Recently, a sales rep brought a jar of grapes as a gift of appreciation for our clinic staff. At the end of the day, we had a great time tossing grapes like softballs for others to catch by mouth. We laughed, got moving, and simply had a good time. Yes, I work in a medical clinic. But no, we did not break any rules of cleanliness. We were just intentional as a team to have fun. Why?
Because fun is one of our team values.
In the last article, I described how clearly defined values should be a part of the journey of any great team.?Values are the principles that a group of people adopt,?intentionally or unintentionally, to guide how they?treat each other and how they achieve their mission. Great leaders intentionally shape their culture by encouraging certain values in their?daily routines with their teams.
While each team should define its own set of values, I would like to?share the ones we espouse on our team with you. Feel free to borrow them from me and tailor them to your own team?s journey.?The first value is fun.?This three-letter word can transform the culture of your team.
The Benefits of a Fun Culture
Having fun together is key to the cohesiveness of a team. ?This has been best modeled by the Pike Place fish market in Seattle. These guys have a great time tossing fish to each other while they deliver excellent customer service. I have seen it first hand. As a customer, and as a student of leadership, I loved it!
Creating a light atmosphere lightens the load of our work, promotes relationship building, and makes the team attractive to customers. All of a sudden, everyone is smiling. There is an effervescence that bubbles into the atmosphere of?teams who have fun at work.
But when you start adopting?fun as a value, I encourage you to remember the following points.
Be Unconventional, Not?Unprofessional
Would you say that throwing fish to others, and I mean big 20 to 30 pound fish, is unconventional? If you visit the Pike Place fish market?even as a customer?you are offered to be thrown a fish. At first, it seems a bit ludicrous. People suddenly stop their fast paced shopping the moment they come upon?the fish market and just stare.?Is this for real??I mean, these guys are loud and running around. They are yelling and laughing. But believe it or not, they are not unprofessional. They never cross the line. They are sanitary. And they never force themselves onto customers who do not want to participate.
Recently, I brought my ukulele and a small drum to work. Someone brought their tambourine. When we are not very busy, and we have a patient who comes to the clinic on their birthday, a few of us will go in and sing “Happy Birthday” to them. Talk about surprised looks! Singing at a clinic? But we?value our patients. It makes them smile from ear to ear, and that puts a huge grin on the faces of all of us who are participating. It only takes 30 seconds, and I don’t think we cross professional boundaries.
On the other hand, things can cross a line in the name of fun. Years ago I worked with someone?who thought it was great fun to pass gas, then crack up laughing. She was one of the kindest people I had ever worked with, and I think she was just trying to be funny. But that crosses a line of professionalism and proper decorum by most standards.
So think outside of the box. Have fun. But remain professional.
Be Light, Not?Unproductive
I know some of you are squirming in your seats now because you may think your team might?turn into an unproductive bunch. Far from it. Having fun can drastically increase productivity. However, those boundaries must be?clearly stated when explaining and demonstrating a light-hearted, fun atmosphere.
It only took a few minutes when we recently threw grapes to each other. It only takes a few minutes to sing “Happy Birthday” to a patient. The mood lifts. We all went on doing our jobs better and faster than before.
You should see the men of the fish market. Boy, they run around! They get extra energy that comes from a love of what they do and from putting smiles on people’s faces who are otherwise stressed out.?Fun?does not mean you are shirking your work or lowering your standards of excellence. It means your team occasionally stops and is intentional to have a good time.
Steps to Make Fun a Part of Your Culture
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- Write it down.?First, toy with the idea a bit. Once you are convinced that this should be a part of your culture, talk to the key people around you. Bring them on board. Get their ideas on how to make it a reality. And, write it down. Where? You decide. In your notes, on the wall in a list, on a board in the break room, on company T-shirts… Just make it known.
- Recruit people who have fun. When I interview people, one of my main goals is to see if I can get them to really laugh with me. When there is chemistry enough to get us both laughing, then there is connection enough to get us through stressful moments when we start working together.
- State it from the beginning. I not only test applicants to see if they can naturally have fun, I also make it clear that our culture is fun. I ask them, ?Are you okay with that?? Moreover, ?Will you promote this culture when you join us??
- Train and give feedback. When a new person joins the team, it is imperative that all our values are taught, and feedback is given frequently to make sure that person is both having fun and adding fun to our team culture.
One last warning?
Be careful not to appear as if you are wasting time while customers are waiting. It is not just about the team having fun. It is about having fun while you are serving your customers.
Here’s the way?to know if you have succeeded in this area. Do your people laugh? I mean really crack up. That?s your test.?Regardless how serious your work may be, find ways to have a good time with your team members.
Actionable Step: Decide to make fun one of your organization?s values. Discuss it with your leadership team and then with your entire staff. Come up with practical ways to make it a reality. How do you know if you?ve succeeded? When you hear your people laughing.
About me: I am a morning person.? I have not always been, but after my medical residency, where I couldn’t sleep for over 30 hours at a time, I got used to it. I wake up at 5am daily. Before I start my day, I aim to do three things: (1) spend time with God, (2) answer my emails, and (3) refine my to-do list for the day. When my days are not full, I also try to exercise in the morning.
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