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Fun Works

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Leading-edge organizations have discovered that fun can--and does--translate into bottom line success. By harnessing the power of fun, companies find they can better retain employees and customers, motivate teams, improve productivity, increase innovation, and create a sense of community.
Leslie Yerkes details precisely how eleven successful companies--including Southwest Airlines, Pike Place Fish, Isle of Capri Casinos, EmployEase, and Prudential--have integrated fun into the normal course of business. This new edition provides updates on how these same companies have grown, prospered, and continued to thrive--in spite of national tragedies, natural disaster, growing competition, and changing economic conditions--in part because of the culture they have created through what Yerkes calls "The Fun/Work Fusion."
Yerkes illustrates eleven principles--from capitalizing on the spontaneous to hiring good people and getting out of their way--that will inspire you to inject a sense of playfulness and joy into your workplace. Full of real-life examples, strategies, ideas, resources, tools, tips, and techniques, Fun Works will help any company in any industry become a place where people love to work.

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PART ONE: Creating the Fun/Work Fusion

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INTRODUCTION: The Case for Integrating Fun and Work

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Anyone who’s worked with contractors on a building project has a story; usually it’s a horror story. Contractors, these stories go, are a real pain. They tell you one thing and do another; they substitute materials; they move tradespeople arbitrarily from one job to another so there’s no continuity on your project. In short, working with contractors is not fun. Or so the stories go.

My experience, however, is 180° different. My contractor story is a fun one and the payoff, the final product, is award-winning. And it’s different because in my story the contractors had fun at work.

It took me two years to find the right space for my new office. For the first five years of my business, I worked from my home (like many entrepreneurs) creating a very successful and profitable change-management consulting practice. Now I wanted to have my own, separate office space — a space in which I could have employees and clients and fun.

My requirements for this space included being downtown on the ground floor with floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on trees — not an easy task in Cleveland, Ohio. But I persevered. The space I eventually found was connected to a city park and had the windows I needed. Inside the space, however, were rooms and walls and doors. Because of the kind of the business I’m in, one that places high value on the free flow of ideas and information, I wanted a special space that would embody those principles. To me, that meant it had to have no rooms, no offices, no head-of-the-table, no hierarchy.

 

PART TWO: The Fun/Work Fusion Principles

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PRINCIPLE ONE: Give Permission to Perform

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The concept of work is not static, it is fluid. As the world changes, so do our attitudes toward work. We are currently at a crossroads, at the creation of yet another attitude toward work. The new economy requires that we rethink what work is and what work should be. If work is going to attract the best people today and retain them tomorrow, then in addition to providing the resources to live, work must also be fulfilling.

People are demanding more from their jobs than merely a paycheck. They expect to enjoy what they do and they will search and move until they are satisfied with their work experience.

The shift to this new attitude toward work is not complete. We are still in the throes of breaking the bonds of traditional hierarchy in which employees won’t take action without first getting permission.

These are symptomatic phrases of our current status. If work is to be truly fulfilling for the worker, then our attitudes toward it will have to change. We will have to learn to trust ourselves and our co-workers to follow agreed upon guidelines rather than to consult the hierarchy before taking any action.

 

PRINCIPLE TWO: Challenge Your Bias

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We live with biases imbedded into our work ethic, biases that prevent us from integrating our whole selves into our work life. Do you carry with you any of these biases?

These biases are symptoms of our ‘Type A Behavior.’ We are fascinated with Type A; we glorify it and we honor it. We don’t seem to value preparation and planning with anywhere near the amount of reverence we hold for ‘rolling up our sleeves and getting right to work.’ We value the result more than the method; we measure how much gets done instead of how much fun it was to do it. We often meet our deadlines but we don’t grow and improve in the process.

When I give speeches, I always ask the audience what are the benefits of incorporating fun with work. The answers I get are always the same: a positive impact on morale and productivity; a reduction in stress, absenteeism, and attrition; and the ability to attract and retain key employees. Then I ask, ‘If we understand that by incorporating fun into work we can achieve these results, what prevents us from doing that?’ The answer I get is always our biases. And the chief among those is our bias that Type A Behavior is the desired norm.

