#294 from Innovative
Leader Volume 6, Number 9
You Lead With Fun, People Follow With Success
Yerkes is President of Catalyst Consulting Group, a change
management company in Cleveland, Ohio (phone 216-241-3939).
She is author of 301
Ways to Have Fun at Work (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San
there are two ways to lead: participative
and autocratic, or the carrot and the stick.
What I like to say, however, is that you can choose to lead
either by fear or by fun.
Fear is an
efficient motivator, at least in the short term. You can get work from the beast if you beat it; what you’ll
never get is loyalty. Pushed
too far, the beast breaks and bites back.
Fear has little redeeming value other than control.
Fun, on the other
hand, is of high redeeming value and has a myriad of advantages.
And when you contemplate those advantages, you’ll wonder
why anyone would choose to lead through fear, especially when
leading with fun is so much, well, fun!
Fun in the
workplace is a strategic weapon the good leader has in the
arsenal. When you
have a workplace that’s fun, you’ll find that it’s easier to
attract good people. Like
the proverbial fly, we’re all attracted to honey quicker than to
vinegar. A fun
workplace results in higher morale—people are enjoying
themselves while they work. And
that leads to better attendance.
A workplace with high morale produces better results.
When you consider
the opposite scenario—a workplace filled with grievances,
complaints, unhappy people, high absenteeism, and lower
productivity with poor quality—why would anyone want to lead
without a little fun?
The term “a fun
workplace” needn’t be the ultimate oxymoron. C. W. Metcalf, a humor consultant and author, said, “We are
told that laughter, fun, and play are unadult, unintelligent, and
could be further from the truth.”
Focus says, in its February 1993 issue, “Ninety-six percent
of the executives surveyed by Accountemps believed people with a
sense of humor do better at their jobs than those who have little
or no sense of humor. Studies
also have shown that people who enjoy their work are more
productive and creative, in addition to experiencing greater job
how do companies make work fun?
About as many ways as you can imagine!
president of Manco, the makers of duct tape, challenged his sales
staff to an aggressive goal.
If they met their goal, he
would swim across the duck pond in front of headquarters during a
chilly day in October. If
the sales staff didn’t make their goal, they
would have to make the swim.
department accepted the challenge.
And won. Jack
took the dip. This
proved to be so much fun, that it became an annual event that now
includes a picnic. Jack, by the way, is getting very good at doing the “duck
Fun in the
workplace also reduces stress and increases creativity.
Fran and Evelyn Girard, who own and operate The Forum
Conference Center, know this so well that they created something
called the POW! Kit.
This kit offers
clients a package of toys like Nerf balls, basketball hoops, or
Styrofoam darts. These
items help conference attendees interact with each other, think
more creatively, and be more relaxed.
It makes them smile, which leads to laughter and makes
brainstorming and creative thinking all the more effective.
One week each
summer, and also over one holiday, CDA Management Consulting, Inc.
closes its doors so that the staff can spend time with their
families. Voice mail
tells callers that the company is closed for appointments, site
visits, and training sessions due to “Family Friendly Week”
but that all calls will be returned. CDA reports that most callers say their message can wait, and
enthusiastically support this fun tradition.
Angela Wiley of
the Blonder Company reports that the order department plays bingo
at least once a week. It’s
not regular bingo, however, it’s called Blonder Bingo.
The card consists of customer account numbers, shipping
routes, and other company terminology.
During Blonder Bingo days, the order department customer
hold time improves by 20% and the abandonment rate by 50%.
Eileen Douse of
Human Dynamics has created “the wacky hour” to re-energize
employees and stir their creative juices.
At 3 p.m. everyday, the staff spins wildly in their office
chairs for 30 seconds. Even
this short break of “foolishness” revives them when the
afternoon doldrums begin.
Rebecca Rogers at
University Hospitals in Augusta, Georgia, developed an activity
called “Communal Captions.”
To wile away spare time at the copy machine, she posts
photos from newspapers and magazines and invites staff members to
write funny captions below them.
Not only do the writers enjoy themselves, but so do the
less creative folks who simply read them.
So how do you go
about making work fun? Like
many things in life, making work fun is work.
Here are 12 steps that will make it easier.
Start with yourself. A
rule that successful leaders follow is:
the only thing you can change is yourself.
Are you having
fun? If not, why not? If you’re not having fun, who else will?
Inspire fun in others.
Encourage others to engage in fun-loving activities; lead
Don’t appoint someone to be in charge of making your
workplace fun. You
become the catalyst. Do
something that will be fun. And
take some risks; don’t be afraid to look silly.
It’s only fun.
and environment that encourages fun.
Music, bright colors and toys to relieve stress are three
easy ways to mold a fun-loving environment.
Create surprise by changing things around regularly.
Celebrate the benefits of fun.
Every successful cause has a champion.
Become fun-atical about recognizing fun when you see it.
If you reward fun, it will reward you.
5. Make it
your goal to find and remove those things and those people that
inhibit the free flow of fun.
Fun unfettered is contagious and helps you grow.
6. Look for
the humor in your
situation. Be the
person who can laugh when things look bleak.
Your greatest source of comic inspiration is often
your intuition—be spontaneous.
Don’t wait for fun to find you or for the perfect moment;
make fun happen when you need it.
postpone your fun. Fun
isn’t a reward; it’s the lubricant that gets things done
easily and effectively. Make
fun a regular part of your daily routine.
9. Make fun
inclusive. The first
rule of fun has always been “The more the merrier.”
Fun isn’t a private club; fun is for sharing.
And laugh. A lot. When
you say “Hi” with a smile, you’ll find people smile back.
It takes no special skill and costs nothing. All it takes is a decision.
known as “fun-loving.” Make
it your personal mission to infuse fun into everything you do and
you’ll be paid the ultimate compliment:
everyone will want to be on your team.
12. Put fun
into action. A
journey of 1,000 miles starts with a smile, followed by a laugh,
and pretty soon you’re having fun.
If you want
a staff that’s productive and happy, make sure they’re having
fun. And since
you’re the leader of this group, it’s up to you to have fun
first. Start now by
grabbing an idea and taking action.
Momentum will build before you know it, fun will become a
way of life.