Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Leadership

Make Your Work Fun

A deep, pulsating, almost hypnotic rhythm drew me in the direction of Harlon’s Barbecue and Country Breakfast at Houston Intercontinental Airport. African drums in the food court? Fighting the urge to dance up to the counter,I drew nearer and saw a young man behind the counter. He flashed a big, engaging smile as he rhythmically chopped the barbecue.

Then he looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve been expecting you! Which type of this delicious barbecue can I serve you today?”

As I passed on through the line and made my selection, I said to the man, whose name I had just learned, “Ricky, you seem like a man who enjoys your job.”

He replied, “It ain’t hard, Ms. Beverly, to be nice to people.”

I purposely chose a table close to the serving line so that I could continue to observe Ricky. As each person walked up, he gave a special and unusual greeting.

Sometimes he sang it: “Don’t be nervous, don’t be shy. Step right up and have a try. Oh, no, oh, no, don’t walk right by!”

How much fun could it be to chop meat and serve barbecue? It’s not a job that seems stimulating or challenging. But don’t tell Ricky that. He had chosen to make his job fun.

Do you?

All Jobs Have Drudgery

Let’s face it. No job is fun all the time. Even when you have found a job that is a great fit for your talents and your life purpose, it’s easy to get bogged down in the inevitable boring or stressful tasks that also manage to find their place in your job description.

It’s pretty easy to stay motivated when you’re in the flow of doing the things you love best. It’s more difficult to keep an upbeat, energetic attitude when you’re outside your comfort zone. When that customer or co-worker gets on your last nerve. When you’re faced with a challenge you’re afraid you can’t meet. When none of the options in a decision you must make are without danger. When you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. These circumstances are no fun.

But even then…especially then…it’s up to you. Will you get down under it, or will you use humor and playfulness to get you through?

Down With Distress - Up With Play

I’m not talking about just playing games in your workplace (though work-related games can spark creativity and build camaraderie). I’m talking about building a spirit of playfulness into your work and into your team’s discussions and activities.

Playfulness is both a symptom of and a catalyst for relationship health. This is true both in both the workplace and your personal life. In fact, I read a research study that indicated that, in marital counseling, the absence of playfulness makes for a poor prognosis, while the return of playfulness is one of the single best indicators of recovery of affection and trust.

Cathy Miller of PacificCorp said, “When fun is a part of your culture, people are more relaxed and open to thinking about new, creative, or innovative ideas – a trait that always has been and always will be a competitive advantage.”

I admire Marjorie Brody, my close friend and member of my mastermind group, Master Speakers International. Marjorie is the Founder and CEO of Brody Communications, a nationally-recognized Philly-based training company. Marjorie is serious about her business, but she knows that a spirit of play within the company is good for the bottom line. That’s why the business cards of each of her team members don’t carry the staid titles like CEO or V.P. of Operations or Administrative Assistant or Director of Training. Instead, their roles are described in terms like Fearless Leader, Diva of Detail, Chief Chaos Control Officer, Manager of Maximum Exposure, and Relationship Builder/Solution Provider.

Dave Hemsath and Leslie Yerkes, in “301 Ways to Have Fun at Work,” gave a great example of playfulness tied to results. At MAQIN in Madison, Wisconsin, Turina Bakken livened up a staff meeting and stimulated productive discussion by having the staff go out into the parking lot with three beach balls. The first task was to keep one ball in the air. Then they added the second, then the third. Then they added a weirdly-bouncing ball with sand in it. After this lively activity, the team went back into the meeting and discussed the parallels between this experience and all the balls they were trying to keep in the air. Their increased creativity led to solutions they probably wouldn’t have thought of in “another dull meeting.”

Learn To Laugh At Yourself

A close cousin to playfulness is a sense of humor that is a lifesaver for people in chronically stressful job situations. The skill (which can be learned) of finding the humor in difficult work and personal situations is one of the best tools in your anti-burnout kit.

In addition, studies show that the use of appropriate, relevant humor raises morale, builds credibility, and increases sales. The truth is, people do business with people they like, and they like people that make them smile and laugh.

Erma Bombeck said, “Humor is a spontaneous, wonderful bit of an outburst that just comes. It’s unbridled, it’s unplanned, it’s full of surprises.”

Self-effacing humor is especially helpful. In his book, “Punchline Your Bottom Line,” one of my colleagues in the National Speakers Association, David Glickman, tells the true story of a professional speaker who actually fell through the stage. As he sheepishly crawled out of the hole he had made in the floor, he wasted no time in quipping, “It’s just a stage I’m going through!”

I’ve learned to tolerate my (many!) imperfections by laughing at myself…and by doubling the positive impact by sharing the story and the fun with others.

For instance, one of my struggles is with “pounds.” I got an opportunity to laugh at myself one day when I met a little 92-year-old lady named Ms. Daisy. A supportive family member had brought Ms. Daisy to my clinical practice to have me evaluate her competency to manage her own funds. It seems that some other members of the family may have had greedy motives and would have like to gained the opportunity to manage (translated, help themselves to) her money.

Ms. Daisy looked at me with some suspicion as I introduced myself and tried to establish rapport. “How are you, Ms. Daisy?” I said. “I’m Dr. Smallwood.”

She looked me up and down, then said emphatically, “Well, you don’t look too small to me!”

(By the way, she WAS competent.)

Learn to laugh at yourself…you’ll never run out of material!

Is the Job Boring, Or Is It You?

Don’t put up with a boring job! I’m not necessarily talking about leaving the job. What I mean is, leave the boring behind! Have you allowed sameness and lethargy to creep in to your everyday habits and attitudes? Do something different!

For example, to build your humor muscles, begin to actively look for the humor around you. Write it down. Everywhere I go, I carry a little notebook I call my humor book. When Iobserve something out of the ordinary or funny, I make a note of it. I learned this life-changing practice from humorist Jeane Robertson.

If you do this, you’ll become a more interesting and joyful person. You’ll be training yourself to observe the funny and to think funny. This will make it more likely that you’ll be able to "find the funny" and share it with others.

When you and your teammates are energized by a spirit of camaraderie and play, your creative juices will flow. You’ll work together productively in a company you won’t want to leave.

Like Ricky at Harlon’s Barbecue and Country Breakfast, YOU CAN MAKE YOUR JOB FUN!

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

back to leadership

linkedin video blogs new morning

Become more successful at work and home by applying tips in Dr. Bev’s monthly ezine. Sign up now!

Post Office Box 17918

2013 Hardy Street

Hattiesburg, MS 39401


Copyright © 2017 -- Dr. Bev Smallwood. -- All Rights Reserved | Web Development By: Hartfield Creative

Post Office Box 17918 • 2013 Hardy Street • Hattiesburg, MS 39401 • 601.264.0890 • 877.can.lead (266.5323)