Why not be a player!
This month I gave myself a tough assignment; I made a commitment to go out and have fun. I had a busy month ahead, and I made it my mandate to find time to play. Do you know what? I had a very productive month, one of my most productive ever. I think as our world grows busier we lose focus on the importance of creating playtime and the positive benefits it creates for our work environment. We tend to think that the busier we are, the more we are getting done, but I have found that the incredibly successful people take plenty of time to play.
One of my favourite mind laws is called "the law of reversed effect." This law states that the harder we try to do something, the more difficult it becomes. It is the root cause behind writer's block and an athlete's slumping performance. It's harder to do things when you are trying to force yourself. You have likely experienced the frustration of not being able to remember something you absolutely know you should. In fact, have you noticed that when you stop trying to remember, it comes back to you? The same thing holds true for performance: if you want to encourage and promote great performance, don't push so hard. Stop trying to make things happen and you will often find it becomes easier to do.
This month, I had six public speaking engagements in ten days, and two of these talks were brand new programs. While most people would lock themselves in their office and prepare, I did the next best thing. I went for a run. I like running. It makes me think better. By the end of my forty minute run, I had a very good conceptual plan of the first speech I needed to write. I find that when I let loose, my brain takes me to places that I can't seem to get to when I sit at my desk. In this particular case I was able to take a so-so piece of my speech and turn it into a powerful closing segment that has taken my speech to a new level. By taking time to play, I bettered my business. When was the last time you went out and played, all in the name of bettering business?
In my pursuit for fun, I sat down with Barb Elaschuck, Director of Corporate Wellness at the Sports Club of Canada. Barb told me that more and more companies are coming to SCC to play. She says it strengthens morale, reinforces life balance and reduces stress. She also told me how companies are creating corporate challenges among other business partners and creating fun events that build more synergy across both organizations. While I was there, she shared an interesting study that showed how companies with active health programs have ten times better retention than those without. While the study was dated, I believe the results probably still hold true today.
When it comes to playing, I have always been convinced that companies need a better quality of playtime. So I called on Chris Iliffe and Dave Hyde, co-owners of, to learn more about the adventures and experiences they offer corporations that want to play more. While I did not know much about their company, their adventures sounded different and fun. They said that instead of talking about their business, they wanted me to experience it first-hand. For an exciting three hour period, I put on my jumpsuit and became an F18 fighter pilot, challenging others in a dog fight high in the virtual sky. What was interesting was how my team came together even though I was a complete stranger to all of them. The game forced us to work with each other, watch each other's back and anticipate what our partners would do. I found myself wondering who wouldn't want to teach these skills to everyone in their organization.
Sometimes, even when we play, we can learn so much. Now I should be clear, I am not a fan of teambuilding exercises that get you to build a boat out of two pieces of cardboard, a roll of string and a four leaf clover, but I really got into this real-time game where I was working with a retired Air Force officer and the rest of my team to plan a mission to take out the enemy. It was realistic and fun. I realize that not everyone finds being a fighter pilot interesting. Dave told me that they learned the hard way that you can't force employees to have fun; if you really want to make a difference, you need to give them the freedom to choose the adventure of their choice. I like planes, you like spas. Everyone should have a choice. That's why Trythat created their voucher program - so that each employee can customize the best experience for them.
Whatever your challenges are this month, make sure you take time to play. You will strengthen your focus, explore new ways of thinking and improve your employee retention. If you haven't got time for an all out adventure you may want to check out. Irene and her team will bring in their onsite massage chairs and give everyone a restful and relaxing massage. Not quite a margarita on the beach, but it's coming close in these busy, stressful times.
Special thanks to The Sports Clubs of Canada, TryThat and In my Hands.