 

PRINCIPLE THREE: Capitalize on the Spontaneous

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Fun doesn’t happen according to schedule. It isn’t something we plan. Fun grows in a culture that fosters its existence; it springs automatically from the proper environment. Don’t inhibit its existence by scheduling too tightly; allow room for it to breathe and grow. Fun will replicate itself if encouraged. It is naturally contagious and knows no hierarchical boundary. Fun will instinctively assume new forms and delight us with its unexpected changes and variations.

Capitalize on the spontaneous. Don’t over think it, keep it simple.

“Laughter is the sun
that drives winter
from the human face.”

VICTOR HUGO

How do you take a cocktail-napkin idea and turn it into the most profitable airline in America? You utilize your warrior mentality to defeat your competition and rely on your ability to have spontaneous fun to enchant your customers. And when you’re finished, what you have is Southwest Airlines — the most fun you can have flying for peanuts.

KEEP A WARRIOR SPIRIT
When it comes to dealing with the competition, Southwest employees mount a good offense. They have a history of aggressively going into battle. In fact, Southwest is half-assed about nothing! The company believes if you’re going to do something, do it with intensity and do it right.
Kevin & Jackie Freiberg Nuts: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, p. 152

 

PRINCIPLE FOUR: Trust the Process

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Fun doesn’t happen according to schedule. It isn’t something we plan. Fun grows in a culture that fosters its existence; it springs automatically from the proper environment. Don’t inhibit its existence by scheduling too tightly; allow room for it to breathe and grow. Fun will replicate itself if encouraged. It is naturally contagious and knows no hierarchical boundary. Fun will instinctively assume new forms and delight us with its unexpected changes and variations.

Capitalize on the spontaneous. Don’t over think it, keep it simple.

“Laughter is the sun
that drives winter
from the human face.”

VICTOR HUGO

How do you take a cocktail-napkin idea and turn it into the most profitable airline in America? You utilize your warrior mentality to defeat your competition and rely on your ability to have spontaneous fun to enchant your customers. And when you’re finished, what you have is Southwest Airlines — the most fun you can have flying for peanuts.

KEEP A WARRIOR SPIRIT
When it comes to dealing with the competition, Southwest employees mount a good offense. They have a history of aggressively going into battle. In fact, Southwest is half-assed about nothing! The company believes if you’re going to do something, do it with intensity and do it right.
Kevin & Jackie Freiberg Nuts: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, p. 152

 

PRINCIPLE FIVE: Value a Diversity of Fun Styles

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Fun doesn’t happen according to schedule. It isn’t something we plan. Fun grows in a culture that fosters its existence; it springs automatically from the proper environment. Don’t inhibit its existence by scheduling too tightly; allow room for it to breathe and grow. Fun will replicate itself if encouraged. It is naturally contagious and knows no hierarchical boundary. Fun will instinctively assume new forms and delight us with its unexpected changes and variations.

Capitalize on the spontaneous. Don’t over think it, keep it simple.

“Laughter is the sun
that drives winter
from the human face.”

VICTOR HUGO

How do you take a cocktail-napkin idea and turn it into the most profitable airline in America? You utilize your warrior mentality to defeat your competition and rely on your ability to have spontaneous fun to enchant your customers. And when you’re finished, what you have is Southwest Airlines — the most fun you can have flying for peanuts.

KEEP A WARRIOR SPIRIT
When it comes to dealing with the competition, Southwest employees mount a good offense. They have a history of aggressively going into battle. In fact, Southwest is half-assed about nothing! The company believes if you’re going to do something, do it with intensity and do it right.
Kevin & Jackie Freiberg Nuts: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, p. 152

 

PRINCIPLE SIX: Expand the Boundaries

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Fun doesn’t happen according to schedule. It isn’t something we plan. Fun grows in a culture that fosters its existence; it springs automatically from the proper environment. Don’t inhibit its existence by scheduling too tightly; allow room for it to breathe and grow. Fun will replicate itself if encouraged. It is naturally contagious and knows no hierarchical boundary. Fun will instinctively assume new forms and delight us with its unexpected changes and variations.

