I’m a big believer in having fun. It doesn’t really make a difference where I am or who I’m with, fun is always better than no fun.
Fun is a choice.
That’s why even when work is really “bad,” or someone has disappointed me, or I’m really really busy, fun is a priority for me. It should be for you as well, along with the people you lead.
I remember visiting a customer several years ago and the moment I walked in the door I could feel it…this was not a fun place. It was as quiet as a library filled with people who looked liked they were attending a funeral.
I tactfully asked the owners about the “atmosphere” of their workplace and they explained to me that “this is a workplace” not a place where you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself. Now here’s the thing, these were very smart business owners in almost every way. They were constantly battling low productivity and output from their people and they made the all too common mistake of blaming their employees for that.
Their “solution” to that problem was to simply tighten the screws on their employees. It was actually exactly the opposite of what they should have done.
By the way, I was more than a little taken aback by their constant reference to the people who worked for them as “employees.” While I’m not big into buzzwords like “team members” “guest relations specialists” or even Disney’s famous “cast members,” I get why businesses use them. They use them to change a mindset.
The term “employees” is a bit technical and in practice dehumanizing. If you think of the people you’re supposed to be leading solely as employees and not real people then your attitude is going to show itself in how you speak with them and in how you treat them. It might even cause you to think about banning fun in your workplace.
Anyway, back to fun.
Fun as it turns out is a pretty effective business strategy. It increases productivity. People who enjoy what they do for a living and the people who they do it with will outperform people who don’t enjoy what they do. They will outperform them in every circumstance!
As a leader it is better if you build the fun into your organization’s environment. If however you’re not the fun type don’t worry about it, just stay out of your people’s way and they will likely figure out the fun part on their own.
Now, for those of you like me who believe that fun at work is important here’s something else that’s really important.
Getting the work done.
You can have fun before the work gets done, you can have fun after the work gets done or you can have fun while the work is getting done but I don’t care how authentic your leader is, the fun is going to stop pretty darn quick if the work isn’t getting done.
I insist on having fun and you should too. But I have an ethical and morale obligation to earn the money I’m paid by getting the work done and so do you. I may be a little weird and I’m certainly blessed in this regard but for me, getting the work done is in itself a whole lotta fun.
There is a minor league baseball team in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota called the Saint Paul Saints. It’s owned by Bill Veeck and Bill Murray…yes that Bill Murray. There are all kinds of shenanigans going on at their baseball games, from haircuts in the stands and all kinds of contests and skits on the field. They even play a little baseball too. The philosophy of these two Bills is that “Fun is Good,” Bill Veeck even wrote a book by that title.
I entirely endorse their philosophy, I hope you do too!