Ryan Harris with Denver Nuggets mascot.

Why Enthusiasm Creates Happy Employees

The Power of Enthusiasm

Who is going to sign somebody with three back surgeries? No one. My career was over.

I had just gotten my 3rd back injury, I could barely walk, and I needed to wait a full week in Philadelphia before flying home to start rehab.

I was alone in my dark (literally) hotel room when my agent called with the most devastating news I’d ever heard up to that point of my life. He said my team was planning on releasing me. It was no longer a question of “Who is going to sign me?” It was a question of “Who am I?”

I had tied my identity to football ever since I was 14. Now it was seemingly over.

It would have been easy to resign myself to dark thoughts in the 4 months that ensued, but at the end of the day I chose positivity.

Positivity gave me so much MORE. It instantly made me the most enthusiastic person in the room. Every day in recovery was simply a day closer to joining the NFL and living a healthy life again.

My point: Enthusiasm has a powerful effect on you and those around you.


Enthusiasm won’t allow failure. Instead, enthusiasm allows you to learn from your setbacks and move past them.

I had a setback this morning when I slipped on the ice. I had a setback this morning when I spilled coffee and forgot my phone.

That’s ok. I’m still showing up at work and giving 100%. You can’t fail with enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm will change the way YOU operate and it will change the way your team operates.

#1. Enthusiasm heightens performance and pushes through resistance.

Enthusiasm makes everything easier. After my 3rd back surgery, the last place I wanted to be was in rehab. I wanted to be on the field. I wanted to put on my helmet and practice. It was during this time that I learned how to generate enthusiasm for the steps involved in my recovery process.

I got excited about doing extra core work. I started swimming. I went to yoga and tried pilates. No one was happier than I was to be at work because I brought enthusiasm to every opportunity I could. Here’s the first thing I learned when I brought enthusiasm:

Encouraging the improvements, not necessarily the end result, can lead to a powerful end result.

[Related: Put The Cart Before The Horse: How Positive Thoughts Lead to Championships]

Enthusiasm creates motion to overcome the setbacks you’ll face on your way to achieving your end goal. The morning after a rough nights sleep or the day when your child is sick at school, stuff happens that affect us and our team. You need that encouragement every day, and that comes directly from enthusiasm.

Your enthusiasm also creates buy-in.  Who doesn’t like to be around happy and energetic people?

From a leadership perspective, it’s your job to bring people up and generate buy-in for the work you’re doing. People know they have to meet you at your level, so elevate them with your enthusiasm.

  • What do you think enthusiasm would do for how others perceive you as a leader
  • How do you show enthusiasm?
  • Where in life and work can you be more enthusiastic?

#2. Enthusiasm reinforces others’ contributions.

When you have enthusiasm for what you do, you encourage others to perform.

Acknowledge the contributions of others first, even if it’s the smallest detail. Recognize people being on time. Recognize that someone completed a task by the deadline. Even though it’s expected that people meet their responsibilities, recognizing it creates enthusiasm that sustains your team.

In the NFL we break a huddle with a clap each and every time. It signals that we’re all in. Create an all-in action that everyone can take part in no matter where they are coming from physically and mentally.

You may not need external validations such as employee of the month, but you do want people to acknowledge the little details because those make the difference in achieving success.

Reminding people of the value they bring to the table helps them buy-in to the goals of your team and gives them professional self-worth.

And here’s the thing, you never know what people have left at home. You don’t know if they’ve left arguments. You don’t know if they’ve left a pain. You don’t know if they’re in the middle of a divorce. As their leader or coworker, what can you do to help them?

Bring enthusiasm so people feel different when they’re in the workplace. Enthusiasm creates a workplace that people enjoy, and people want to contribute productively in these environments.

And sometimes the positivity you bring may be the only positivity and joy they feel all day.


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#3. Enthusiasm enlightens your team.

The path to success includes having some fun.

Since you can’t have fun without enthusiasm, channel your enthusiasm into something that’s fun. Your goal is to build comradery. It could be something as simple as playing a game before a meeting.

Even if people don’t match your enthusiasm as their leader, they at least have to engage with it. THAT builds comradery and bonding. Why would you want to miss out on an opportunity like this?

[Related: 6 Undeniable Traits that Define a Leader]

Before every Saturday walk-through, we would play a game called ‘tip.’  As offensive linemen we rarely touch the ball, so we would get in a circle and pass the ball using only one hand. We’d blame and target the rookies and crown a winner.

Many times — to the technicalities of a pass or seniority — some might even call it cheating.  Wouldn’t you know … quarterbacks, receivers, hell, even coaches would jump in the game.

They saw people having fun.  They saw enthusiasm and wanted to be part of it. We never had a bad walk-through.

Enlighten your team with enthusiasm because you’ll never find a successful workplace without it. You can’t help but be successful when you’re enthusiastic about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.


1. Smile

I dare you to smile at somebody and see if they don’t smile back. Give someone a special handshake to let them know that you not only see them, you not only love them, but that you’re celebrating that person right now.

If you’re as big on high fives as I am, give a high five to someone. It’ll be hard for them not to smile. These simple gestures can bring up those around you right away. It builds enthusiasm.

Your smile might be the only smile someone sees all day. That’s an opportunity.

2. Find Your Energy Phrase

Can you find an energy phrase? Mine was “rock and roll man!” (It sounds silly but it works.)

Repeat your energy phrase when things get hard.

> If coach said: “Alright let’s start practice over again,” I’d say: “Ok, rock and roll, man!”

> Repeat your energy phrase when you have to do something you don’t want to do.

> Repeat it even if you don’t believe it.

If your energy phrase gets boring or you need a new one, find a new one. Inspiration is everywhere. I guarantee it.

I found inspiration watching Finding Nemo this week and hearing “just keep swimming.” Inspiration is listening to your favorite song on the radio and belting it out off-key with the windows up, or down!

The magic happens when you use your energy phrase so often that others reciprocate it. I was saying “rock and roll man” frequently enough that soon it rubbed off on my team. Soon they were the ones saying, “rock and roll man.”

What’s a word or phrase that’s unique and authentic to you? That’s your energy phrase.

3. Change The Mundane

You already have mandatory team meetings. Bring enthusiasm into the mundane and make those fun. There’s always a need for that. These opportunities for enthusiasm are everyday moments all around you.

Leaders have a hard time seeing these moments because they’re so focused on production and the success of their teams. But if leaders aren’t enthusiastic about what they’re doing, then how can the team be?

You have to be enthusiastic: you’re either on your way to achieving your goal or actually achieving it. Why not be happy about either of those?


Enthusiasm isn’t exclusive. Anyone can have enthusiasm once you realize it’s a choice. It takes effort, but the effort creates success. Besides, what other choice do you have?

Bring enthusiasm to your meetings, to your worst days, to your favorite employee, and even to your least favorite employee.

Why NOT celebrate the journey you’re on? Why NOT celebrate what you’re achieving?