how having fun at work makes your business more profitable
by Kevin Ryan

Five years ago, I started speaking to business groups about the value of having fun at work. A lot of the time, my main challenge was to simply get them to accept the principle that letting their staff have fun would help their business.

Things have changed. I don’t struggle to convince business owners anymore that fun at work is worth the effort. Here are a few of the obvious ones –

fun-work-business-cartoon-corporate-culture-businessman-enjoys-his-workplace-environment-64826772A fun workplace retains its good staff
Some industries have such high staff turnover that they refer to it as their ‘attrition’ rate. One such industry is call centres. A call centre in Sydney introduced a fun program and their staff turnover dropped from 30+% (the industry standard) to 13%. Imagine the saving in staff training! A study at Griffith university in Brisbane found, that encouraging good social networks (which is what fun at work does) is as effective in retaining staff as increasing salary .

When people are enjoying themselves they complain less and get into fewer disputes.
Workplace disputes are disruptive, destructive and, generally, expensive. Staff complaining about minor issues are the blight of every manager. A workplace fun program is a proactive way of dealing with these costly irritations. And it is not an acceptable excuse to say “O, that wouldn’t work with our industry – the work just isn’t fun!” One of the most successful demonstrations of workplace humour, is the FISH! series of books and videos (Lundin, Paul & Christensen). It is based on the activities oat the Pike Place Fish Markets in Seattle. This is why it is such a powerful example> Fish mongering is not fun! To quote FISH!: “You can’t always choose the work that you do, but you can choose your attitude to it”

Fun at work means better customer service.
A survey done in 2000 buy Marketing Focus in Perth Identified the factors that influenced customer’ buying decisions. The top


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by Peter Sullivan

There is an ever growing body of evidence showing that emotional intelligence is a core competency in achieving success. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and impulses as well as managing the emotions and behaviour of others.

The importance of emotional intelligence competencies like self-awareness, impulse control, and empathy and relationship management is well documented. While these factors are important, what is more important is being able to tap into these attributes in the face of adversity.
A Walter Clarke study of 130 executives found that, how well people handled their own emotions determined how much people around them preferred to deal with them.
How often do we see talented fail to achieve their full potential? Having a high IQ and a good education are important ingredients in a successful life. These attributes gain entry into ‘the game’ but they alone are not sufficient in themselves to guarantee success.

The ability to manage adversity, stay motivated and focused under pressure is a hallmark of very successful people.


More than 30 years of extensive research by Dr. Martin Seligman on optimism has shown that optimists are more resistant to life’s setbacks and more likely to achieve their potential. They are mentally tougher and more persistent in the face of adversity.

Tough minded optimists enjoy better health than pessimists, and get the maximum pleasure out of their successes because they believe they caused them and that they’ll have more of them.

Optimism, a core competence of emotional intelligence, has proven to be the quality that fortifies people to handle change and adversity. More than any other factor in emotional intelligence optimism and resilience determine how we respond to the challenges and pressures of our environment.

Talents and skills are surely eroded if we don’t have the inner strength and mental toughness to press on in spite of the pressures of the role.

The ability to stay optimistic and persevere in the face of adversity is a large determinant of success. Optimism enables leaders to maintain their motivation despite a tough environment.

People with high hope set and commit to higher goals and inspire their people to work harder to obtain them. Being able to marshal feelings of enthusiasm and confidence in the workforce is one of the unifying traits of successful people.

With greater expectations and work load people need a high tolerance to frustration. They need the mental toughness and resilience that will keep them bouncing back from the pressures of decisions, setbacks and problems.

Rtime exesilience

Years of research by Professor Martin Seligman has demonstrated the key to success is resilience. Resilience is the ability to stay optimistic, endure adversity and not falter, it is a vital determinate of achievement in school work and life. Resilience is also about the persistence necessary to bounce back from setbacks and stay focused on goals.

The resiliency factor is what creates results beyond what mere talent would suggest. It is the ingredient that maximises ability, especially during times of change and adversity.

Resilience has proven to be a powerful predictor of performance, wealth and health.

In “The Resilience Factor”, Karen Revich and Andrew Shatte cite the number one roadblock to resilience is limitations in cognitive style. Most agree the way we interpret the world impacts on whether we feel overwhelmed by events or have the inner strength and hardiness to press on.

