I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. About culture, and change management especially. I’ve been asking myself if there is a single thing that’s really important to capture, to ingrain within the organisation.

And I think I’ve worked it out – it’s purely and simply FUN!

Anyone who’s been in business over the last 10 years will tell you things have been tough. Everyone seems to have gone through it. Not even the internet hot properties of the late 90’s and early 00’s escaped.

Work got hard, business got hard. Things were tight all over. No one was spending on very much at all and selling anything was harder than I can ever remember. Serious times call for serious measures, and things got really serious.

I had some great advice once, from a favourite mentor of mine, Dave Gifford. He said ‘Take yourself seriously, and people will take you seriously – Take yourself VERY seriously, and people will take you VERY seriously’. And he was right. Its advice I’ve always held to be among the most important I’ve ever had.

But can you take yourself TOO seriously maybe?

See, the trouble with pressure is you get used to it. Before you know it, late nights at work and disrupted sleep are the normal way of things. You tell yourself that you just need to work harder, because that’s what you’ve always been taught.

We’ve been brought up with this idea haven’t we? Work hard in school and get good exams results and then work hard in college and get yourself a degree. Then work hard at your first job and do well, and maybe start to climb that ladder.

Keeping working hard, or maybe work harder still, and you can get on the property ladder!

Then work hard to get a bigger house, and maybe start a family. Of course that means you’ll need more money, so you’ll need to work harder still. Before you know it, there is only work, and the never ending treadmill of more work, and harder work.

I think that’s fair enough to a point – Life is all about choices, and no one is forcing you into the career choices you make. I’ve always tried to take full responsibility for myself, my choices and the jobs I’ve done. I’m just trying to say, its easy to lose sight of whats important, and to just replace whats important, or maybe other stuff, with just working harder and harder.

Working hard can become the end in itself, do you see what I mean?

Lets say you are struggling with a project. Rather than going outside of your team or even your organisation, you, and maybe everyone else, just works harder. Harder and longer hours.

You get into a situation where you think ‘If I am going to fail, I need to make sure everyone can see how much I gave it before I failed’.

Lets say no matter what you’ve tried, things keep getting worse. Instead of continually working our better ways, or looking for other opportunities, you just settle into a cycle of hard work – almost as a way of justifying the failure.

‘I maybe failing’ you think – ‘But at least I’m working bloody hard at it!’ Its almost our default position, right the way through life.

‘How are you doing in the exams?’ – ‘I’m really struggling, but I’m giving it my best shot!’

‘Where are you on those sales targets? – ‘Not where we want to be, but we are all busting a gut to get there!’

It’s almost, almost an excuse in itself. Hard work is always the answer, so if I can’t see a way to win, I just need to be seen to work hard.

Back to fun…

Fun is really hard to do in organisations, because of the above. All those people who want to be taken seriously, taking themselves seriously, and all those other people working really hard to make up for the fact they don’t know what they are doing, are very suspicious if you start to have fun.

People are very reluctant to demonstrate anything other than total commitment to the cause and a dour faced resignation to the grind of the day / week / month. The last thing they want to do is look like they are enjoying themselves.

So thats why I think fun is the biggest single thing to get right in the organisation. And its hard work. The first thing to do is to break people off the dependancy of hard work.

Working hard and not achieving is as bad as not working hard and not achieving isn’t it?

Being miserable and failing is far worse than having a great time and failing isn’t it?

And here’s the thing…

Once you start to have fun, everything gets easier. Deadlines seems to expand, and targets shrink. Tensions melt and politics dies off. People work together, play together and start to win.

Psychologists have long know that we do our best work while ‘in the flow’ or in a state of relaxed almost ‘super ability’. The closest way to describe it is to think of kids playing. Whether its sports with team mates, or at home with their toys and games. They are in a perfect world, masters of everything, creative, thinking, feeling and using their imagination as a sixth sense.

This is why we need to spend more time playing. With our kids for sure – they actually understand the secret completely and are more than happy to let you in on it. But also at work. With our friends and colleagues. The absolute best places I have worked have been an absolutely blast! Not even feeling like work. You jump out of bed in the morning, rush to work, and knock it out of the park on a daily basis!

How can work be so easy and how do we get it to be so enjoyable?

Well, thats where the hard work comes in!

It starts at the top and it must be an all consuming objective in the organisation. People need to be helped to have fun and enjoy what they do. They need to be shown the way. It takes time and loads of effort. As a leader its far easier to shout and moan at people for under performance.

But great leaders make work a fun place to be.

They attract the best people, and those people all go the extra mile for them too. Thats why FUN is the magic ingredient!

Good luck!






6 replies
  1. Reflections on Leading
    Reflections on Leading says:

    Nail on the head Tony! Even more so after the last few years. It seems that there has been a loss of “joy” in the workplace. We need to get back that sense of fun, with the love and enthusiasm for what we are doing what we are doing. So how do we get more playful and and get our “hywl” back?

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