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"Why Choose Between Fun and Content When You Can Have Both"

Keep Employees Happy; Throw Away Rotten Milk

I was cleaning out the fridge last night. Lettuce that went bad…..again. Milk gone sour. Cantaloupe that had seen its day. Bread that belonged under the microscope in a seventh grade science lab. This got me thinking….

Maybe I should stop buying groceries and just eat out.

Now while that thought did cross my mind and it crosses my mind every time I throw away rotten food I started thinking about shelf lives and expiration dates. But this time I was not thinking about shelf lives of food…..

I found myself wondering if employees or positions have shelf lives?

Could it be that an employee might just run his or her course at an organization? Is there a time where everyone needs to acknowledge that it is time to move on; that there is no more to learn or do; that an employee has reached his or her potential.

And if that is the case is it the employee who has not grown or is it the role has not changed and provided challenge and interest? Is it the employee who has not grown or the company that has not recognized the valuable contribution this person can offer? Is it that the employee has completed the assigned task that he or she was hired to complete and now it is time for someone else to learn that task?

Do employees have shelf lives? Do roles within organizations have shelf lives? Do organizations have shelf lives? Do we really want people to stay around for life? Is that a good thing? Used to be the case, but I’m not so sure any longer. Does comfort lead to lackluster performance by organizations?

In my former life I was an accounting & finance type. At the end of the month or quarter we had work to do; close the books and report on the results – which were usually tweaked anyway to make people or the company look better. After doing this three or four times there wasn’t much to learn; to do; to get excited about. Quite frankly it became an inconvenience; long hours to do mundane t asks; and arrive at a number predetermined by some executive. Not fun. Not exciting. My shelf life was about six months. At that point I’m thinking being flushed, tossed down an elevator chute or into a garbage disposal may have been a good thing. But no one offered me those options. So my shelf life was usually taken into my own hands by finding a new shelf.

But what if it wasn’t that way. What if I knew at the beginning that there was a shelf life and at the end of that shelf life I would be moved into another role and had an opportunity to learn and contribute elsewhere in the organization. I didn’t have to wait for someone to die or leave or get canned. It would just happen. Not saying I would have ended up in the same place I am today; but I do know I would have been a much happier employee.

I really do propose that we put shelf lives on certain positions. I think they’re valuable, needed, long overdue and could achieve powerful results.

So here’s a couple of questions for you to think about it. Has the shelf life of your current position long since expired? What’s being done about it – by either you or the organization?

How can you engage a customer when you’re not engaged yourself?

I just made my airline reservations for Branson, MO. Now as a quick aside; Branson is one of those places that “You can’t get there (easily) from here (Hartford)” without it taking waaaaaay too long for this impatient boy. One flight in; one flight out; different airlines; long layovers. But I digress. I’ll have to take advantage of the time to people watch and write about them in my newsletter.

So I know you have experienced the excitement when you’re going somewhere. We’re like kids on Christmas morning. Well I’m really excited about this trip. Yes I’m excited about going to Branson for the very first time and having a little extra time to see some great entertainment; but I’m more excited about the work.

How often do you hear managers and business owners say that they have great staff; they just wish they could be even greater? How many managers and business owners truly recognize that making people better impacts productivity, morale, loyalty and in this case………….profits. I’ll be working with the staff of a theater company kicking off the season and getting them re-engaged in their work so that they can engage and excite their customers even more with the experience they are purchasing – and perhaps move them to purchase another experience. This theater owner “gets it” – it meaning the importance of developing people and giving them the opportunity to be better.

Now in contrast let’s talk about when I went to Six Flags two summers ago. It’s an amusement park. I’m there for amusement.  It’s supposed to be a happy place; people go there to have fun. Then why the heck is so much of the staff looking so serious? Why are so many looking anything but amused? Why did they seem to be having anything but fun? Please don’t tell me that some corporate policy doesn’t allow you to smile, laugh or have fun. I’ve seen happier people working in a funeral home. And yes, I know these are seasonal employees but still, I just didn’t get it. Unless of course they were going through withdrawal from not being able to text their friends as they made sure people had a safe day?

I really do believe that when people bring their true selves to work and don’t leave it at the door and put on the workplace façade we see results. Here’s an example………..

Next week I head to Atlantic City to play with camp staff and owners. I’m taking the bus. I hope I get the fun bus driver on the leg of the trip to NYC. The one who has fun when he makes the announcements to let us know where we are, when he thinks we will arrive and the rules for riding the bus. I hope I get the fun bus driver; who knows how to use humor and sarcasm when someone is talking way too loud on their cell phone for way too long a period of time. I hope I get the bus driver who feels our pain (humorously) when we’re sitting in traffic.

Believe it or not, it is single-handedly because of this man that I now take the bus to NYC and sometimes beyond when I can. Because he made bus travel something better than I thought it could be. Yes, it takes me a bit longer to get to my destination; but I love catching up on a good book, some work, or maybe even some sleep; and it is all because one person brought some personality to work. One person made me a fan of taking the bus. Go figure. And when he is not my driver, I miss him.

Now as simplistic as the above might sound that is the power of sticking out and being different. That is the power of being unique and engaging. Pulling people in and making them feel part of an experience is not that difficult; and something every organization needs to do a bit more of.

Unless of course you’re looking to shut your doors.

What is your business doing to stick out from the rest?