The fortunate thing is that the attributes of mental toughness, optimism and resilience can be developed. Learning specific strategies can enhance these skills and enable people to maximise their talents and opportunities.

A few tips

One of the first steps in building resilience is to identify the hard-to-do high-payoff activities of your role. This allows you to maintain your focus on the activities that make the biggest difference. Optimists believe they can get them done, and have the resilience to stick at it if they aren’t completed straight away. When you are more proactive with these activities you develop a habit of overcoming adversity and staying focused on goals.

Another tip is to simply recognise the hard evidence on these soft skills of emotional intelligence. Sometimes when we are so focused on the technical skills of a role we can lose sight of the value of optimism and resilience.

Recognise the role of both thought and emotion in human behaviour. Next time it doesn’t quite go to plan, review and try to understand how emotions have had a major impact on people’s decisions and behaviours. In doing so you’ll begin to see more ways to act, and not react that are particularly useful, especially when you’re under pressure.

Finally, while working to improve your mental toughness, still have remember to have a heart. We are, after all, emotionally intelligent beings!

There is plenty of evidence on how resilience is a core factor in achievement. It is by learning how to manage negative emotions, especially in difficult circumstances, that you can bounce back quicker from setbacks. And keeping your problems in perspective enhances your mental toughness and persistence – attributes that are sure to help you achieve even greater successes.

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By John Cleary

Management delivers the power of position and invites to direct while others do. A tried and trusted formula for those whose actions under value the importance of staff engagement in times of digital transformation.

Intention is not enough if you want to succeed in a highly competitive environment. Reading another article or developing another ‘to do’ list are just distractions when a manager reverts to command and control and directive habits.

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Positive action is essential to develop management skills. Ideas on how managers transition to become leaders abound. Ultimately the solution lies within and is beyond mere intention.

The first step is to better understand you. Profiling resources such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) help you understand your leadership style, develop your strengths and minimise your weaknesses. 360 Degree Feedback also provides valuable feedback on the inevitable and sometimes uncomfortable gap between self and followers perception.

It is a tough challenge when the change project is you and takes courage to admit your weaknesses and develop your strengths. It is tougher still if your emotional intelligence needs to be developed to understand how to leverage the full capabilities of your team. Dee Hock, CEO of Visa International, believes around 50% of a leader’s energy and focus needs to be devoted to positively influencing those around us.

The second step is to understand the difference between management and leadership.

Consider what behaviour is modelled when a time poor Manager who continues to:

  • do tasks that other team members can do as well if not better
  • rely on ‘gut feel’ when staff have contrary timely and accurate business intelligence

A leader models effective time management, delegation, influence and problem solving.

This distinction between Managers and Leaders was developed in a leadership workshop.

Managers Leaders
Power of Title

Direct and Demand

Silo Approach

Task Oriented

Habitual Style – inflexible

Policies & Procedures

Self – It’s Up to Me!

Extensive Knowledge

Values Based – Influence and Inspire

Empathise and Engage

Embrace cross functionality

Systems Thinkers

Adaptive Style

Objectives and Outcomes

Develop shared vision and common purpose

Use wisdom to leverage knowledge

Clarify the difference between management and leadership in your own mind. Plan how to develop your leadership style.  Model leadership behavior to demonstrate a clear message to your staff that performance improves with common purpose and willing followers.

In “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You”[1], ‘tough empathy’ is defined as ‘giving people what they need, not what they want’.  Apply tough empathy to yourself.  Build a better you. Provide opportunity for staff to engage, innovate and be their best under your leadership.

Effective leadership brings significant rewards in all facets of life and a sense of belonging. In the workplace leadership provides a gift of time by harnessing collective team skills.

German Physicist Georg Lichtenberg said “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”

Management is seldom enough.  Leadership is more effective when performance relies on a foundation of shared vision, common purpose and willing followers!

John Cleary

[1] “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You” R Goffe & G Jones, Harvard Business Review, October 2000

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by Peter Pearce

“Two plus two equals four … until people get involved”

Ever wondered what it is about a project that can turn, what should be a routine process, into a stress-head’s picnic? Completed late. Unanticipated implications. Unexpected outcomes. Whether it’s building a new manufacturing plant, completing an off-shore takeover, or just relocating the sales office, managing projects requires a particular set of skills and processes.

