I’m excited about this guest post from Mark Miller, the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-Fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs. Go pick up your copy today!
When my oldest son was little, I found myself coaching one of his baseball teams. During one game, I noticed a pattern. The kids in the on-deck circle looked terrified. It was as if they were awaiting their turn on the gallows. I saw this look in their eyes, child after child.
I’m not sure where it came from but many of the kids were just scared – not of being hit by a pitch, but of not getting a hit. Perhaps it was the overzealous support and expectations of their parents, or maybe they weren’t old enough to understand three hits out of ten at bats would put them in the hall of fame someday.
For whatever reason, their fear and anxiety manifested itself in tension, and as you can imagine, this did not help their odds of getting a hit – it made matters worse. These young boys had created a self-fulfilling prophesy: “I’m scared I won’t get a hit,” and it worked – they didn’t.
As an inexperienced coach who loved the game, I had flashbacks to my years on the diamond. I knew if these guys weren’t having fun, it would decrease their performance, not to mention miss the ENTIRE point of playing Little League baseball.
So, as each boy was about to approach the plate, I called them over and said, “I have some advice for you.”
The looks on their faces are etched in my mind to this day; they looked as if I was about to impart the wisdom of the ages. “Smile and have fun,” I offered with a big smile. Then, I made them smile before I would let them go to the batter’s box.
A funny thing happened that day; not every boy got a hit, but a lot of them did! And, even those who popped up or struck out seemed to return to the dugout with a smile on their face. Could it be they had rediscovered why they were playing the game?
Recently, I was addressing a group of business leaders when the topic of fun in the workplace came up. It was listed as one of the contributing factors in employee engagement. Do you buy it? I do.
If you and I can create a fun place to work, engagement will increase. To be clear, multiple factors drive engagement, but fun is one often overlooked.
Who controls the “Fun Factor” in an organization? Leaders.
How fun is it to work in your organization? On your team? You have a lot to say about this issue whether you realize it or not. Here are a few ideas to help raise the Fun Factor.
Select fun people – This is one of the keys to Southwest Airlines’ legendary culture. If you’re not fun, I’ve been told, it is hard to get a job at Southwest. Are you looking for fun people? It will be easier to select them than to change them.
Schedule time for celebration – Do you put time on the calendar to celebrate? This can take many forms… birthdays, anniversaries, award programs, major milestones. If you struggle with spontaneous outbreaks of fun, your calendar may come to your rescue.
Designate a point person – Here’s the truth, some people are more fun than others – naturally – without trying. It is a combination of temperament, personality and, in some cases, giftedness. Find someone who was born to party and ask him or her to help you make your workplace more fun.
Don’t take yourself too seriously – Undoubtedly, the work you and your organization is doing is important. My advice is to take the work seriously but never take yourself too seriously. If you aren’t having fun, chances are good your people aren’t either.
At the end of the day, be sure to remind people to smile and have fun. You’ll be amazed at what happens to their batting average.