In the film ‘Cocktail’, the character portrayed by Tom Cruise learned to have fun as a bartender by stepping out of the ‘usual’, the ‘expected’. Work became fun as they tossed around the bottles and danced their way through customer service. They were making money before but this new way of working increased their fun component, therefore bringing in more people and consequently more money. Their productivity and their engagement increased in direct proportion to their fun factor.
The Pike Street Fish Market in Seattle Washington started out as a small fish stand and grew to a large enterprise supplying the people of Seattle with fresh fish on a daily basis. Sure, the fish market was productive…after all, the money was flowing in. What was missing was team passion, a philosophy of fun, and openness to be extraordinary. A transformation was needed. The employees were ready.
Organizations thrive and grow with change but change can be scary. People need strong leadership, coaching and mentoring and encouragement and permission (sometimes) to let go of their fears and take the plunge into unknown waters. They need to see value and take ownership of the changes for them to be real. They need to hold hands and jump together as a team into the deep end to make significant change.
Through four key principles, the fish market transformed itself into a purposeful fun place where theatrical performances were specific, commitment was high and antics, such as the throwing of fish, were encouraged:
1. Play – is not a prescribed task. It is freedom to explore, to think creatively, to be lighthearted, to be curious, to trust the possibilities, to love people and to renew energy.
2. Make Their Day – is not just a comment from a Clint Eastwood movie. It is about the contagious ripple effect of fun, laughter, engagement and unique attention – to people, to detail, to each other – to make the world a better place and to generate great and hilarious memories at work!
3. Be There – or be square! People are the heart and soul of an organization. Teamwork is all about working together, being authentic and fully present with and for people. Leaders are cheerleaders, coaches and mentors. Followers make their day through being extraordinary.
4. Choose Your Attitude – and your legacy. How you perceive the glass as half empty or half full…how you relate to or are perceived by others…is key to the success of your team.
Try this with your team. Let them play….purposefully. Create a play-place for work. It starts with freeing people from pre-conceived notions on how to behave, throwing out the constraints of the ‘expected’, looking forward to the unexpected. Organize an impromptu contest. The “Who Am I?” contest. Task one of your free-spirited leaders (could be the receptionist!) with portraying a character. The leader dresses as that character for 2 days while colleagues on the team take photos, interview and question the leader, and discuss with each other to identify the character. They submit their guesses for a draw. Next week, a new character. Continue this until all team members have participated. Then, hold a planning session where everyone comes in their character. Lots of fun! They tell stories about the experience and identify what is important to them in a workplace. Using this new philosophy of fun, they design the play-place of their future. Fun is fundamental to productivity. Create a culture statement of who you want to be. The passion and energy that brought the individuals to the team will be re-ignit