There are few qualities in colleagues and employees I value more than enthusiasm. The shameless joy of being excited about your work is infectious. Some of the best ideas are happened upon when two enthusiastic people get together and create a new idea buoyed by the magic that enthusiasm transmits. I’m sure we all know of programs and services implemented by a passionate employee that challenges the norm, brings new light and joy to a library, and is met with universal acclaim. Then, inevitably when that person leaves that position, department, or library, some of that magic fades and the program loses its luster. While the result is unfortunate, I don’t think it’s bad. It proves that the people behind the ideas are always our greatest asset. How do we create a culture of enthusiasm? Therein lies the rub.
Much like enthusiasm, pessimism is also incredibly contagious. To turn the tide, it’s important to surround yourself with colleagues and employees who are eager to seek solutions rather than point out problems. “Seek out positive and competent individuals who also recognize their top talents and passions. Agree to give each other candid, concrete feedback – and a boost. Then enthusiasm is more likely to erupt, endure and be contagious.” Another thing to keep in mind is that enthusiasm builds when even greater challenges are tackled. Momentum is key to maintaining a culture that eagerly tackles new challenges and opportunities.
Often when we come across an idea we’re excited about, it reminds us that enthusiasm is regenerative and restorative. Being constantly bogged down in the daily grind distracts us from the North Star that is the why behind our chosen profession. Luckily enthusiasm has a way of reorienting that focus. The word itself derives from enthousiasmos, the Greek expression meaning divine inspiration. This etymology speaks to that feeling of surprise and realization that this capacity is inside us all the time, we just need to access it. We also need libraries and supervisors that recognize the value and will support our effort in pursuing new and exciting ideas.
A few years ago, I came across a recommendation that library staff set a few hours aside every week to work on something new. The work didn’t have to fit into an overall plan or complement current programs, and it didn’t even have to pertain to their department. Allowing that free time to explore gives us the capacity to think differently and seek new avenues for collaboration. Another recommendation I read about recently was from Salt Lake County Library who created a, “What if we…” board. Staff can submit ideas to a management team to break through the real or perceived barriers to program and service proposals.
Gaining access to the magic enthusiasm fosters is a key strategy to building effective teams and sustainable libraries. The good news is that its not hard to replicate once you’ve found it. I encourage you to go and do just that.