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Since the Great Recession hit, fear, risk and uncertainty have held a vice-like grip on our economy. A sluggish recovery has brought morale in companies, large and small, to its knees. As a business owner, even if you're doing well today, there are lingering concerns of hitting a bump in the road that will derail your business.
What’s an entrepreneur to do? If you're worried, so are your employees. They look to you for leadership and guidance, especially when they don’t have the answers. This is an ideal situation to reinforce their decision to work for you. Make them feel better about coming into the office. A warm, inviting environment that's conducive to getting work done is the antidote for the malaise that hovers over businesses today. Positive energy can change the world; negative energy can kill a business. Here are 15 tips to beat back negativity and put the fun back into your company.
Five Ground Rules
1. Insult No One: Whatever you decide to do to change the morale in your business, it cannot come at the expense of one or more of your employees. Find ideas and themes that don’t make people feel uncomfortable or insulted.
2. Have a Healthy Attitude: As the leader in your company, be excited about the prospect of having fun while working. Your positive enthusiasm will be contagious.
3. Start Slowly: If there are morale issues in your company, they won’t disappear overnight. If you suddenly go from a dreary workplace to a three-ring circus, your employees will question the validity of your actions.
4. Make it Voluntary: Don’t force feed fun to your employees. Some will immediately respond to your cues while others will want more time before they join the fun. There's nothing worse than mandatory attendance at a company outing because “we’re all here to have fun!”
5. Don’t Talk About Work: If you do something with your employees outside the office, use the time to get to know them better. Even if they’ve been part of your team for years, use the event to catch up. Also, be interested in them and what they're doing. (Hint: This is not about your regaling your employees with highlights from your last vacation.)
Five Ideas for Fun
1. Change of Scenery: Hold a meeting in a park. Have lunch outside on a sunny day. Take a walk with your team. A change of scenery will bring a change of attitude. It’s hard not to feel good after having fresh air fill your lungs and the warm sun on your face.
2. Make it a Team Effort: Instead of telling your team what fun programs you put together for them, have them come up with ideas. Even if you aren’t completely sold on what they put together, this is about them, not you. Be a team player and go along with their suggestions.
3. Extreme Office Makeover: Brighter colors, big green plants and healthy snacks can inject positive energy in an otherwise drab office.
4. Surprise: Celebrate the victories and the milestones. Don’t let someone’s work anniversary or birthday go by without making it feel like a special occasion. It’s one more opportunity to remind people why they love working at your company.
5. We’re Here to Help: Whether you choose a program such as “Meals on Wheels” or have a response team when disaster strikes, nothing brings people together quite like giving back. Take suggestions from your employees on what they would like to do either on their own or as a company to make the world around them a better place.
Five Fun-Filled Events
1. Movie Nights: If you have a conference room or a place for seating and a TV, then you have “Thursday Night at the Movies.” Order some pizza, make popcorn and enjoy classic movies or comedies (my preferences). One piece of advice: Remember the rule of insulting no one. PG-13 is about as crazy as you want to get when choosing a movie.
2. Lunch at a Museum: If you work in or near a big city, it’s likely you have access to local museums. When was the last time you or your employees went to one? At a former company, I took my team to several museums in New York City—trips that we still talk about 10 years later.
3. Open Mic Night: Rent a machine and follow the movie night theme or go to a local establishment where they have karaoke night. If you can’t sing well, then sing loudly and smile. One note—not everything you do with co-workers needs to be broadcast on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Live in the moment without having to worry about if your friends and family will see you having fun. I once went to karaoke night at a conference and signed up to sing. When I saw all the smartphones recording each person, I crossed my name off the list.
4. Batter Up: Join a softball league, attend a sporting event or sign up as a team for a local 5k race. Whether you’re a participant or a spectator, sports can be fun events to do together.
5. Scavenger Hunt: Create teams of people to work together to find a list of items either around the office or around town. A good scavenger hunt will last a few hours and yield funny stories and solid bonding opportunities.
As you put the fun back into your business, use the opportunity to see if there are negative forces in your company. It’s okay for employees to be shy or introverted. It’s not okay for them to drain the life out of your business.
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs to run better businesses. Brian is leveraging his 20+ years of experience in publishing magazines for business owners to assist entrepreneurs with everything from social media to accessing growth capital to expanding into the global marketplace. You can read more at his website, www.smallbusinessedge.com.
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