Managing The FUN-damentals of Leadership
By Ronald P. Culberson, Director of Everything, FUNsulting, etc.
Have you ever sung a report at a committee meeting? Have you ever stood on a table to encourage colleagues to see problems from a different perspective? Have you ever juggled in front of your staff? If not, then perhaps you take your role as a manager seriously. If you take your job too seriously though, staff may view you as uptight and unapproachable. A "lighter" approach to your work, on the other hand, conveys a sense of control, flexibility and understanding, all critical for survival as leaders. But you must be a good manger or leader before you can add FUN to the role.
Today's manager must develop employees to help them reach their greatest potential. Managers must take responsibility for their employees' success. In fact, an effective manager must be a role model, a mentor and a provider of structure.
A Role Model. Staff learn from their managers. If a manager is not "displaying" the behavior he/she expects from staff, the staff will never do what is expected. It is like the mother who said to her child, "I've told you a million times not to exaggerate"! Do as I say or do as I do? Staff will do as you do. Make sure you are modeling the behaviors you expect.
A Mentor. Managers must take the lead in helping employees develop. A colleague once complained that all of her staff were leaving for better jobs. I reassured her that she was obviously doing her job as a manager if her staff were moving on to better opportunities. Understand your staff's needs and help them to achieve their goals as well as the organization's goals.
A Provider of Structure. Just like children, staff need structure. Not because they misbehave, but because they need to know what's expected of them. Make sure you give your staff clear instructions and constant feedback (4 positive for every negative). If you are providing the right structure, you can then get out of the way and let your employees perform.
Leadership is a different concept from management. Rather than managing tasks, leaders are pursuing an ideal. Therefore, leaders are not necessarily good managers. In fact, some leaders can see their vision but cannot see the top of their desk because of the clutter! Nonetheless, all organizations need good leadership. To be effective, leaders must have vision, principles and passion.
Vision. The leader has the vision to see the potential in every situation. Wayne Gretsky, the great hockey player, said that to be good, he skates to where the puck will be rather than where it is. Vision is seeing where you want to be and designing a course to get there.
Principles. Great leaders also adhere to principles that give them integrity. These days, many of our leaders find themselves in the position of defending socially unacceptable behavior because they did not stick to their principles. Early in Billy Graham's career as an evangelist, he created a rule for himself. He would never allow himself to be alone in a room with another woman other than his wife or his mother. This eliminated the opportunities for his principles to be compromised.
Persuasive Passion. If a leader is passionate about his/her vision, it is contagious. Martin Luther King, Jr. had passion. John F. Kennedy had passion. Mother Theresa had passion. And others followed. What is your passion? Are you pursuing it? Leaders pursue their passion and sometimes at great cost.
So where's the FUN in all of this? You have to have FUN to be effective! Herb Kelleher, the CEO of Southwest Airlines said, "If work is more FUN, it feels less like work." Southwest Airlines, by the way, leads the airline industry in all categories including productivity, staff retention and safety. So, you too can create a more enjoyable place for your employees to work without losing credibility and productivity. Here are a few suggestions to keep the FUN in work:
Increase your humor awareness. Look for humor everyday and expose yourself to the types of humor you enjoy. Also, keep a file of funny things you find. You can tap into this file whenever you need to add some humor to the workday.
Hire the right people. Southwest Airlines hires people for attitude and then teaches them the skills. If you are hiring the wrong people, their attitude may be detrimental to the work environment. Ask candidates if they like to have FUN. Ask them how they use humor. Look for positive attitudes in potential employees.
Create a FUN work environment. As a manager or leader you have influence over your work environment. Add humor to meetings, presentations, newsletters, emails and bulletin boards. The more FUN you add, the more your staff will want to be there.
When I became a manger, I took over for a department in which there had been tremendous tension. I wanted to make a good impression yet I felt inadequate as this was my first management position. So, at my first staff meeting, I gave every staff member a red clown nose, asked them to put it on, and told them to look around the room at their colleagues. It was a magic moment in which a burst of laughter relieved the tension. It was a simple idea but the message was powerful.
Whether you want to improve your management skills, become a better leader or just have more FUN at work, an appreciation of the value of humor can help you accomplish your goal. Benjamin Franklin said, "The Constitution guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. But you have to catch it on your own!"
Ron Culberson's mission is to help individuals and organizations balance serious issues with a light touch. He has provided entertaining, informative and FUN programs to over 20,000 people in more than 350 associations, government agencies, non-profit organizations and Fortune 500 companies. Ron can be reached at (703) 742-8812 or through his website at