One of my clients hosted a cooking class for her leadership team the evening before we had a one-day off-site meeting. After we learned how to prepare food in new and more productive ways, we enjoyed the results of our new found skills. I learned how to dice onions a new, safer and more productive way with fewer tears.
Why is it that we don’t often equate work with fun? In the case of the team mentioned above, the evening’s events served to bring people closer together. We disarmed potentially disruptive perceptions by giving people the chance to learn more about each other. The next day, we had a good meeting that accomplished all its goals and ended early. Who doesn’t want an all-day meeting to end early, especially if you have achieved all of your goals.
Because I am a practitioner focused on pragmatic solutions, I won’t dive into the psychology and science behind fun at work, but I will share a few tips that I have found useful.
1. Don’t wait until the end to celebrate
2. Let employees decide what they’d like to do
3. Give back to the community
4. Interaction is key
Do it now: Often I see leaders host a huge celebration dinner at the close of a project. While well intended, this alone is not sufficient. When driving a significant change, people need to learn to work together in new and different ways. Use a social event early in the program for people to meet one another and learn about each other. Later in the timeline when they start running into issues, they’ll have a personal relationship to reference. This gives employees other resources and makes it less likely they’ll assign blame and more likely they’ll cooperate with one another.
Let them decide: Within budgetary and company guidelines, allow employees to determine the activities they’d prefer. Ask for a volunteer committee to determine the venue and plan the event. I rarely see anyone turn down an opportunity like this, and it relieves you of the task. Give them access to your assistant to help with things he might be better equipped to handle – like purchase orders or scheduling.
Community support: Some of the most successful events are those where the group gives back. Twice my group helped prepare a Habitat for Humanity house. Another time, my team did landscaping for a non-profit social support group. In these cases, we went away feeling like we contributed to a greater cause, and in the process reaped all the other benefits outlined in this post.
Interaction: Dinners are nice and food is essential to maintain life, but I rarely find large group dinners to have the impact necessary to bring people together. Meals are an easy venue if the group is 2-4 people. This paves the way for lots of verbal interaction. My experience, though, is that when you are engaged in something interactive, you learn how other people approach work, solve problems, and simply interact. One client team did ice sculptures the night before our full day meeting. I learned how people on this team approached problems and interacted with each other to build something.
Having fun while driving change is important. It brings people together. It helps them learn about each other. It helps them learn how to work together. And it’s all done outside of the office where mistakes cost much less to resolve. Leaders I work with now ask for these features in their change programs, which we define in my Activate program. Click to learn more.
Dedicated to your profitable transformation,
p.s. Looking for more wisdom in the art of strategic change? Check out another expert, Jeff Skipper.