusiasm

Obviously, managers who do not like their work, or the people in it, will not do well at generating a positive mood in the workplace. In fact, likely the most positive thing they could do would be to leave. Employees would be much happier.

No workplace is perfect; and work is hard. But that cannot be an excuse for badmouthing "the corporation" or dissing "management." We are all responsible for finding satisfaction in our work. And if the work we do does not measure up, it may be a sign we would be happier doing something else.

Generating enthusiasm is not always easy but managers who can generate a sense of excitement about making a positive difference can create a work environment where people actually want to belong.

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