Capitalize on the spontaneous. Don’t over think it, keep it simple.

“Laughter is the sun
that drives winter
from the human face.”

VICTOR HUGO

How do you take a cocktail-napkin idea and turn it into the most profitable airline in America? You utilize your warrior mentality to defeat your competition and rely on your ability to have spontaneous fun to enchant your customers. And when you’re finished, what you have is Southwest Airlines — the most fun you can have flying for peanuts.

KEEP A WARRIOR SPIRIT
When it comes to dealing with the competition, Southwest employees mount a good offense. They have a history of aggressively going into battle. In fact, Southwest is half-assed about nothing! The company believes if you’re going to do something, do it with intensity and do it right.
Kevin & Jackie Freiberg Nuts: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, p. 152

 

PRINCIPLE SEVEN: Be Authentic

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Fun isn’t something we can apply like a coat of paint. It isn’t a suit of clothes we choose to put on because it’s appropriate for the occasion. Fun is the way we really are; it’s who we are at the very core of our being. The Wizard of Oz chose to project an image to his countrymen that he felt was worthy enough to be called The Great Oz; he hid his real self behind a curtain. In the end, it was not his image that held the seeds for success, however, but rather his authentic self that saved the day.

To be successful and to have fun at work, we need to be authentic. For a company to be successful, its employees need to be authentic. When we are under stress and duress, our real selves will out. If we are projecting a façade, it will crack under strain. If we are authentic, we will make the right decisions at the right time for the right reasons.

Authenticity cannot be learned, it cannot be faked. Being authentic requires us to be and act ourselves; it requires us to trust that who we are is the right person to be at the time. When we are authentic, we can trust our response to any situation. We don’t smile because we should, we smile because we can’t help ourselves. When we are authentic, we are our best selves at all times. When we are authentic, fun naturally integrates itself into our work.

 

PRINCIPLE EIGHT: Be Choiceful

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To be choiceful means to give yourself permission — permission to perform, permission to choose how you will behave, permission to be your full fun self. The only thing in life we have power over is our self; it’s the only thing we can change. Being choiceful means we decide who we will be and how we will act, it means we have the permission to become. To be choiceful means to take the world in your own hands; it is the ultimate empowerment.

Being choiceful does not require extra money, time, or energy. It is simply a matter of deciding. It is a conscious decision.

True fun is the result of making good choices; it is not something you choose to do, it is something you choose to become. When you choose fun, you choose to bring the best of yourself to work each day.

If you find yourself lost and work is no longer fun, be choiceful. To be choiceful is to be proactive — create the world in which you choose to live. To feel inspired, be choiceful.

“Happiness is not a matter of good fortune
or worldly possessions. It is a mental
attitude. It comes from appreciating
what we have , instead of being miserable
about what we don’t have. It is so simple,
yet so hard for the human mind to comprehend.”

 

PRINCIPLE NINE: Hire Good People and Get Out of Their Way

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If we have hired well and we trust our employees with the most valuable assets of the organization, then why not trust their judgment on how to use their full fun selves to achieve company objectives?

Some people fear that if they give permission for fun, employees will take advantage of the situation and shift the focus from work to fun. This is only a risk if we approach fun as a reward for working versus being part of the work. If our mental model is work hard first and have fun later, we may create a dynamic that contributes to individuals feeling like they are on a low-fun diet. And diets, as we are all aware, often result in bingeing. When fun is ‘in’ the work and results from the satisfaction of good work and good working relationships, then there is little risk of ‘when the cat’s away the mice will play.’

When the work is both worthwhile and fun, then valuable employees will want to stay; where there is a committed, energized, productive group of employees, others will want to join. The integration of fun with work creates a natural-attraction force that is irresistible to good people.

 

PRINCIPLE TEN: Embrace Expansive Thinking and Risk Taking

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The integration of fun and work requires expansive thinking and risk taking. When we utilize expansive thinking, we learn to ‘think beyond the box.’ When our thinking expands, we create the room for fun to come into our work. Only then can we embrace the risk of integrating fun and work.

