How CEOs Can Become “Superfans” for Their Company

I found myself recently comparing the passion of a football superfan to that of a CEO.

Are you really excited by what you do? I mean, really excited? Granted, you don’t go around the office in a company jersey or with your face painted in the company’s logo colors. But is your passion for your job and your company easily noticeable by both your executive team and your employees?

“When a CEO is not excited by his/her job or role, that lack of passion spills over to others and they, in turn, may not be passionate about the company or about their job.”

If you’re not sure, then the answer is likely “no.” When a CEO is not excited by his/her job or role, that lack of passion spills over to others and they, in turn, may not be passionate about the company or about their job. This disenchantment can quickly spread through the ranks and reach epidemic proportions.

But you can turn that around and build enthusiasm and passion in others by building enthusiasm and passion in yourself. To ensure that your passion is visible to others naturally and doesn’t look or feel forced, let’s draw inspiration from the key traits of a sports superfan.

1. Be loyal.
Avid sports fans are nothing if not loyal. They support their team even during tough seasons, shouting encouragement, rooting for the players, believing in them. Similarly, CEOs should support their team/staff even (or especially) during tough times. Give encouragement and thanks to team members who are going the extra mile. Let them know that you stand beside them. Cheer them on rather than abandon them when challenges multiply. (Booing the home team when the chips are down is not only bad form in sports, it’s bad in business too.)

2. Be committed.
The distinctions between diehard fans and fair-weather fans are numerous, but one of the most outstanding differences is in their long-term view. Diehard fans know the past, present and sometimes the future of their team and never let a single game or season color their perspective. Like superfans, executives also need to have a long-term view. Know about your company’s past, present and future. Ensure that your executives and staff are all looking through the same lens, and explain to everyone how short-term problems are simply bumps on a solid, steady path.

3. Be personal.
Superfans have their own personal style. Face paint may be verboten for executives, but the commitment it represents is essential. Display your passion by meeting one-on-one with your leadership team members and face-to-face with your employees in general. Get out in the field often and get to know the people who work for you. Feel their pride in and passion for the work they do, and then carry that feeling to others. In doing so, they will witness your passion firsthand and see that you care and are committed to each person and function and understand their point-of-view.

“Get out in the field often and get to know the people who work for you. Feel their pride in and passion for the work they do, and then carry that feeling to others.”

4. Be engaged.
All superfans know and can eloquently speak about the intimate details and statistics of their favorite teams. From the roster to the positions they play to how long they’ve been with the team, where they played college ball … you get the idea. In other words, they are deeply engaged in the lives of the team members. That same deep engagement can help CEOs ensure that the right executives are in the right positions. Also, when your passion falters, being engaged with team members is one of the quickest ways to rekindle it.

5. Be humorous.
Poke fun at yourself. Athletes are known for their “touchdown dances.” While dancing may not be your thing, work becomes drudgery when we drain the fun and playfulness out of it. Consider ways you can infuse humor and enjoyment into your daily work life. If you’re working on serious proposals and projects, be intentional about creating some downtime so your team can collectively take a breath and recharge. A great place to look for ideas is in your company’s creative department. A dose of humor and silliness is not only a release, but it also can be a great catalyst for innovation and discovery.

Who is your company’s biggest superfan? A supplier? A Wall Streeter? An enthusiastic employee? An avid customer? It should be you—with your passion visible for the entire company to see.

Ray Attiyah: Ray Attiyah is the founder of Definity Partners, a hands-on, business-training firm that integrates process redesign and leadership-behavior modeling. He developed the Run-Improve-Grow system to inspire the best leaders to reach for higher-hanging fruit. His newest book is Run Improve Grow: Your Roadmap from Firefighting to Bold Business Growth.