Great Leadership by Dan is written by Dan McCarthy. Dan work for the University of New Hampshire as the Director of Executive Development Programs at Whittemore School of Business and Economics. Dan’s blog is well worth following (atom feed), regularly updated and offers a great perspective on leadership challenges. Here are some links to interesting entries along with some of my thoughts.
Simple High Performance Model – This is a nice graphic showing the interplay of technical ability and emotional intelligence. I can spot a good quadrant graphic when I instantly start plotting everyone I have every worked with on it. Take a look at it. Where do your co-workers fall? More importantly, what point would represent you?
10 Mistakes Every Leader Should Make (and learn from) before they Die – This post could probably make a great tool to interview leaders. Go through the list and ask the prospect to identify when they made that particular mistake and what they learned from it. Experienced leaders will probably have made every mistake at least once and can articulate the consequences and what they learned from the experience.
“Fun” At Work – In this post, Dan looks at some of the things that leaders and managers do to try to create a “fun” workplace and concludes that most of them are simply wasted. He suggests that becoming a genuine, happy person yourself will do more to create a happy working environment than the long list of efforts most of us have experienced. I agree in principle, but think it is important to not simply discount everything on the list, just because they have been used by managers attempting to fake a “fun” environment. For example, he mentions that putting in a air hockey table is a waste of time and makes people feel like slackers while others work. I can see that happening, but it can also be used carefully. Here is a story from my experience.
I was working as the manager of an IT department with about 11 employees. Over the years we developed a pretty fun work environment. This was something I intentionally tried to foster, but of course much of it was from having a group of people who were fun loving to start with. After a particularly busy week finishing up a large project, I asked the maintenance department to move a hockey table into the center of our shared office space, so when everyone came in that morning, there was this hockey table sitting there. I announced that we were going to have an air hockey tournament at lunch. Office conversation that morning centered around boasting and talking “smack” to each other. We spent about an hour working through our brackets to find the air hockey champion.
Air Hockey In The Office
In that situation, I think the air hockey table was actually helpful in creating a fun work environment. Here is why:
- It was genuinely fun and came at the end of a bunch of very long hours and recognized everyone’s hard work with an hour of diversion.
- It was surprising and interesting. No one else in the department knew what was going on. Everyone who came in asked “What is going on?”
- It helped my team interact outside of the stress and conflict of the normal work process.
Back to Dan’s post. I think the biggest takeaway is that you can’t fake fun. A table with a bunch of air holes in it, isn’t going to compensate for being a mean grouch. It will flop and people will probably assume it is a trap. Maybe the people who actually play with it will get fired or something. On the other hand, you shouldn’t completely avoid surprising your team with something unexpected and fun.