Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What Does Etiquette have to do with Nursing Leadership?

Guest post from Kathleen Pagana:

Anyone committed to career advancement faces the challenge of interacting well in business and social settings. By using the guiding principles of kindness, consideration and commonsense, professional etiquette can help you initiate new relationships and enhance established ones. Etiquette is about relationships.  It can guide you in unfamiliar situations and help you know what to expect from others.

Let’s use a sports analogy. Suppose you want to join the volleyball league at your medical center. If you know the rules and know how to play the game, you could be an asset to the team. Likewise, in the workplace, etiquette makes you a welcome addition to a leadership team. It increases your confidence in dealing with all levels of colleagues by leveling the playing field.  Many business programs have recognized the importance of business etiquette and have included it as part of their educational requirements.  Although nursing education has focused on leadership and management, etiquette has been the missing link for success in the workplace.

Over a long career in nursing, I have often been challenged by business etiquette concerns in positions, such as patient care manager, military officer, faculty member, academic dean, and board member at a healthcare system. Professional etiquette has helped me handle these challenges.  Let’s discuss five situations where etiquette can help you target your leadership potential.

1.     Making introductions

You may wonder if it matters who is introduced to whom in an introduction. Yes, it does.  There is a pecking order to introductions. The person of honor is mentioned first, and the other person is introduced to him or her. The higher-ranking person is the person of honor.  For example, suppose a new graduate is being introduced to the nursing supervisor. The supervisor is mentioned first and the new nurse is introduced or presented to him or her. 
Suppose you need to introduce Mike Smith (new graduate) to Theresa Deska (supervisor).  Here is an example of a proper introduction: “Theresa, I would like to present Mike Smith.  Mike is a new graduate from Lycoming College. Theresa Deska is our surgical supervisor.

 2.     Shaking Hands
Did you know you are judged by the quality of your handshake? You want to present a confident, firm handshake. Those few seconds can weaken or empower a relationship. Be sure to stand up, make eye contact, and smile. 
If someone ignores your attempt to shake hands, gently drop your hand to your side.  There are cultural and religious preferences that affect a handshake. For example, in the Hindu culture, contact between men and women is avoided, and men do not shake hands with women.

3.     Remembering names

It means a lot to people to hear their name. People are impressed when you remember their name. However, many people have trouble remembering names.  Here are some tips to help:
·         Listen and focus when you hear the name.

·         Repeat the person’s name. For example, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Margaret.”

·         Connect the name to something or someone. For example, “I have a daughter named Theresa and she spells her name like you.”

·         Ask the person a question about the name?  For example, “Do you spell Kathleen with a C or a K?”

·         Look at the person’s nametag.  his will help you remember the name and know how to spell it.

·         Write down the name or ask for a business card.

·         Ask the person for a helpful way to remember how to pronounce the name. For example, when people ask me how to pronounce Pagana, I tell them to think of the word “banana.”  Then say, “Pah-gann-a” like “bah-nann-a.”

 4.     Presenting business cards
Every leader needs business cards for networking. You can attach a business card to a report or note. This lets the person know you are the sender and provides your contact information. 
Cards should be presented with the content face up and readable.  The receiver should be able to glance at the card and make a comment. For example, “I see you are the nurse manager of surgical services.” Make sure the card you give is in good condition. Don’t use a card if it is soiled, bent, or ripped, because it will not portray a positive impression of you. 

5.     Mingling at receptions and cocktail parties

Your career aspirations can be enhanced or limited by your behavior as you navigate these potentially disastrous social gatherings. Inappropriate behavior can undo years of good impressions.
Attending work-related receptions shows you are a team player and gives you a chance to get to know co-workers in a less formal setting. Here are some guidelines for presenting yourself in a professional manner:

·         Smile and be friendly to everyone.

·         Introduce yourself to people you don’t know.

·         Avoid clustering in small groups with people in your department.

·         Spend more time listening than talking.

·         Minimize “shop talk” during social gatherings.

·         Be sure to greet senior management. Use engaging small talk.

·         If you don’t call people by their first names at work, don’t start at the social event.

·         Treat the serving staff with respect.

·         Drink responsibly.

·         Avoid messy foods. Keep your hands clean for shaking hands.

·         Be aware of your body language. Don’t act bored.

·         Thank your hosts before leaving.
Everyone can and should learn some basic business etiquette. The better you become at it, the more you will be sought after for opportunities and positions. These tips can help you handle awkward and challenging situations that could diminish your confidence, tarnish your reputation, and derail your career aspirations.

