Jeff Sloan, co-founder of Start-up Nation, talked at a Microsoft conference about creating your own business. He is a serial entrepreneur of electronics and various other media.
Jeff and his brother were promoting one of their gadgets at a conference and they bumped into a woman who was juggling, so they started juggling with her. They got to talking with the woman and hashed out a distributorship to sell the juggling balls throughout North America.
Their juggling package was the number 1 item sold for Father’s Day back in 1992.
They positioned their product as “Stress Relief for the Busy Executive.” An item that has been around since the pyramids in Egypt was the best selling product for fathers in the US. Jeff was able to do this because of a relationship that he created with the department stores.
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WHAT? No, no way. I love when work is slow and I have time to relax.
You may be thinking this, but if you look down deep at when you are the happiest at work it’s probably when you are most productive. I love attending outside events because it gets me out of the office. I meet the people that are already customers or potentially new contacts. There is just something special about face to face meetings that email, telephone, and video conferencing can’t replace. I also feel like I’m making a difference at my job. I know that if I’m talking the good talk that people will come in and use our services.
At the end of the day I’m more tired, but I feel more satisfied. I can also feel this way when working on a report. The day just seems to fly by and I look up and it’s time to go home. I’m usually relaxed and feel a sense of accomplishment.
I read a great article from Doug Kline. He wrote a guest post called Employees Want More Work? (Not Less?) at the Performance and Talent Management blog.
My favorite part was…
Employees who are bored (reporting “too little work”) are often doing work for which they are ill-suited, or have jobs that are poorly designed. As a result, they have by far lower job satisfaction, sense of accomplishment, and pride in their employers compared to all other workers. All in all, they feel less valued.
Read the whole article here.
If your job isn’t what you want it to be then speak up. Try to give feedback to your manager and see how they respond. You probably don’t want to start off with outrageous demands of running the department, but you could start by asking for a job that you’ve been wanting to do for a while. It never hurts to ask.
I have a friend who loves to help her co-workers out when her work is slow. She stops by their desks and asks if they can give her a little something to lighten their work load.
You should see their face when she asks to help them. They just light up.
One might worry that this would be an invitation for people to dump all their work on her, but no one ever does that. They usually give her something really easy and she is able to help a couple of people in the office with their work.
Has a co-worker ever asked to help you with your work? How did you respond?
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Jason Garrett spoke to a group of 200 at a formal dinner and his soft demeanor caught me off guard. I was expecting a tough football voice. It was a welcomed difference. It came across as humbling, not weak. He spoke well, with a slight tinge of enthusiasm.
The new guard, as I like to call it, seems to be popular throughout the football league. These forward thinking coaches use many techniques to will their players to their best. Tony Dungy is at the forefront of this movement. He believes that you don’t need to yell and scream to get your point across. Football players are people who want to be treated with respect and kindness.
Jason Garrett’s 8 lessons of leadership:
He talked about coaching Terrell Owens, a future Hall of Fame receiver, who is known to be a difficult player. He said that he told him (a Hall of Fame receiver) and the rest of the team that no matter who was on the field they would be coached.
Lesson – Learn from everyone around you because there is always something to improve.
Give people purpose. Tell people their role and recognize them for their work.
Lesson – We all need to feel appreciated.
When I’m on the field and my team is exhausted I go out there and become a cheerleader. I let them know whether they have cool shoes or if they are doing a good job working their butt off.
Lesson – Create a positive atmosphere by being a cheerleader when someone is having a bad day.
Success is 54% body language, 40% tone of voice, and 6% words. I don’t know how Jimmy Johnson got those numbers, but it explains why he was able to create such a passionate team. When he spoke to us he got us excited and ready to win.
Lesson – Use your body and voice to convey confidence.
Even if you think they are dragging their feet and breathing hard, you can always tell them that oxygen is good for the soul, so keep up the good work.
Lesson – Someone is always doing something right. Recognize that and give them positive feedback.
When looking to bring someone new on to your team make sure you look at his character. You can’t teach character, but you can teach competency
Lesson – Hire motivated people.
Nick Saban the great college coach always told us, “Tell me when we are making a mistake, so we can fix it.” Every time I or one of the other coaches told him something that we were doing wrong, he would bite our heads off. (laughing) It was always one of the most uncomfortable moments to be in.
Lesson – Make sure you follow your own advice otherwise no one will be willing to help you.
Tony Romo (Quarterback for Dallas) told me that he wanted to run a “Three wide split.” I thought to myself that is the stupidest play. Their defense is perfectly designed to stop that. I wasn’t sure what to call because it was something like 3rd and 20, so I called it. Tony looked back at me and I could tell he was smiling. The throw went to Owens and he scored a touchdown.
Lesson – Let people do what they think is right because they’ll make it happen.
My co-worker wasn’t as enthused by the football references, but as Jason continued to speak he won her over. She was impressed by his talk. We can learn about working happy from anyone if we just take a moment to listen and put their words into action.
Does anyone have any good sports references that can be applied to working happier?
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The Smurfs are great role models because they understood how to work happy. They had many great traits that every company would love to have.
