Enthusiasm will be a big asset to you in your career.
—Jim Warner, Former President of Razorfish, CBS Networks. Merkle Advisor.
In the services industry, enthusiasm is not a soft skill; it’s an indispensable skill and your most consistent weapon to deal with the pace of change.
Jim Warner, president of Avenue A (shout out to the proud Avenue A crew ) at the time, decided to give me an audience and contribute to my first review. It was one of my more important reviews. He leaned back, sighed, and said, “Jared, your enthusiasm will be a big asset to you in your career, even if you create a wake of destruction with the other things you are not that great at.”
It took me a minute to compute. Was this a compliment or an insult? Neither or both? What it was, ultimately, was a lesson. It struck me, accordingly, that this was a compliment. He was not calling me stupid or vapid or incapable of math. Instead, he was just saying that my best trait, the one I could most leverage, was enthusiasm and optimism. Yes, there were issues to mitigate, and things to improve, but he wanted me to hear from him that enthusiasm and optimism mattered.
In preparation for this book, I read over my old employee reviews. There were some good memories in there but also some hard truths to sift through. I think I began to see clearly that I was at my best when I had a manager who appreciated my ability to create revenue, to innovate, and to solve problems without harping on the little things that mattered less.
I found one review from my time on the Fanta brand team, right out of my MBA program at Emory. The author of this review was/is a fantastic marketer. She understood the importance of enthusiasm and a good attitude and took care to: (1) point it out; and (2) make sure others saw it as important.
Soft skills are often downplayed or worse, dismissed in our hard-skill obsessed world. In the services industry, enthusiasm is not a soft skill; it’s an indispensable skill. For many clients/customers, it’s more important to know how enthusiastic and passionate you are about their brand or product compared to simply how knowledgeable you are.
Why are optimism and enthusiasm so important? In the services industry, your emotional bank account is constantly debited. Long nights take their toll and are a debit. Compressed deadlines are a debit. Certain client situations can be tough, especially under stress, and those are a debit. Those debits on the emotional bank account add up. Collectively, they drain your team and can threaten the work product over time. A great leader must have followers, and followers look for enthusiasm and optimism as signposts. Further, enthusiasm and optimism are credits back into the emotional bank account of the team, customer, client, and company.
Why else? Optimism is your best and most consistent weapon to deal with the pace of change. The marketing industry is on what looks to be a multidecade radical transformation. As such, one of the most common questions I tend to get from new employees is, “How do you keep up with all the new tech, changes, and transformation in the market?” To this, I usually answer, “Optimism.” No, optimism is not a business strategy; rather, it’s a mindset. Simply, I mean that I am optimistic our team/company can weather any change by being adaptable and listening to client needs. Skepticism, while fashionable these days, is the enemy of adaptability.
So, you can see why optimism and enthusiasm are great leadership weapons.
When I first started working on the Enterprise Rental Car account almost ten years ago, someone there said to me, “Jared, we don’t care how much you know until we know how much you care.” That quote still sticks with me.
Who is the most consistently optimistic and enthusiastic person you know at work? Comment and tag if you get a second.