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Don’t take ourselves too seriously

4 min read


When was the last time you observed a human on the verge of a meltdown at work? Or in the middle of a meltdown?

It’s impressive.

Something happens that’s unexpected. A player — sometimes a team leader — pops their cork. They’re upset and frustrated. They might stomp and slam doors. They might yell at others. They’re completely disappointed in something and they let everyone know it.

It might be entertaining to watch, but it’s not good. It’s not healthy. It doesn’t build trust, respect, dignity, or performance — it erodes all those desirable things.

All of us have expectations of ourselves and of others. Some of those expectations are met; some aren’t. I don’t think others get up in the morning and decide, “This is the day I’m going to make my team leader so angry she’ll spit nails!” I think stuff happens and frustrations erupt.

We take ourselves very seriously, at work, at home, with friends, and with strangers. We need to lighten up. We need to work with people, not against them. We need to bring enjoyment back into our daily relationships.

I’m not saying work isn’t important or that results don’t matter or that service isn’t valuable. Results do matter. Service matters.

And, relationships matter. Those three are all “tied for first place.” We need to create work environments where all three — results, service and relationships — are present in every interaction.

Humans can apply themselves towards goal commitments while enjoying the process and their peers. It doesn’t have to be difficult, this working with others.

We’ve seen it work well. Our best bosses created that environment. They held us to high standards and they found ways of celebrating progress, of validating others’ ideas, and more. They demanded cooperative interaction, not competitive interaction. And they created opportunities for fun.

Here’s a recent example. On Aug. 30, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta threw his first no-hitter in a 2-0 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s a special night for a team and for a pitcher.

What made it even more special was that first-year manager Joe Maddon had, weeks before, inspired the team to have a pajama party on their flight back to Chicago after that game. They had no idea the night would feature Arrieta’s no-hitter.

It didn’t matter. What mattered was the team loved the fun theme. They all got into it, with onesies and union suits being the most common attire.

Maddon is a creative manager. Players love him and they love playing for him. Maddon inspires strong performance as well as team cooperation. It doesn’t happen naturally — it takes time, energy, intention, and attention, every day.

You don’t have to host a pajama party to reduce tantrums. But a pizza lunch to celebrate traction on a big project might go a long way toward building relationships and dialing down the serious meter.

What do you think? How good are your relationships at work? How do your leaders help lighten things up to create an inspiring work environment? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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