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Having Fun Yet?

Today’s business world seems to be filled with deadlines, e-mails, voice mails,pagers, Palm Pilots, one long meeting after the next, and a boss breathing down your neck looking for one more pound of flesh.

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Having Fun Yet?

Today’s business world seems to be filled with deadlines, e-mails, voice mails,

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pagers, Palm Pilots, one long meeting after the next, and a boss breathing down your neck looking for one more pound of flesh.

You’re making some money but, from time to time, the $64,000 question has got to pop into your mind – Am I having fun with what I’m doing?

Not long ago, I attended the TIA OTR conference and Lee Woods, president of Northern Tire Inc. and chairman of this year’s conference, posed this very question. His question introduced a video about having fun in the workplace. And, of all of the places one could chose to have fun, this video highlighted the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

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Imagine a place where the employees look at fish, sell fish, and smell like fish all day long. But they choose to bring energy, passion and a positive attitude with them each day. It’s an environment in which people are connected to their work, their colleagues and their customers.

Personally, I’d much rather imagine a tire dealership with this level of enthusiasm. Besides, I prefer the smell of new tires to that of grouper.

Pike’s Place employees are committed to keeping their company’s vision alive, and their attitude is: Catch the energy and release the potential. Catch and release, get it? Never mind.

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Their employees want to Be There, they want to Make Their Day, they Choose Their Attitude, and they want To Play – and it showed in the faces of their customers.

I’m not saying there aren’t tire dealerships with the level of commitment and passion that I saw on the video. I’ve been in more than a few, however, where I swore a funeral was about to break out.

Look at it another way. Think of the various places where you do business. How many glassy-eyed checkout people do you see at the grocery store? How many gruff clerks do you encounter at the local fast food place? Can you even get a sound out of the person locked behind bullet-proof glass at the local gas station?

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What about the energetic and polite teller at your bank? The helpful and interested waiter/waitress at your favorite restaurant?

Do these people love their jobs, or are they just doing time? Does the attitude they’ve chosen show they want to be there, that they want to play?

More importantly, how do you think they come across to their customers?

Dr. David Abramis of Cal State Long Beach has studied workplace fun for years. In his research, he has discovered that people who have fun on the job are more creative and productive, better decision-makers, and get along better with co-workers and customers.

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He has created "Six Simple Reasons" why fun can improve work quality and mental health. Fun, Abramis says:

1) Breaks up boredom and fatigue.

2) Fulfills human social needs.

3) Increases creativity and willingness to help.

4) Fulfills the need for mastery and control.

5) Improves communication.

6) Breaks up conflict and tension.

One of the most outstanding components of having fun in the work place is that it can be measured. A reduction in absenteeism, tardiness, turnover and customer complaints all happen because of happier employees.

Recently, I experienced a great deal of fun at the Pirelli dealer meeting, where the tiremaker launched its new line-up of tires (see page 25). It was a tremendously successful meeting, in my estimation, because it centered around having fun.

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The environment that President Guy Mannino and his team produced was a wonderful opportunity to learn and have fun. And, just as in the video, I could see it in the dealers’ faces, and I’m sure that fun is going to translate directly into tire sales for Pirelli.

The fun atmosphere wasn’t restricted to the racetrack or dinner table. Many of the dealers in attendance knew each other well, as colleagues and close personal friends. The "war stories" traded back and forth were a keen education in how this business operates. But, more interesting to me was the fact that some of these dealers operated in the same markets, knew many of the same people, and were, for all intents and purposes, competitors.

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The hugs, handshakes and friendly joking around they shared, however, showed me these were not only great guys to be around, they must be great people to work for.

Fun has to start at the top. If you’re not having fun, how can you expect your team to catch the energy and release their potential?

Catch and release. Get it?

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