The Importance of Having Fun

“You can learn more about a person in an hour’s worth of play than in a day of conversation.”  Plato

During the last three weeks I’ve addressed three of the four pillars of teamwork outlined by Laser Quest. I’ve written about Communication, Cooperation, and Trust. But the fourth pillar of FUN is also necessary.

When Laser Quest talks about FUN, they say, “It may seem frivolous, but when members of a team have fun, it helps reduce negative stress, encourages creative thinking and makes group members more adaptable to change.” They’re right. A truly effective team not only gets the job done but has some FUN in the process.

In fact, when I conduct team building programs, I often assess the team in advance. I’ve noticed that teams that don’t have much FUN also have several other problems… such as…

* Watched productivity. The team members tend to work when they’re watched … but goof off when they’re not.

* Money motivation. The team members work for money and money only … which means you’ve got to pay them more and more money to get better and better results. And people who are motivated by money will leave you sooner than those who are motivated by fun.

* False communication. In other words, the team members may look you straight in the eye and tell you “everything’s okay,” but in private they bad mouth you and the company, telling their friends they shouldn’t go to work in your organization.

* Mental check out. The team members will leave you when times get tough. And if they can’t leave, if they’re stuck in their jobs, they leave you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They give you noting more than a body that shows up for work and then avoids it like the plague.

In essence, when a team and its team members aren’t having enough “FUN,” they do not willingly put out better work. They just get by.

What can you do to make sure your team has more FUN? I cover that in great detail in my program, “Staying Up In A Down World: 8 Keys To A Positive Work Environment.” In fact, Mark Pufundt, the Chicago Chairman of the Institute for Management studies, wrote: Thanks for a GREAT day at Chicago IMS. You’re the BEST! Your scores for the seminar were ‘over the top.’ And now Allstate wants to bring you in to present the same program for them. Ms. Marisela from Allstate said, ‘I thought Dr. Zimmerman was phenomenal. I can’t wait to share my experience with my team’.”

To get you moving, to help you put a bit more FUN into your team, try some of these tips.

=> 1. Look For The Humor In Misunderstanding.

It’s so easy to get upset when people don’t understand you. After all, time is wasted and feelings get hurt inadvertently.

Instead, when you discover some breakdown in communication, look for the humor. Make a joke about it.

It’s like the fellow who got a job painting the stripe down the middle of the road. He painted 10 miles the first day but only 5 miles the second. The boss thought his new worker must have had a rough day, so he let it slide. He didn’t say anything until he noticed that his painter only completed 2 miles on his third day at work. He asked what was going on.

His painter said there was an easy explanation. Every day he got further away from the bucket.

=> 2. Use Your Imagination.

Some teams will use crazy contests to spice things up. Others might post baby pictures of their team members and guess who is who. Still others will get involved in some games or activities that are not only fun but require some cooperation.

Use your imagination. What can your team do that might be a bit different but also fun and playful?

Barbara Bock wrote about the use of imagination as she tried to help her daughters develop an appreciation for nature. So she took them camping.

After they arrived at the campsite and the gear was unloaded, Barbara said they all set to work. Her husband had the girls gather pine needles to make soft “beds.” And all together they brought rocks to form a circle in the cool stream where they placed their perishables. That, she explained, would be their “refrigerator.” Finally, they made a “stove” by making a ring of stones topped with a grate.

The girls were excited and impressed. The 5-year old smiled at her Father and asked, “If we get more rocks, Daddy, will you make a TV?”

=> 3. Spice Up Your Meetings.

Even though meetings are made for work, many of them do not work. They’re often boring, tedious, and repetitious, as well as a huge waste of time. That’s why one person said, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.”

I could write a book on how to hold more effective meetings, but for our purposes today, I just want you to think about how you can make your meetings more FUN. It could be as simple as bringing treats to share with others or telling a funny story you just heard.

I like humorist Dave Barry’s idea as to how to handle team members who fall asleep in a meeting. He said, “Have everybody leave the room. Then collect a group of total strangers, from right off the street, and have them sit around the sleeping person and stare at him until he wakes up. Then, have one of them say to him, in a very somber voice, ‘Bob, your plan is very, very, risky, but you’ve given us no choice but to try it. I only hope, for your sake, that you know what the heck you’re getting yourself into.’ Then have the strangers file quietly out of the room”

Of course, I’m not recommending Dave’s idea, but it’s fun to think about how it might work. People would never fall asleep in a meeting again.

Bob Nohren from The Energy Conservatory Bike Shop sent me this idea after I spoke at a meeting for his professional association. Bob asked, somewhat tongue in cheek, “Do you keep falling asleep in meetings and seminars? Do you feel tired and unmotivated? Do you find yourself daydreaming of anything and everything during the work day?”

“Well here’s a way to change all of that.”

1. Before (or during) your next meeting, prepare yourself by drawing a square. I find that a 5″ x 5″ is a good size. Divide the card into columns — five across and five down. That will give you 25 one-inch blocks.

2. Write one of the following words/phrases in each block.

*strategic fit
*core competencies
*best practice
*bottom line
*take that off-line
*out of the loop
*think outside the box
*fast track
*empower (empowerment)
*at the end of the day
*touch base
*client focus(ed)
*game plan

3. Check off the appropriate block when you hear one of those words/phrase.

4. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout “Bull….”

Testimonials from satisfied “Bull…. Bingo” players:

*”I had been in the meeting for only five minutes when I won.” – Jack W., Boston
*”My attention span at meetings has improved dramatically.” – David D., Miami
*”The atmosphere was tense in the last process meeting as 14 of us waited for the fifth box.” – Ben G., Denver
*”The speaker was stunned as eight of us screamed ‘Bull….!’ for the third time in two hours.” – Kathleen L., Atlanta

It would take some guts to actually do it but it might be fun. Go ahead and think of some ways to spice up your 

Action:  Ask yourself and ask your team members if they’re having enough FUN on the job? Is the team and the team meetings as much FUN as they’d like them to be?

If not, start to brainstorm a list of 50 things you could do to increase the FUN and implement at least one new idea every