Have you ever experienced the euphoria after a particularly hilarious team building event and wished you could maintain that level of fun and ease every day on the job?

Mindy MacKenzie

Mindy MacKenzie

How about working on a team where everyone trudges in and out, does their job and vaporizes at the end of the day?

Having fun at work is a complex alchemy of working with great people, respecting your boss, contributing meaningfully and being paid well to do it. And while people make decisions to join companies, they stick around predominantly because they like their boss and the people they work with.

As a team leader, you can make or break that equation. When you are the boss you can sometimes confuse having fun with not performing and getting the job done. Or conversely, think you have to be everyone's buddy just to be liked. Neither is true.

It is possible to keep the good times rolling no matter what is happening around you at work (doing more with less is the new normal), no matter your personality or your style of leadership. Here are 10 ways to help show you how.

  1. Cast brilliantly. Just like a movie director, you must have the right people in the right roles. Sounds super simple but it takes a lot of courage, time and commitment. This means being willing to fire people that aren't a good fit - either because of their character or their competence. And hiring tough. It's hard to have fun with people you don't respect.
  2. Get personal fast. Early in your relationship have a private conversation with each team member about your background, your values, your leadership philosophy and what motivates you to come to work every day. Then invite them to reciprocate. This 'personal declaration' will accelerate trust. It only fails if what you do doesn't match up with what you say.
  3. Know your people. Find out what type of reward and recognition your team members prefer. Be surgical about giving each team member the "oxygen" they need in order to perform. It will be different for everyone. Respect that.
  4. Take your team on a journey. A high-performing journey, that is. Spend time every month checking in with your group collectively on what is working and what isn't on the way the team is operating with one another. Expect candor and participation from everyone (set it up so everyone has a chance to share and be heard), and then courageously address issues that are barriers to optimal team performance.
  5. Schedule in fun. Working relentlessly together without ever taking a break is exhausting. Surprise your team with 3 o'clock cocktails. Or hire a boat for the day in the summer just because. No agenda. No purpose. Just fun and relaxation together. Do this several times a year. It's a great energizer.
  6. Be human. When you mess up, 'fess up. Say you are sorry. Say you will fix it. Then do it. You can't have real fun without trust and credibility. Being genuine as a leader and owning your own human frailty inspires the same in those you lead.
  7. Pull some pranks. Seriously. Occasionally spark some hilarity by doing the unexpected. Or come together as a team to prank another department. Just for fun. As long as it is harmless and not hurtful - game on!
  8. Expect growth. Keep your standards of performance and contribution high. Everyone likes to work on a winning team for a respected boss. Coach and help those you lead. Push them to do things they don't think are possible for them to do. Then celebrate and promote the heck out of them.
  9. Care about the whole person. Stay connected and in tune with your team members' personal lives as much as their professional lives. When they ask for career advice approach it holistically, not just from a what's-best-for-the-company stance. Helping them live better lives overall is far more meaningful than just helping them do their job.
  10. Keep a sense of humor. Lighten up. Over-seriousness by the boss is a serious buzz kill. Find the humorous in the sometimes painful reality of the day-to-day. Laugh out loud every opportunity you have. Joy and a balanced perspective are contagious.

About Mindy Mackenzie

Mindy Mackenzie - or the "Velvet Hammer" as she was known during her days at liquor giant Jim Beam - is currently a sought-after speaker and CEO advisor to Fortune 100 companies. She is the author of The Courage Solution: The Power of Truth Telling with Your Boss, Peers, and Team (Greenleaf Book Group; May 3, 2016). Previously, Mindy served as Chief Performance Officer of Beam, Inc., where she was responsible for a team of 150 and was part of the executive team that led consistent outperformance and created tremendous shareholder value delivering double-digit earnings growth. Mindy also serves as a senior advisor for McKinsey and is a frequent guest lecturer for the MBA and Executive Education programs at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.