They worked as a team
They knew that they couldn’t do it all alone, so they came together to fight off Gargamel (the bad guy who wanted to eat them). They gathered all their collective intelligence and got the job done.
Papa Smurf made quick decisions
Everyone would look to Papa Smurf to assess the situation and make a quick, but thoughtful decision. More CEOs should watch some Smurfs to see how Papa Smurf kept everyone calm. Wouldn’t it be cool to see Bill Gates or Larry Page watching the Smurfs before they left for work?
They always look on the bright side
The Smurfs always landed into trouble, like all good cartoons. They never thought that they couldn’t escape a situation, except for Brainy. He always thought they were doomed, but his negativity never rubbed off on the other Smurfs because they knew that they had to stay positive to get back to the village safely.
They laughed, sang and danced
They were always celebrating. This cool article about celebrating was written by Tom Volkar at Delightful Work. We need to celebrate our wins and flops. Yes our flops too, so we never forget the mistakes we made. Check out my post about creating a monthly fun plan to keep spirits high.
Every Smurf had his role, but was always willing to pitch in.
Every Smurf understood his/her strengths. Papa Smurf was the leader, Brainy was smart, and Handy was able to build anything, but no matter what they were involved in – they were never afraid to chip in and help each other to get the job done.
Next time you are stuck in a difficult situation ask yourself, “What would Papa Smurf do?”
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The first company that I worked for spent $4,000 on the annual Christmas party. It was usually enjoyable and posh, but forgettable. It was forgettable was because it was usually held at a nice restaurant and it rarely brought out people’s jovial side. They were reserved, ate their meal, had a few nice conversations then left. No personality. Just the same old thing you can get at any company Christmas party. We should have had it at the office with all of us bringing a dish – a little pot luck to create a friendlier work environment. We would have spent virtually no money and we could have used that $4,000 to create a fun work environment throughout the rest of the year.
Let’s pretend that we stopped spending money on a boring Christmas party and we could use that $4,000 to create 12 parties a year. If we divide the budget by 12 we’d have $333.33 per month. We can use that $333.33 to celebrate the end of each successful month. Your company might have less or more depending on its size, so take whatever you spend on your Christmas party divide it by 12, and that’s your monthly budget.
In this article I will give you 12 ideas that you can use to celebrate the end of each month. They should get the employees talking and stimulate their interaction with each other. They will probably tell their family and friends about this new concept and your company may get a few good resumes from the positive publicity.
You may want to implement these ideas all day long, during lunch, or direct the phones toward the answering service one hour before closing, so all the employees have time to interact with each other. The key is to get as many employees as possible together so they can hang out. At the beginning of each month you should always let them know what the end of the month celebration will be to create anticipation.
Your company may be too small or big for these ideas, so you’ll have to do some creative adjustment. If you’re a large corporation you may want to separate the celebration by department, or if you are a small company you may want to scale down the celebration to fit your size. I would be glad to help you personalize these ideas to fit your company if you want to contact me here.
January – Pizza Bash
Most people love Pizza and why shouldn’t they? It’s perfect for a group of people to hang out and eat. You may have some money left over, so buy some silly party favors or games that get people moving and making noise. A loud group stimulates interaction.
February – Thank You so Much
Buy small thank you cards and distribute them to your employees. I suggest that you give them five cards each. If you only have ten people in your organization then only give each person two thank you cards. Assign every employee one co-worker that they must write a thank you for and allow them to use the other four cards for whoever they want to send a card to then have them distribute them by inner office mail. You can also split this up by department because accounting may not know anyone in sales and vice versa. In this case have a small group gather the cards and distribute them to the employees. With the money that is left over you can buy a few snacks and keep them in the lunchroom for any hungry employees. At the end of the month you can have a small “awards ceremony” to recognize all of the “thank-yous” on behalf of the company.
March – Cupcakes and Caffeine
Supply cupcakes and caffeine (coffee and Soda) to everyone in the company. There is nothing like a good sugar and caffeine rush to stimulate the crowd. You will probably want to do this in the morning or for lunch, so as not to throw people off their routine.
April – Small Token of Appreciation
Divide the money that your company would spend during the month of April’s celebration by the number of employees and purchase something that everyone can use. It might be a Visa gift card or a framed photograph of everyone in the company. It’s important that everyone gets the same thing, otherwise people get jealous and this will create division instead of teamwork.
May – Charity Giveaway
Everyone in the company picks a local charity to donate the money to, then someone posts it on the intranet or sends an email out to everyone. Every employee must vote by the end of the month. The winning charity gets all the money. This is also good PR, which is great for the company’s website, but that’s just an added bonus.
June – Raffle Off the Money
Create three prizes of things that the employees would like or three gift cards and raffle them off to your employees. Make sure everyone gathers in the room, so the tension builds and everybody shares in on the fun.
July – Water Gun Battle
Send everyone outside and have a water gun battle. Depending on your budget you may want to buy towels, preferably with your logo on them so people don’t go back to work or home all wet. You should make sure that people who don’t want to participate don’t have to, but try to encourage them to join in. The more silliness the more laughter. This creates memories.
