After last month’s thought-provoking blog on defining your own success, one of my readers, a respected senior leader, made a request for me to provide my insight and expand on how one can implement fun in an organization.
“I’d love to see you write about how people can authentically and genuinely have fun. How do people define and measure fun as individuals? In a corporate setting, what does that mean....take the mission seriously but always have perspective? Take the time to come up for air and genuinely enjoy the community of people you work with? What if there are people in the midst who are averse to ‘fun’ and think it’s wasted time, silly or stupid....how do you deal with those types...
Just some thoughts for a future blog!!”
I found that these questions excited me. Why? Because FUN was literally my degree of study from the University of Southern Maine. Yes, you read that right, I have a Bachelor of Science degree in FUN aka Therapeutic Recreation. What is the focus of a Recreation Therapist? Improving well-being through leisure activity. Studying the importance of having fun to heal or to improve one's overall wellness. I always thought it was fascinating how there is a direct correlation between my degree as a recreation therapist and my success as a business leader.
It’s important to me to keep my blog real every month. I want to write about what I’ve experienced in the last week while keeping these posts relevant and related to what’s happening in real-time. Part of this is to provide a diary of history in my life, and by posting every month I am also being held accountable by you, my readers. You see, if you read my book, you already know that I’m in for the long-haul (110 years young). I wrote my book during a period of transition in my own life while I was recovering from surgeries. Now, during this next period of transition, I am focusing on ME, and my happiness. This blog will be a wonderful reflection for me when I sit and look back at my life. I imagine I will smile while I am flashing through my achievements and will have a sense of pride over the legacy I’ve left behind. So this month I’ll focus on FUN but also on TRANSITION because that’s what will keep this month’s focus real. We are all starting to transition back to our new norms, new ways of doing business and new ways to be social… hopefully, transitioning with a new positive view of where we are going, having learned a lot from this past pandemic period.
To jump-start my thinking I looked up the definition of fun. The first descriptive word of fun was enjoyment. Then I looked up the definition of transition… the first descriptive word: process.
First let’s focus on transition: the process. How do you incorporate fun into the workplace?
It is important is to understand what motivates your team. So make sure that you are asking questions, don’t assume you know what keeps them motivated, pushing forward. That will continuously change as life changes, so staying in touch with what keeps them motivated and engaged is important to building “FUN” into your unique team.
You can find ways to incorporate fun in the simplest ways. Here are a couple of simple ideas I have used. First, I make sure that I create fun surprises by having some fun grab-bags available. When somebody’s working hard but is not feeling recognized, it can affect their performance and also their well- being, so I have this box of grab-bags that have miscellaneous fun little items that will make somebody smile. Bubbles, turtle figurines, candy, a deck of cards, bubblegum… you get the point. All it takes is some small, low-cost items that you stick in a brown bag (colorful bags could add another element of fun, too). When I see a member of my team feeling discouraged, down, or not having fun, I plop the box on their desk. The element of surprise is just about a guaranteed smile. Picking out a fun unknown, spontaneously, can be an act of enjoyment. Remember that’s the Webster dictionary definition of fun: the act of enjoyment. Even the grumpiest of grumpy people can find joy in the element of surprise… something they didn’t expect. This also provides opportunity for employees to actively engage and make a positive decision (picking their bag). Then, they get to decide if they want to open it in front of you, bring it home, etc. It becomes their choice on a more complex level.
Next is the chain exercise. I worked with an organization whose team experienced rapid growth.
They were bringing on new team members which meant continuous system changes, workspace
changes, leadership changes. You name it and it was happening. With the rapid amount of
TRANSITION happening, this was where the FUN needed to be focused. I did a few things to incorporate fun into a team that was in a state of continuous “TRANSITION”. Each manager had their own “FUN” money budget, they were allowed to create their own games that reinforced the daily production numbers and were in line with the mission of the business. Next, we called a team meeting and served snacks (because food is always a HUGE hit). As each team member entered the room, they were handed a strip of construction paper. Everyone got a marker and was asked to write their name in big bold print. Then, as they were walking out into the hallway, I had the first person who had joined the team staple their paper into a loop, and then down the line. The team members stapled their chain pieces together to create a physical chain with the paper strips. It was powerful and a great visual watching the chain grow. We were able to incorporate fun, surprise and unity while creating joy through activity.
I believe the pandemic transition back to our new world is going to be longer for some organizations and quicker for others, depending on all the variables of an organization. But no matter what size, shape or type of business, transition is still transition. It’s a period of time that can be tough, and it can be scary because it’s different and it is change. The question is, how will you make the transitional experience FUN, inclusive and engaging, even for those nay-sayers on having “fun” in the workplace?
I would love to hear your ideas and experience, you can email me at email@example.com.