When did we lose our sense of fun?

Or joy.  Or at least smiling!  We don’t have a phrase like joie de vivre.  We had to steal it from the French!  But is it just that our stiff upper lip stops us enjoying ourselves.  And how can I be talking about “enjoying ourselves” – don’t I know that times are hard?  There could be a triple dip!  America is catching a cold – we will catch flu!  All those shops shutting – where will it end?  Let’s end the day with a smile, not a frown.  You can’t change the past, only aim to do better and make the most of the future.

Happy people make happy organisations make happy customers make happy accountants   (Sorry – it is proven).  I look at the sheer joy of our great nephew (and he is great in many ways).  He turned 3 just before Christmas.  He is not deliriously happy all of the time – but he smiles loads more than most adults.  It is infectious and just lovely.  I guess he is not alone in this 3 year old style outlook?  But I think he is probably unusually good fun (and this is a biased Great Uncle Phil talking, I know).

1323An image from my friends at Glasstap – Trainers Library www.glasstap.com

When did we get so serious?  I know we do have fun and banter at work – and places that have more of it are the places I like to visit (and keep as my clients).  I did a presentation once were I said that work should be fun.  This was to a group of small to medium sized business owners. (The business size, not fat cats…)  One (who had arrived late) collared me at the end to berate me.  “I disagree – work shouldn’t be fun.  I pay them as their reward.  They’ve got a job haven’t they?”  His disagree meant of course, that not only did he think he was right, but that I was stupid to think differently.  So I disagreed back, and hoped he had a fine life, and enjoyed himself outside of his work, because that means at least half his life would be fun!

The macho, hard nosed, hard driving, kill at all costs ‘lunch is for wimps’ 1980’s attitude may still prevail in some sectors (Investment bankers anyone?).  It isn’t the only way.  It isn’t the best way to make things happen – for everyone in the organisation.

Smile.  Be happy.  People may wonder why you are smiling.  At least you will have something to talk about!


Teams – magical or insufferable?

I have a wonderful book called “Why teams don’t work” by Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley. I have an older version – and this is one of those books which annoyingly keeps changing its cover.  You may have bought it twice…which I am sure lots of us have done over the years with many books.

Anyway, back in 1995 this was the Financial Times / Booz Allen and Hamilton Global Business Book of the year.  (As a minor aside, I am so excited that an international management consultancy has Booz as one of its original members.  I am sure it helps the creativity!)

The preface sets the main premise; “…people don’t necessarily like being on teams”.  There are 5 sections

  1.  Broken dreams, broken teams
  2. Why teams come apart
  3. What keeps teams from working
  4. Team myths
  5. Turning teams around

It even stays down beat on teams in the epilogue:

“Teams are trouble because they are made of people and people are trouble”

OK.  The whole thrust of the book is to get away from” Happy Clappy”, team is the answer to every organisational ill sort of positivity without substance.  But they do look at every downfall and negative aspect of ‘team’ .  To that end, it is relentlessly negative in the stories and experiences.  I have always worked on that principle anyway – you do need to locate the abscess before you can start the treatment.  Get all the negative out on the table, examine it, and agree the way forward to putting it right. So the negative stories do feed ideas of what to do about them.

I have always been interested in this aspect of people working together.  Or not.  I have surveyed groups and asked how often had they been in a really high performing team – a Rolls-Royce of a team, where everyone’s input was equally valued, people were queuing up to get into the team, and even your competition knew of and talked about that team.

Most people said it had never happened.  Some said once in their working lives.  One person, twice.

The book did have an optimistic last paragraph:

“But when people take their time to learn about one another, what is in their hearts as well as their minds, we rise to a higher level.  Call it love, call it camaraderie, call it team spirit, or don’t call it anything at all.  But somehow or other, you have to get there.  It is the glory of working together, and getting things right.”

That made up for my feelings of “why do I bother?” half way through!

We will return to some of the themes, and potential solutions, tips and ideas.


Trust revisited

I said this might be a recurring theme – trust does seem a pretty core theme for much that is good and bad about soft skills in hard times.

Let me tell you a Christmas time story.  We were off on a short break to Devon, and had taken our small TV with us, but no remote control. Like most modern TVs, you need to tune it in if moved to a different area like when you first set things up.  This is impossible to do without the control.

We called in at John Lewis on the way, and visited the madly busy small electrical section, waiting in a queue for a technical adviser.  She suggested that they may have an extra one in their stash of remotes – but there wan’t our type in that box.  Second, she advised us to look at the generic ‘all in one’ packages, but to open them, and check for compatibility   We did, and amazingly our British assembled TV (Made by Lansar) had incompatibility problems with all makes.  We asked for more advice, after the assistant (and a very appropriate description of her that word is) was returning from the depths of the warehouse where she had been to look for a possible replacement.

“I’ve got another idea”, she said.  “I will take this remote from a returned TV in the sale, and you can borrow it for your holiday – we wouldn’t want you to be without it!”  We remonstrated but she insisted. She took no details from us at all!  We asked for her name and the address so we could post it back after the holiday, which we did with a note of thanks, of course.

We felt more obliged to send it back at the earliest opportunity because of the amount of trust she had shown.

I wonder if that’s a lesson we can all take into our organisations?

I know John Lewis has the philosophy of empowerment and all of the staff are Partners in the business.   But doesn’t this story just show how living the creed means you practice it too.  Is it any wonder they are so successful?

Here’s a photo that shows this sort of trust on a different scale.

This was hanging on the car park gate of a Defence establishment I visited last year.   No-one steals it.  Anyone can use it.

It’s all about trust.  We need to have more of it

De-icer - nice!

De-icer – nice!

2012 – summary in single (ish) words

When we help people to understand mind-mapping, one of the exercises to show people we can remember things from single words or very simple phrases is that we can construct a whole paragraph from the memory jogged from that single word.  In that vein, I hope my summary will jog a lot of fine memories for you!  Biased towards the Olympics, just because they epitomise the essentials of people skills, for me.  How about you?

The Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Olympic Stadium





Hose pipe bans



Morning sickness




Sport Relief