Yesterday wasn’t just any Monday. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving. Going back to work after having fun is rough. Can you identify with this bell curve?
During our four days off, Christy and I tried to forget about work by going on a little adventure. Typically, what that means is that we simply get in the car and drive until we see something we want to explore.
Last Friday, we hit the jackpot. We stumbled across this place.
What is it, you ask? Have you ever wondered what happens when you leave your beach things at the beach? I think we found where they go.
As I jumped out of the car and snapped photos, the ever empathetic Christy commented, “How sad! Look at all that potential joy just sitting there! Think of all the kids that could put these things to work and have some fun!”
I thought, because I am always thinking like this—Boy, if that isn’t a picture of what happens at work for most people. Just sitting there, buying time, instead of having fun.
Then, that thought led to this one …
Can work be fun? Should it be fun? Is it an oxymoron to have FUN and WORK in the same sentence?
Christy looked at the sand buckets. She pointed to a pink one in the pile, “I bought one just like that on vacation in Panama City in 1975.”
“Yes, I’ve seen the photo,” I said. “All I remember is your dad’s mullet haircut.”
“Yep. Business in the front, party in the back, baby,” she nodded.
I went back to my thoughts. Can a company culture be ‘business in the front, party in the back?’
Christy attempted to draw me back into her conversation, “I was so happy when we vacationed each year in Panama City. Our whole family had so much fun together and laughed.”
I went back to my own conversation, why do kindergarteners laugh 400 times a day, while adults suppress that down to a respectable 15?
Think about that just a minute.
When kids are in that stage of life, they are laughing roughly 30 times every waking hour. What is happening during that stage of life? Well, let’s take a look:
- They are discovering the world around them in a structured environment and learning at an exponential rate.
- They are discovering their own personality and the different ones around them.
- They are learning how to be social and how to interact.
- They are learning how to be less selfish and play well with others.
- They are learning how to set goals, complete tasks, and be evaluated on those tasks.
So where am I going with this?
Take a closer look at the five (5) items listed above. These behaviors closely resemble how bosses want employees to act, don’t they? Remember, kindergarteners accomplish all this while laughing every two minutes.
Business is serious business though, right? You can’t finger paint your way to corporate profit. I get it. But let me share a secret that kindergarten teachers know from the first day of class in August.
The environment that she establishes is critical … setting the culture of the classroom is no different for the teacher than it is for the corporate leader to set the culture of the organization.
Here’s what I mean.
The teacher has to manage fifteen to twenty young humans to develop their individual skill and talent while keeping order among a variety of personalities in the classroom. She has to identify specific approaches that motivate each child to be productive. And, at the end of the year, the teacher is responsible for showing the progress of her students and her classroom.
So how does the teacher do it? She makes work fun. She doesn’t force the laughter—it just comes out of kids being kids. Leaders shouldn’t attempt to manufacture fun either. Not everybody enjoys an 80’s Dance Off during the lunch hour.
No, the culture doesn’t have to resemble The Comedy Store. It just needs to be uplifting, light, and informal. A place where the boss is like a teacher—more of a coach than a tyrant.
Funny thing is, when that is the case, individual productivity goes up. How do we know that? Because coaching employees towards goals rather than micromanaging to the finish engages employees. The higher the engagement, the higher the productivity. A sense of ownership goes a long way to the individual employee.
I remember our youngest son Jack building a sand castle on vacation one summer. I announced that the builder of the best sand castle would enjoy a cool Dippin’ Dots at the end of the day. (A master motivator even then.) So I swooped in with my experience and know how to help him in the process, only to see him take his sand bucket and move about six feet away from me to construct his own.
I wanted to accomplish a goal; it was WORK to do it my way, while it was FUN to do it his way.
After about ten minutes, he presented his masterpiece to Christy and me with all the pomp and circumstance a six year old could muster. I hoisted him on my shoulders and paraded him around as winner of the sand castle contest. We were so excited I think we left his little green sand bucket in front of the Pink Pony Pub in Gulf Shores.
I have a strong suspicion that it may be in that pile that Christy and I discovered last Friday.