Friday, May 16, 2008

Fun and Work

As I browsed around the Chief Executive website, I discovered a quote from Kenneth D. Makovsky's* blog about fun and work being completely interrelated.

I was thrilled to see that 98% of CEO's would prefer to hire someone with a sense of humor! That was my opinion when I led City Harvest. Far better to hire someone who takes themselves lightly and the work seriously than someone who takes both seriously or both lightly.

Someone who takes themselves lightly - who can see the ridiculousness of a situation, who can take and make a joke (not at anyone's expense, of course), and who can loosen up and play or celebrate or let off steam after the hard work is done - that's the kind of person I want to be, and I want to be around.

I also wanted to be surrounded by people who took work seriously in the sense that they had passion for what they did, that they took pride in doing a great job, and that they were committed to delivering excellence.

Seriousness could be taken too far, however, if that person couldn't detach from the work long enough to share a laugh around the worktable with their colleagues.

When I interviewed people for senior leadership positions, I always made a point of cracking a joke or using a pun - just to see if the person would join in laughing. If she or he did, s/he got to the next round - assuming all other signs were good. Then I'd have a team of people interview him/her, and I'd sit in to observe.

The people I ended up hiring were the ones who almost immediately had good rapport with their prospective colleagues. And that good rapport was demonstrated by laughter.

Laughter showed that people were comfortable with each other, that they had a similar view of life and work. It also showed that the prospective team member was capable of quickly blending in with the rest of the senior leadership team. That meant s/he would be able to get up to speed fast and soon develop collaborative relationships.

Speed was really important because City Harvest was a fast-paced organization. And it was equally important that we like each other enough to spend 8 to 14 hours a day together (with bathroom breaks, of course). If we could laugh together, we could work effectively together and create great success and value for our clients, the hungry of New York City.

* President of Makovsky + Company, one of the largest global independent public relations firms in the U.S.

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