How to Have a Fun Culture Without Losing the Reins

Feb 4, 2019 | Keyser Institute

Would you rather be liked or respected? Why can’t you be both? You can, however, it’s a rarity when you find someone who is able to do both successfully. Only being liked puts you at risk for being taken advantage of and only being respected can lead to employees who are scared to connect with you. Once you’ve fallen too far on either end of the spectrum, it’s hard to return.

Culture is derived from the style of leadership, then is transferred down into the relationships between employees. When employees feel respected by their boss, they are more likely to pass that respect to other employees. For most aspects of life, especially in business, I believe that what you put in is what you get back. If you feed the people around you positivity, they usually will reciprocate. The same goes for negativity, if you put negativity into the environment, it will spread like wildfire.

During my time as a business leader, I’ve noticed some commonalities between most businesses. They want to retain employees and empower them to produce good work. If they know what they want, why is determining the steps to get there so hard? There’s no cookie-cutter answer. What works for one business may not work for yours. That’s why it’s important to not just set a plan in motion and forget about it but to listen to feedback and tailor the plan to fit your team. Some industries, age groups, and type of employee respond to different things. For example, start-ups tend to provide a fun, fast-paced environment because they normally can’t provide other amenities that larger corporations can.

While culture may not be every business’s top priority, it still can be a top contributing factor that helps to retain good employees, thus valuable to invest in. If you’re not trying to balance your business on that fine line between too fun and too strict, maybe it’s time to start.

Fun in the office doesn’t necessarily mean ping pong tournaments, pizza parties, and group outings—although those things are all great ways to encourage community. Fun elements alone will not make the culture strong. There has to be a level of respect, hard work, and excellence in your tasks established before fun elements can take place. By concentrating on communication, you can cultivate a bond with your employees that allows them to trust you and value your opinion.

Rather than thinking you want a fun environment, aim for a culture that makes your employees proud to be a part of your company. Set an example for your team with these three leadership strategies to encourage a strong culture. 

  1. Everything is a Gift.

I believe that every single thing you encounter is a gift. Whether most people would view it as positive or negative, it’s a gift.

When your client decides they no longer are in need of your services, it’s a gift. How? Perhaps, that client was about to enter into a scandal that would have left your legal team with a huge mess.

If you’ve ever seen a movie about time travel, you know that future outcomes are changed because of life events, so unless you’re able to travel back, change events, and see how things would have unfolded, just accept the event as a gift. After all, I would say avoiding an expensive and time-consuming lawsuit is definitely a gift.

  1. Simplify the Challenge.

There’s nothing worth doing in life that doesn’t come with challenges. Every challenge big or small can feel overwhelming if it occurs at the wrong time. When people are counting on you, you have to keep calm and think strategically. In these situations, you have to remove yourself from the fire and dissect the problem until it is broken into simple, easy-to-manage pieces. Here’s an example: your goal is to launch a new product line in your business. Now that’s a massive goal that would make any sane person pull their hair out. If you break this task down into pieces that can be completed in steps or delegated to others, it will feel much more accomplishable.

  1. Invest Yourself.

The most important aspect of your business is your people. If you have a kick-ass product but a team not fit to sell, promote, and build it. The product becomes useless. Invest your time into getting to know your people, what makes them tick, what makes them feel valued, then use that information to inspire and encourage them to produce better, more valuable work.

As a leader, your day is packed. It may feel like you have no spare time to chit-chat about your employee’s love for golf, their dog, or whatever else. Make time. People are more loyal to companies that they feel valued at and listening is one of the easiest, most effective way to make people feel valued.

There are many ways to build the culture you’ve always wanted, and it doesn’t start with pool tables and snacks—it starts with you. Lead and develop your team so that it is based on mutual respect. After you’ve established the tone of your culture, sprinkle in the fun elements to help your employees have an extra element to look forward to when coming into the office.