The question is – how important are people skills?

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Project practitioners are typically good at understanding, applying and executing the core methods, tools and techniques of project management. These skills are essential but not sufficient in themselves to deliver the outcomes required. Project practitioners also need to master the people skills if they are to really succeed in their role.

Yes, managing the people dimensions is what really puts the power into project management.  These are the skills required to be able to communicate requirements, understand different perspectives, and manage and motivate the involvement of the participants.  Without this, it simply won’t happen.

That’s not to understate the importance of the core methods, tools and techniques.  In your organisation how well do your project managers, and your executives managing projects, understand, apply and execute the project management basics?

Firstly, the project team needs to understand and correctly interpret the needs and expectations of the internal and external customers and the operations people who serve them.  What is the process your organisation has right now, to ensure major projects, and even minor projects in core operational areas, gain participant ownership?

Next, they will need to understand, define and communicate the impact of change on people in that division/department, and in other parts of the organisation.  How skilled are your people at presenting the corporate goals and obligations?

Most project teams will work on understanding the interests, motivations, fears and drivers of project stakeholders and what their reactions will be to these factors.  What is your method for defining who the stakeholders are?  Too often corporations will discover long after a project is completed, that key stakeholders, apparently not directly involved, have been alienated.

Then the team requires the skills, knowledge and confidence to effectively present compelling arguments to influence project stakeholders. Remember, depending on the project, your project team may be required to influence senior executives and these powers of persuasion cannot be taken too lightly!

Finally, the team leadership need the skills to understand, motivate, communicate with, coach, evaluate and lead their project teams, i.e. a high level of “emotional intelligence”. How are you upskilling your project team personnel to manage and lead?

When projects fail to meet performance targets it is most often because of these “people dimensions” rather than technical or procedural deficiencies. This is understandable because most project training and development of personnel focuses on technical competencies and not on the people competencies. Both are needed for success.

Once the core project management skills have been imparted, project managers should be supported in developing their skills in:

  • communication,
  • team leadership,
  • change management,
  • performance coaching and people development, and
  • presentation and influencing.

To illustrate the importance of people skills, consider who the Project Managers are likely to interact with: Sponsor, Executive Team, Project Board, Project Team, Contractors and Vendors, their Boss, Key Customers, other Project Managers, Business Analysts, Department Heads, etc.

Here are the key issues for you to address.  Observe the strengths of your different project teams to deliver these, and you will quickly realise where your development requirements are.

  • All communication between project managers and their stakeholders must be two-way to be effective.
  • There is complexity because of the different forms of interaction – the issues, reports, meetings, negotiating, compromising, politicking, competing for resources, co-ordination, etc.
  • There is a range of skills needed to handle all these interactions with confidence and competence.
  • Within the project team, all the usual leadership requirements are necessary: goal-setting, motivating, coaching, training, conflict resolution, performance management and evaluation, teamwork, delegation, follow-up, etc.
  • At higher level, presenting compelling proposals to the board for funding, understanding the WIIFMs (the benefits or “What’s in it for me?”) of key stakeholders, persuading them to attend key meetings and to read reports, negotiating resource allocation, contracting with suppliers, etc is necessary.
  • With the “customer”, understanding the business, listening to needs and understanding requirements, getting good documentation, negotiating change requests and issues, etc. is necessary.

If the project manager lacks skills and confidence in dealing with people, then communications break down, and there is a real risk that the project will suffer.

Some project managers are aware of their own shortcomings in these areas.  However, a lack of confidence to talk with stakeholders, avoiding discussion for fear of inadequacy and conflict, can only bury the issue, with potentially severe impact on the project.

Projects affect and involve people.  Project managers and project team leaders must be able to communicate effectively with people if they are to successfully manage their projects.  Then the projects will be delivered on time with the cost effective and quality effective outcomes required.

The solution. Build your people skills through training, coaching and mentoring. The investment will be soon be realised through project success.

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By Louise Mahler PhD

Voice is surprisingly important in defining who we are and inextricably linked with who we bring to the workplace.  Yet, in Australia there is little work being done to help rid people of some of the vocal “twang”.  That vocal lack of intelligence that can sometimes make us cringe with disbelief at the voice of another person being so incongruent with what we expect.  Or worse still, silence the voices of those in our companies who feel unable to speak up, and can offer so much in these times of constant change.

