Almost sprinting down the hallway to get to my next meeting, I heard a voice from the corner office I just whizzed by say, “How’s it going?” I stopped in my tracks and backed up a few steps to be sure that I heard correctly. I poked my nose into the corner office, and indeed there sat the CEO smiling at me. I said, “Very well, Sir! The team is moving as fast as possible to get things done.” Then he said something that changed the way I approach leadership and managing teams in a profound way. He said, “Great. I had no doubts about that but, are you having fun?” I laughed nervously, and said, “Yes, Sir. Making progress is always fun.” He said, “Well, good. Because if you’re not having fun during your work, you won’t stick around.”
I had never overthought putting fun at the top of my work priority list. Work was work, and yes, I loved my career, so it seemed fun to me. Checking the boxes and watching the positive impact on the business and the employees we served was my greatest reward, which equated to the fun. However, what about my team? What did they consider fun? Did they see fun differently than me? So, I started to observe and become more aware, and this is what they taught me.
4 Powerful ways to have fun and get the job done better:
Find purpose! Being part of something bigger
Being in IT at the time, we strived to make the business more productive and technically enable thousands of employees. It was not an easy goal. I asked the team, “Why do you like working here?” They unanimously admitted that it was the commitment to improving the workday of other people through support and technology that made it fun and rewarding. They felt empowered to make a difference by doing an excellent job.
Celebrate the wins!
Overachievers don’t always take time to celebrate successes. They typically acknowledge it for a few seconds, and they quickly move on to focus on the long list of projects that need completing. With a majority team of overachievers, I started sending more announcements about their progress and planned events to acknowledge their efforts to celebrate successes. The investment paid off in increased loyalty and commitment. But, this was merely a by-product of doing what was right for some deserving people.
People want to be recognized in different ways. It’s important to determine each team members preference because expressing it in the wrong way can cause more harm than good. I recall a team member who shared with me that he enjoyed public recognition including his spouse and family. Knowing this critical insight, I picked up a gift card and wrote a note to his wife with wonderful accolades about his excellent performance at work. I asked his wife to take him out for dinner. This gesture was so well received, he took a photo of the card and posted it on Facebook. The impact was priceless and a lot of fun for all of us!
Laugh at work!
According to Psychology Today, the average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day. The average 40-year-old? Only four! Research shows laughter reduces levels of stress, improves blood flow to the heart, improved mood and positive outlook—all resulting in greater relaxation and resistance to disease. On top of the health benefits, laughter is contagious. It connects people and creates true camaraderie among teams.
I discovered what really matters to people in their workplace. Finding a bigger purpose, acknowledging and celebrating team efforts while integrating laughter into the work environment topped the list. Promotions were good, but I never witnessed the same level of sustainable joy that came from the things that really matter.