People First! with Dr. Bob Nelson


By Morag Barrett - March 7, 2022

Dr. Bob Nelson is fun, fun, fun. As a prolific writer, he has sold over 5 million copies of his numerous books. His work is all about creating a culture where people want to come to work, and where employees routinely go over and above. His latest book, Work Made Fun Gets Done is chock-full of over 400 powerful examples of why fun matters in our workplaces.  

When You Know, You Know

From the very beginning, Dr. Bob Nelson wanted to be a writer, and boy is he ever! He has written thirty-one books, many of which make the case for recognition and fun in our organizations. 

Both Dr. Bob and I began our careers in banking, where one thing was very clear - it was not acceptable to have fun at work. Dr. Bob Nelson turns that notion on its head and lets us know that we’re all responsible for bringing fun to the workplace. 

Alright, all you skeptics out there, let’s get to the bottom of it: why is fun in the workplace so important? 

Fun Improves the Experience of Work

You probably inherently know this, but there may be some fear there. The key is not to replace work with fun, but to place fun and work together. There’s no reason why what you’re doing can’t be enjoyable and something you look forward to. 

Simply put, if you’re having fun, the work gets done easier. So if it’s not fun, make it fun! The way we feel at work impacts our overall happiness with life - so fun shouldn’t just be relegated to the weekends. Plus - who doesn't answer work emails at night, during the weekend, or on vacation? If we’re taking away from our personal time to work, then let’s even the score and bring fun to work too. 

Improves Resilience

Take a look at the last two years. When the proverbial hits the fan if you’re not having fun, how do you navigate the challenges? 

One of Dr. Bob’s biggest “aha moments” in writing this book was of the hundreds of people who were interviewed for the book, no two people said the same thing about fun. Fun means something different to everyone. It is an individual, but shared experience. Unless we’re having the conversation about what is fun and energizing for each individual, how do we know if somebody’s energy bucket is being drained because they’re not having fun? And more importantly, how do we help them replenish it? 

By finding out what is fun to each individual, we can incorporate ways to experience fun and remain resilient for the long game. 

Increases Connection

The first step to incorporating fun into the workplace is to ask your team, what do you do for fun? In Dr. Bob’s experience, there are likely hidden points of connection that exist among the people on your team. A question like this can be very revealing and connective. 

If creating fun sounds intimidating, he suggests passing around his book for your team to initial what ideas they like. Not only does this help you learn about your team, but when the time comes, you will know how to connect with them in a meaningful way.

Every deposit in that bring-your-human-to-work experience increases the trust and psychological safety of your work environment. So when you have a tough message to share, or warnings of impending disaster to give, the research, and my experience, shows people are more likely to speak up if they feel safe and connected. That’s a win-win that sparks even more connection and minimizes the dreaded group-think that gets us all into trouble.

Retains Your People


Fun exists in celebration and recognition. It gives us something to look forward to.  

We see with The Great Resignation the effects of sitting at home in the same 4 walls without much to look forward to. When we’re not having fun, it’s easy to look at others we work with and create narratives and stories about all they have that we don’t, and that depletes fun. Fun is so important to maintaining human connection, and it’s essential now more than ever. 

According to Dr. Bob, the research shows if you have a culture of recognition, your people are 7 times more likely to remain within your company. If you have a turnover problem, recognition is your answer, and recognition is fun! It can be as simple as surprising people and having a celebration at the end of a project. 

Really, fun is already all around us. All we have to do is open our eyes to see it and prioritize it. 

Catch the rest of our chat by following the links below.  

Watch away: Here!
Treat your earbuds: Here!


Resources:
Dr. Bob Nelson’s Website
 
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