It all started in kindergarten

Learning to drive was only one skill I learned in kindergarten

One of RedBalloon’s business values is ‘a sense of humour and fun’. I am blessed to come to bound out of bed every day looking forward to my day at work. It strikes me that the basic tenets of encouraging fun and productivity in the workplace, I learnt between the ages of three and five.

If we share everything, play, be curious, hold hands and stick together (and we learned to cut and paste – we now use different tools for that one). My bet is that we’d all manage to stay much more inspired at work and therefore intent on staying.

Whilst what you are about to read might sound like common sense, it doesn’t hurt to reflect on the simple things in life that made our younger years so much easier than life seems to be today.

Share everything:

When I was an employee in other people’s businesses I regularly heard ‘We need to improve our communication’. RedBalloon has a clearly defined, daily huddle schedule, weekly team meetings, one on ones, monthly company meetings and planning sessions – the agenda has three items, what is working, not working and where are you stopped. A problem shared is a problem halved and in most cases solved. This way the exercise creates stability, cohesion and transparency. It’s better to over communicate and be completely transparent – good news or bad.

Play:

However silly it might sound, games are really useful tools to keep people focused. We are all young at heart and appealing to this is an easy way to keep engaged.

Be curious:

Look and listen to colleagues and when something amazing happens, celebrate it. We all achieve great things in our roles everyday, yet many fail to acknowledge when we go above and beyond the call of duty. It’s very easy to forget, especially in the current employment market that most people have a choice about where they choose to spend their time.

Recognising people is actually very straightforward and goes a long way to keep everyone motivated. Whether you opt for peer-to-peer recognition, customer feedback or more traditional management discretion, making sure that you have ample opportunity for formal and reward backed ‘thank you’ and ‘good effort’ celebrations is key to keeping people engaged and happy.

Hold hands and stick together:

I always remember the times that I was the newbie – quite often a very nerve wracking time. The sooner someone feels part of something, connected to their colleagues, the vision of what the business is embracing, the sooner that attachment is possible. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if at three o’clock every afternoon we all sat down to milk and cookies? Whether it is a regular team lunch, beers after work or something more unusual like a group circus lesson, cooking class or hypnosis show, doing something as a group that is totally unrelated to what we do at work allows us to reconnect as human beings. The leveling effect of watching the top sales person get nervous at the trapeze or highly skilled programmer fail to toss a pancake is great for team morale.

So what I learned in kindergarten applies just as much now as it did then…

“Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

Most of all, kindergarten was fun. And it’s okay to have fun in business. (First posted on Linkedin)

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