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The widely known work of Mehrabian provides a great insight into how we perceive a verbal message; why we might like or dislike it.  He showed that only 7% of our perception was based on the words themselves.  55% was based on what we saw in the body, bearing and gestures of the other, and a significant 38% from the voice.

Yes, those elements that make up our voice – articulation, pitch, intonation, volume, inflection, etc – influence our perception of others to a surprising degree.  This voice component becomes even more significant when you consider how much of our business communication is delivered over the telephone.


It’s also beneficial to understand the associated stereotypes, particularly in the corporate world.  How much does our perception make up our minds for us about such things as first impressions, attractiveness, credibility and confidence?

Zuckerman and Miyake defined the attractive voice as sounding “more articulate, lower in pitch, higher in pitch range, low in squeakiness, non-monotonous, appropriately loud and resonant”.  Berry established that people with attractive voices are seen to “have greater power, competence, warmth and honesty attributed to them.”  In contrast he found “people with ‘babyish’ voices are usually perceived to be less powerful.”

Consequently the squeaky, high pitched, monotonous, clipped voice of the archetypical call-centre employee asking “How can I help you?” is stereotyped.  We hear them as someone who is powerless, lacking honesty, and even incompetent.  On one hand the words express warmth and concern.  On the other hand we can also hear a tight squeezing around the throat and we immediately perceive an inflexible mind.

Likewise an executive announcing the corporate delight at an enormous profit in a detached monotone voice, is equally as ludicrous.


If this is true, why don’t we see effective programs aimed at changing perceptions and recognizing that this is just stereotyping?

The reason is clear. Responding to changes in stereotypical voice patterns is a game of non-authentic imitation.  In Australia we have an inbuilt “bull dust” detector that makes us different to Americans.  We laugh at the TV series “Friends”, when Monica tells us “Honesty is the key to a relationship.  If you can fake that, you’re in.”  We loathe non-authentic responses and will sniff them out from 30 paces!

New dimensions

So if the work is not being done to change these perceptions, how can you work on voice, and change your prospects in the workplace?

The answer is that true work on voice involves recognising your responses to stress and different emotional states.  It is analysed in terms of breathing, posture, throat tension and the associated mental scripts, often raising unconscious feelings.  Habitual patterns and often blockages are identified and can be changed.

In this way voice work enters a world of personal development.  It becomes a way of recognising patterns of thought that have repercussions not only for communication, but for many other areas as well.  Through voice work, or Vocal Intelligence, you might improve your golf swing, even your sex life, as well as the influence of your presentations and one-on-one dialogues.

Being silenced

It never fails to fascinate me how people are often silenced by some pressure in the workplace and how we understand that situation as acceptable.

Not that ‘being silenced’ is unnatural.  The vocal folds act as a valve, whose major function is to stop water from entering the lungs and stop us from drowning.  Although effective when literally drowning, it can also close or immobilise the vocal function, because of stress and without the danger of water, especially in the workplace.

The first problem with not addressing this issue, is your repeated failure, the experience of which is a blow to self-esteem, something my clients recognise as devastating. The second wider-reaching problem is the complete paralysis of the workplace we are attempting to work in, in a new effective way.

In fact, Handy, Senge and Peters have all referred to this ‘devoicing’ as incongruent with corporate objectives.   Corporations need us to express opinion, make influential speeches and provide open feedback, as part the skills for successful interpersonal relationships and leadership.  Just one strategy identified by Senge to address global change, is to build the skills in reflective conversation and dialogue.  Try doing that with your mouth shut!

The challenge you face in finding voice is that self-guidance is an inadequate instrument for development. You can’t hear yourself, so stop trying.  And you can’t fake it, because we Australians loathe non-authentic expression.

We should recognise ‘devoicing’ as a chronic illness in the workplace that, while it might be natural, is not acceptable.  It is curable through a literal ‘re-voicing’ at an authentic level, expressing who we are by mobilising sound.  Rodenburg realised ‘there are no boring, ugly, bad voices, only lost ones’.

Accept that you have a voice.  That it is capable of being a superb reflection of who you are.  Recognise the holistic elements of vocal improvement, which involve amongst other things breathing, posture and patterns of thought under stress. This is done together with a coach, working in the context of the stresses that began the problem in the first place, and reflecting progress through vocal tone.

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