Take The Lead – Help Light That Spark (Spirit)

Many things in life start out exciting; but they don’t stay that way forever. Maintaining a spark and a sense of excitement over the long haul can be a huge challenge at work and beyond.

Research shows that at any given time a significant number of employees feel less than fully engaged in their lives at work. And it’s not just older workers who experience that ho-hum feeling of malaise.

Many people are working much later in life – well into their late sixties. As the life span of a career unfolds, most would welcome a bit more variety and a fresh challenge or two. They’d rather not suffer the brain-numbing effect of repeating the same tasks over and over and over again – ad infinitum.

When the spark goes out, it’s a problem for an individual. It also creates challenges for organizations. The loss of productivity due to presenteeism (physically there, but heart and mind someplace else) is estimated to be seven times the loss of productivity due to absenteeism. And that’s not good for anybody!

As a leader in your organization, you may feel there is not much you can do to help colleagues and employees who find themselves afflicted with malaise and at risk of rusting out.

However, there are several actions you can take to support others in their attempts to rekindle a sense of excitement and engagement at work and outside the workplace, too. And know that whether a person rekindles their spark at work or in their personal or community life, that a fresh found buoyancy has a positive and uplifting impact on all arenas of life.

Here are ten strategies to pursue in your organization.

  1. Make continuous investments in life long learning for everyone. Classes, workshops, webinars, subscriptions, conferences, and inexpensive ‘ride along/work along’ opportunities are all good options.
  2. Encourage job shares and exchanges, cross training & collaboration. Make it possible for individuals to learn something new – to keep growing and stretching their abilities. Changing things up may not be ‘neat and tidy’ but opening the doors to swapping roles and fresh opportunities can yield big dividends for everyone.
  3. Create short-term project opportunities & temporary assignments. Sometimes even a brief ‘shot in the arm’ of something new and different is enough to rekindle that spark.
  4. Learn about and support individual aspirations. You may know who someone has been and what they’ve done up until now; but do you know who they might like to become and what they might like to do in the future? Aspirations ignored are a potential source of resentment and regret.
  5. Offer flex time & variable work week options. Sometimes people don’t want to step away from work completely, but they would welcome a change in pace and timing to be able to pursue other interests or handle other responsibilities.
  6. Normalize the process of transition & reinvention. Incidents of malaise and fading interest are not a failure of the individual. They are a normal part of the ebb and flow of life. Don’t berate or belittle someone when they find themselves at a low point in the cycle of renewal. Help them see the truth of the moment and support them in finding their way through.
  7. Profile positive examples of others who have rekindled their sparks. Highlight – in newsletters, on bulletin boards, and in conversation – the actions of individuals who are stepping out the their everyday habitual behaviors to try something new and add fresh zest to their lives.
  8. Guard against ageism. Malaise can arise in the life of someone who is very young and new in their career, at midlife and mid career, or when someone is older and more senior in their career. Don’t limit options and access to life-sparking opportunities by age or years of service.
  9. Encourage those nearing the end of their careers to take on mentoring roles. The opportunity to pass along wisdom and insights can be highly meaningful and energizing.
  10. Recognize and celebrate in informal ways the legacy of service and contributions of others. Do this at every opportunity. Don’t wait until people leave – or threaten to do so – to let them know how much they matter.

Above all, as a leader in your organization, model the way by keeping your own spark alive. Be honest about your own past experiences with malaise and renewal and be open about how they continue to cycle through and unfold in your present life and career.


© Patricia Katz, MCE CHRP HoF, is a Canadian speaker and author who works with organizational leaders to ease the load and fuel the spirit. This best selling author of 6 books shares her wisdom regularly with thousands of readers of her e-zine, Pause. Sign up for Pause, and learn more about easing your load here on this site. Contact Pat for programs and publications at info@patkatz.com or 306-934-1807.