The Key to a Team Having Fun is Letting It Come from Within

Posted by Kristin Arnold on January 26, 2010

Teams want to have fun.  Spontaneous, unconstrained fun that ranges from the subtle to over-the-top playfulness.  Humor at no one’s expense.  Fun that makes us smile, giggle or laugh until our sides ache.  Fun allows us to whistle while we work, enjoying the time we spend with our team.

Many team leaders feel it is their responsibility to create fun in the workplace.  So they create the “fun” committee with representatives from each department.  They schedule the “fun” around birthdays, the company picnic, and other significant events.  Team leaders make sure the balloons arrive on time, the banners are up, and the production is ready to go.  And the rest of the team feels obligated to attend and smile throughout the entire ordeal.

To put it bluntly, team leaders suck the spontaneity out of fun.  They can’t be the ring masters because they are compelled to organize, schedule, and manage everything around them.  It’s in their job description to manage and control the fun.

Fun and playfulness has to come from within the team rather than the top.  To allow an environment that encourages fun:

Talk About Fun.  Have a great discussion within the team about what fun and playfulness is all about.  Allow the team to kick around ideas that might work.  Give them verbal and non-verbal cues to encourage their involvement.

Be Spontaneous.  Encourage the team to seek out ways to play “in the moment.”  Fun is all around us.  We just have to take advantage of those moments.  For example, a team keeps a digital camera in their workspace so that anyone can take a picture of something fun and share it with the rest of the team.

Have a Kitty.  Let’s face it.  Some fun things cost money.  Not a lot of money, but a few bucks here and there.  Let others know that they can be reimbursed when they create fun.  For example, on “Eat Your Green Vegetables Day,” two women on the dietary team served lunch in rented green artichoke costumes.  It was a small amount of money that had the entire organization laughing for days!

Keep Your Preferences to Yourself.  As a team leader, you might prefer to go to an Admirals hockey game.  If you mention it (or anything else) they might go along with your idea — and you have the huge potential to start coordinating the fun.  Back off.  You have lots of other things to do.  Let the team figure out the fun.

Question:  What is the last fun event that you team enjoyed?

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