To embrace risk taking means to try new things without fear of criticism, to be able to make mistakes and welcome them as learning, without fear of punishment. To be successful at risk taking, we must overcome our fear of failure; we must be able to bring our whole selves to work without fear of rejection. Once we are successful at expansive thinking, risk taking itself becomes fun.

Nothing great in history was ever accomplished without risk. The risk for great success is the same as the risk for failure — extremely high; the risk involved in producing mediocrity is extremely low. To succeed greatly, we must risk greatly. Risk is inherent in innovation and innovation is the life-blood of our future. Lead the way into the future — don’t follow. Expand your thinking, embrace the risk of fun and work.

 

PRINCIPLE ELEVEN: Celebrate

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Recognition of success is not enough; we must also celebrate it. What gets recognized gets repeated; what gets celebrated becomes habit.

If we are going to successfully integrate fun and work, then the celebration of success must also be integrated into the fabric of work. We know that individuals require praise and recognition. We are learning that celebration generates additional energy for future endeavors, that it fuels high performance and increases the opportunity for, and likelihood of, even more success.

Celebration is fun. Do not separate celebration from work or distance it by time or space. Reinforce the integration of fun and work by the process of celebration — celebrate at work during work. When used throughout the work process rather than only at the end, celebration will give fresh energy to the work.

The principles for the celebration of success are the same as those for integrating fun and work: give permission; challenge your biases; be spontaneous; value diversity; et cetera. Follow these principles to infuse your work with both planned and spontaneous celebration. Start simply. When a group does something significant, celebrate the accomplishment before moving on. Make the effort to catch and compliment people doing something right. Look for opportunities to celebrate and then seize the moment with celebration.

 

PART THREE: Activating the Fun/Work Fusion

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CONCLUSION: Opening Our Minds and Letting Fun Happen

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During one of the final travel sessions for my research on Fun Works, I found myself facing one of those interminable layovers that are built into some flights. I was sitting in a waiting room in the Houston airport with nearly one hundred other passengers in anticipation of our flight to Seattle, armed only with a list of things to get done and a book I could read if I finished my to-do list. Since I was on business, I was dressed in a serious business suit, carrying a laptop computer, a travel bag, and a large purse. I found myself seated next to a middle-aged man and woman whom I gathered from their dress and carry-on bags were both on business, too. The focal point of our wait was a group of nineteen-year-olds who apparently were traveling as part of an event for their church or their school. Unlike their staid traveling companions, these adolescents were seated casually on the floor, playing cards, laughing, and singing — obviously enjoying themselves, oblivious to the boredom and stress the rest of us were feeling. Impressed by their irreverent response to the situation in which they found themselves, I turned to my two fellow travelers and asked them when the last time was that they felt like that. They said they couldn’t remember. When I asked them if they ever felt like that at work they simply smiled wistfully. But when I asked them, “Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like that at work?” they enthusiastically said, “Yes! Yes, it would!”

 

PART FOUR: Putting Fun to the Test

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The Fun/Work Fusion Inventory

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NOW THAT YOU’VE READ THE PRINCIPLES of Fun/Work Fusion and you’ve decided you’d like to better integrate fun into your work, what should you do? How do you know where to start? Remember it’s not what you need to do, but instead what you are being that makes this fusion happen. Before you can make a successful plan of attack, you will need to have a good understanding of where you are and where you feel you can get to. One way to do that is to determine if you are behaving your way into a fun relationship with work by taking the following inventory and letting the results be your guide.

Each section of the inventory correlates to one of the Principles of Fun/Work Fusion. Put a circle around the number you feel best answers the questions in each section. Answer quickly, but honestly. Don’t answer what you feel you ought to say (subjective), answer how things really are (objective). After you have determined your score for each section, transfer it to the Inventory Summary on page 201.

Now, re-read each section of the inventory and put a box around the number you think you could achieve if you focused on that section with your full effort for 90 days. Put your answer on the 90 Day Score line.

 

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