August – Pool Party
Rent out a pool or have the pool party at someone’s house. Provide snacks and tell people to bring their own drinks and food. If your company is too large or can’t afford a pool then alter the party to the theme of cool off and have fun. You can give everyone little fans and buy ice cream with all the toppings.
September – Musician to Play During Lunch
Hire a professional musician to play during lunch. Live music is always a treat for people because they can just sit back and relax.
October – Employee’s Choice
Ask the employees what they would like to do with the $333 and the person with the best suggestion gets to pick two co-workers to help them bring their ideas to life. Give them a Visa Gift Card with the money on it or the cash. Remind them to keep the receipts so you can keep track of what they do with the money.
November – Karaoke
Karaoke might not be a perfect fit for your company, but you’ll definitely get people interacting and joking with each other.
December – Pot Luck Holiday Party
Get people together by having them cook a dish and the company will supply the rest of the entertainment and supplies. You’ll be surprised that when you have a pot luck your company will really create a family atmosphere. The employees will be more relaxed and willing to have fun.
Be consistent with your monthly celebrations. Consistency is the most important part to this plan. When you start skipping months and just telling yourself that you’ll create a better party next month, you are falling into the trap of throwing money into a bigger party instead of creating a consistently fun environment.
Always gather people together so the employees can hang out and learn about each other. People who know each other treat each other like family. They may yell at each other during a heated meeting, but they are also more likely to forgive each other.
No matter how much they make fun of the monthly parties, don’t stop doing them because everyone likes to complain. It’s the nature of a crowd. A monthly celebration will create a reminder that the company wants to create a fun work environment no matter how stressful things become.
Do you think your company would implement a monthly celebration?
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Creating social networks within your organization will improve communication. You’ll be encouraging a “village community” atmosphere instead of cliques (separate groups) who only visit each other when they need something.
Your company can try implementing a social friendship plan. You can do this by rotating various departments to help each other work on tasks or come up with new ideas and systems. If you want your company to foster relationships, you need to create a spider web of connections that help everyone support each other.
This is different from cross-training because you are trying to create new friendships and networks that will help get around some of the red tape as well as construct a friendlier atmosphere.
You don’t want people just hanging out like it’s a mini-party and dragging down the productivity of a department, so you’ll have to figure out the best way to encourage work. You’ll probably want to foster a Teacher-pupil relationship, having the “teacher” show the various tasks that go on throughout a day. You’ll probably be surprised by how much work gets done because the teacher wants to show the pupil how intriguing or intricate their job can be within those few hours.
Creating a Village Solution
Everyone in the company should rotate around the various departments, until everyone gets a larger idea of what the other department does throughout a day.
If you have a small company with under ten people, then try a rotation of partnerships every Wednesday morning for an hour, until everyone has had a chance to work with each other. The best way to do this is to pick half the company to rotate to another person’s job. When their time is up then switch the rotation. It should take less than two months and only 9 hours of time. You may think that it will hurt your bottom line because it’s one less hour that they are working on their task, but you must think long-term. The health of a company depends on its relationships and if a small company can stay close-knit then you’ve helped create a team that will assist each other when they are in a bind.
Medium Size Company
If you have a medium size company, between 11 – 500 employees then try rotating between three of the closest related departments.
Put sales with marketing and production
Sales needs to understand the message that marketing is putting out to the public. They also need to understand where the product/service comes from so they know how to explain the features and benefits.
Put marketing with upper management and sales
Marketing needs to understand the direction that management wants the products/services to go in to create their message. They also need to understand what is working and what isn’t by communicating with sales.
Put accounting with creative people and marketing.
Accounting needs to understand what the creative people have in mind, so they can explain what the budget looks like for the upcoming projects. They also need to understand the money that marketing spends and what they can do to make their money stretch farther.
By putting the departments together that have the most to learn from one another then you can create open lines of communication. You can also do this with large companies, if you feel like it would benefit the organization. People want to work together for the greater good of the company. It’s up to management to make sure that it happens.
If you have a large sized company (greater than 501 employees) then try rotating people within their own department. A Sales department can be filled with 1000 or more people. Everything is so specialized that they might not even know what one of their co-workers is accomplishing. It will foster learning and a little competition.
By rotating a department around you can open social networks, encouraging people who want to help each other achieve success.
Your company should encourage the employees from different departments to get to know each other. It will create friendships and loyalty toward each other. What should happen is a tighter knit group, willing to support each other instead of fighting for better position. You’ll have some grumps and kill-joys in every group, but after a short period of time communication will open.
Discuss Communication Project
The most important part about trying to implement this plan is to recap the project with the employees involved. Ask them what they liked and disliked. You can use this to adjust for the next time. When they see that you are trying to create a more open and friendlier atmosphere they will be more willing to participate.
Opening social networks should also improve company retention. People stay with a company when they feel they are a part of a family atmosphere. Over time, as the program progresses, the villagers will encourage change and adapt new ideas as they learn from each other.