Fun Is Not A Dirty Word

Features - Professional Development

An effective team gets the job done and has fun in the process. Here are three tips to revitalize the workplace while retaining the best employees.

© Seventyfour | adobe stock

As a speaker, coach and consultant to leaders and organizations across the country, I’m amazed the top two complaints have not changed one bit. The most frequent is: “You can do 100 things right and not hear a darn thing about it.” And the second is: “The fun is gone.”

“Fun” might seem like a rather unimportant topic to address, but during the time of the Great Resignation, where it’s extremely difficult to find and keep the talent you need, you had better make your workplace a fun place to work or your workplace may cease to exist.

One of my clients, the highly successful Laser Quest company, talks about fun as one of the secrets of their success. They say, “It may seem frivolous, but when members of a team have fun, it helps reduce negative stress, encourages creative thinking and makes group members more adaptable to change.”

They’re right. A truly effective team not only gets the job done but has some fun in the process.

I’ve found the following three tips have helped my clients put more fun in the workplace while it retains their best employees.

Seek the humor in misunderstanding

It’s so easy to get upset when people don’t understand you. After all, time is wasted, and feelings get hurt inadvertently. Instead, when you discover some breakdown in communication, look for the humor.

Make a joke about it. It’s like the fellow who got a job painting the stripe down the middle of the road. He painted ten miles the first day but only five miles the second. The boss thought his new worker must have had a rough day, so he let it slide. He didn’t say anything until he noticed that his painter only completed two miles on his third day at work. When asked what was going on his painter said there was an easy explanation -- every day he got further away from the bucket.

© ANDOR BUJDOSO | adobe stock

Use your imagination

Some teams use crazy contests to spice things up. Others might post baby pictures of their team members and guess who is who. Still others will get involved in some games or activities that are not only fun but require some cooperation.

Use your imagination. What can your team do a bit different but also fun and playful?

Barbara Bock wrote about the use of imagination as she tried to help her daughters develop an appreciation for nature. So, she took them camping. After they arrived at the campsite and the gear was unloaded, Barbara said they all set to work. Her husband had the girls gather pine needles to make soft “beds.” And all together they brought rocks to form a circle in the cool stream where they placed their perishables. That, she explained, would be their “refrigerator.” Finally, they made a “stove” by making a ring of stones topped with a grate.

The girls were excited and impressed. The 5-year-old smiled at her father and asked, “If we get more rocks, Daddy, will you make a TV?

Spice up your meetings

Even though meetings are made for work, many of them do not work. They’re often boring, tedious, and repetitious, as well as a huge waste of time. That’s why one person said, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.”

I could write a book on how to hold more effective meetings, but for this purpose, I want you to think about how you can make your meetings more fun. It could be as simple as bringing treats to share with others or telling a funny story you just heard.

I like humorist Dave Barry’s idea on handling team members who fall asleep in a meeting. “Have everybody leave the room. Then collect a group of total strangers, from right off the street, and have them sit around the sleeping person and stare at him until he wakes up. Then, have one of them say to him, in a very somber voice, ‘Bob, your plan is very, very, risky, but you’ve given us no choice but to try it. I only hope, for your sake, that you know what the heck you’re getting yourself into.’ Then have the strangers file quietly out of the room”

Of course, I’m not recommending Dave’s idea, but it’s fun to think about how it might work. People would never fall asleep in a meeting.

Bob Nohren from The Energy Conservatory Bike Shop sent me this idea after I spoke at a meeting for his professional association. Bob asked, somewhat tongue in cheek, if they felt tired and unmotivated? Did they daydream during the workday? Well, Nohren devised a unique and entertaining way to change that. Before your next meeting, draw a square and divide it into columns – five across and five down. Add one of the following words or phrases to each individual block:

  • Synergy
  • Strategic fit
  • Core competencies
  • Best practice
  • Bottom line
  • Re-visit
  • Take that offline
  • 24/7
  • Out of the loop
  • Benchmark
  • Value-added
  • Proactive
  • Win-win
  • Think outside the box
  • Fast track
  • Empower
  • Engagement
  • At the end of the day
  • Touch base
  • Mindset
  • Client focused
  • Paradigm
  • Game plan
  • Leverage
  • Downsize
  • Outsource

Now, check off the appropriate block when you hear one of those words/phrase uttered during the meeting. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout “Bullsh@t.”

Of course, this sounds very silly, but it really works.

Snow Magazine Contributor Dr. Alan Zimmerman is a business coach who works with companies to focus on transforming the people side of business.