Can having fun make you a better leader?
by Dave Crenshaw
view original publication on randomactsofleadership.com
Employees, whether they know it or not, tend to play “follow the leader. They may admire your ingenuity or just want a little more spending money. Whatever it is, they mimic your behavior because they think it will make them successful. The problem is that leaders often exhibit unhealthy behaviors that cause them to work late nights without taking crucial breaks that recharge their batteries and improve their performance.
According to the Kelly Global Workforce Index, seventy-four percent of employees feel less loyal to their employer after the first year. What’s more, according to the University of Phoenix, nearly 60 percent of all American workers wish they were in a different career.
There are also studies that show that workaholism isn’t just unhealthy, it’s detrimental to the productivity of both yourself and others. In my upcoming book The Power of Having Fun, I discuss ways to improve this by finding a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly “Oasis.”
Imagine you’re in the Mojave desert. You are hundreds of miles from civilization. You’re rationing food and water and you need to make it to civilization before you starve. Your lips are beginning to chap and you’re sunburned beyond belief.
Then, inexplicably, in this barren wasteland, you are greeted by a pool of the bluest drinking water you’ve ever seen. There’s papaya juice, fresh seafood, and a chase lounge comfortable enough to rest any weary traveler.
This oasis is exactly what you need to continue the journey and to get where you’re trying to go. As a manager, your Work Oasis is exactly what you need to get through your day. Only it’s not a mirage. It’s very real.
You Come First
Establishing an Oasis is incredibly simple. The first step is to schedule this time with yourself every day. Literally, put it on your calendar. Your Oasis can be whatever you’d like it to be. Maybe you enjoy taking a bike ride through the parking lot or a quick trip down a YouTube wormhole.
One of my regular clients scheduled an appointment each day to visit Bessie the Cow. She’d leave her office, walk up the hill to a local pasture, pet the cow on the nose and then head back to work. Whether your moment of relaxation is of the bovine, canine, or alone time variety, any type of Oasis can work―as long as it’s meaningful to you!
Your employees should notice a change in your behavior and a change in the culture and mimic you accordingly.
The Institutional Oasis
If the free market of workplace behaviors doesn’t move the needle for your team, it’s your responsibility as a leader to institute and encourage taking breaks.
However, instead of setting the parameters for what constitutes a break, ask them what kind of break would be meaningful to them. Ask them what they like to do for fun. You shouldn’t encourage them to read when what they really want to do is play video games. You shouldn’t send them TED talks when what they really want to do is take long walks.
Taking Things Up a Notch
Eventually, you may find an opportunity in your budget for a more expensive Work Oasis, such as a company picnic. In my coaching experience, I’ve found leaders get the best results when they make these breaks less about the activity and more about self-directed fun. For example, company off-sites to the local bowling alley don’t appeal to everyone. Between the bowling shoes and the loud noises, you stand to turn some people off. The same can be said for a golf day, a video game day, or any other fun daytime activity. In the land of fun, flexibility is key.
Consider instituting a day like LinkedIn’s monthly InDay. Each InDay, employees engage in personal projects meant to reflect their own personal goals and to create a positive impact.
Winning Your Employees
By becoming an advocate of employee fun, you are more likely to turn the tide of the negative workplace stats I listed earlier. As a leader, your goals are often focused on performance result―as they should be. Always remember that getting stuff done and having more fun go hand-in-hand. By taking more time for yourself, setting a fun-positive example, and granting that privilege to others, you become a more productive leader.