Author bio: Kathleen D. Pagana, PhD is the author of “The Nurse’s Etiquette Advantage: How Professional Etiquette Can Advance Your Nursing Career.”  She is a best-selling author of almost 2 million books with translations in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Chinese, Greek, and Polish.  She is also a dynamic keynote speaker who motivates professionals to reach their goals though presentations on leadership, business etiquette, and life balance.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Innovation Begins (and remains) at the Top

Guest post By John Sweeney:

Innovation is foundational to business leadership. We empower individuals across disciplines to evaluate, orchestrate, strategize, create and hire, but most importantly, we empower others to innovate. Many leaders may consider empowerment a handoff – a simple process of delegating work. For the most process-oriented tasks, that assumption may be true. But for innovation, responsibility begins and remains at the highest levels of leadership.
Empowering innovation begins with our everyday behavior, outlook, commitment and openness to new thinking. Just as leaders deliver big picture messages and strategy, we also set the tone for how organizations innovate. However, we forget about everyday behavior, because it is so basic that even the big thinkers—the super smart innovation architects—often assume that everyday behavior will automatically change once a great system is in place.

The maxim “everything looks like a nail to a hammer” is an excellent reminder that every successful innovation effort relies on the people—and all their fears, emotions, and humanness—who must fuel it.
Innovation is fundamentally about people; their assumptions, subconscious thought patterns, daily actions and habits. Taken together with all the other trappings of business management — procedures, rewards and penalties, social dynamics, unspoken rules and, of course, stress—it’s easy to see how innovation yields a wonderfully messy, organic and complex environment. Above all, behavior drives results, and if leaders fail to address daily behavior, even the greatest strategies and plans to drive innovation are doomed to fail.

A managerial culture that strives for efficiency, leanness, speed and quality above all else is often in conflict with a culture of innovation, which must make room for experimentation, learning from mistakes and unexpected connections through exploration.

Here are six tips that leaders can implement to help create and foster a business environment that not only welcomes, but also thrives on innovation:

1. Your behavior matters.
As the leader of a company your behavior is amplified and seen as the true north to how things are done in the company. Your words do not matter, if you behave contrary to them!

2. Your words do matter when they are aligned with your actions.
Language is a powerful tool to rally and unify people – especially around innovation. Choose sticky language, use it, help people make it their own to align and inspire people to embrace an innovative mindset and innovation behaviors.

3. Strive to decrease status.
Be human, real and authentic to encourage participation in innovation activities and initiatives.

4. Show up!
Be present and supportive for all innovation related events and initiatives. Being engaged sends the message that innovation is important and worthwhile of your time, which means it is important and worthwhile for the people who you lead.

5. Be bold in your behavioral declaration.
Create a behavioral manifesto or credo. Publicly state that you will personally strive to uphold the behaviors you have stated in the credo.

6. Frequently ask others to evaluate, metric and assess your behavior based on your declaration.
Invite constructive criticism to demonstrate your desire for continuous improvement and a willingness to change – two key elements of innovation.

We all know that how we function in a team, communicate and collaborate with others is the key to successful innovation, and there’s no better place to start than at the top. An innovative mindset reevaluates the nature of innovation and shows how a change in perspective can lead to more dynamic, successful endeavors.

John Sweeney is the co-owner and executive producer of the Brave New Workshop, America’s oldest satirical comedy theatre. He uses his 20+ years of improvisational performance, speaking and training to influence human behavior and to create simple but groundbreaking tools that have ignited cultures of innovative behavior within such companies as Microsoft, PWC, General Mills and UnitedHealthGroup. His new book (with Elena Imaretska) – The Innovative Mindset: 5 Behaviors for Accelerating Breakthroughs – is available now from Wiley. Visit to find a bookseller near you.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Anyone Can Train Themselves to be a Highly Effective Leader

Guest post from Chris Hutchinson:

If you’ve gotten past the title without choking on your warm office beverage of choice, you’re probably thinking something like:
1. Are you kidding? You’ve clearly never met [colleague/boss/archenemy]!

2. Don’t think so. People either have natural leadership ability or they don’t. If you don’t have the right wiring, it doesn’t matter.
3. Look, I’ve tried hard and made progress, but I can point to any number of areas where I wouldn’t consider myself “highly effective.”

4. Hmmm…really?
I’ve worked with thousands of leaders over the past twenty-five years. Based on that experience, I firmly believe almost anyone* can become a highly effective leader. Regardless of default leadership abilities – the combination of natural wiring and how someone was parented/taught/led up to now – everyone can get better as a leader. It just takes the right mindset and tools. (* rare exceptions for people with serious mental wellness problems. And no, I’m not talking about your last boss.)

 To be a highly effective leader, you’ll need both an internal drive - the mindset - and an external framework – the tools - for results.
The internal drive is made up of three action-oriented conditions:

·    A deep desire for better results. If you cannot picture any difference between where you are and where you want to be, nothing will change.  (Hint: this difference is usually easier to see a few years out rather than today. By picturing how a change will affect what you care about most in, say, five years, you can usually find the energy to start changing now.)

·     A willingness to learn and change your own behavior. If you can experiment with doing things differently and then be open to feedback, you can get better. Perhaps it’s human nature to try to avoid making mistakes, yet I’ve always found the lessons I learn from making mistakes define me more than when I “get lucky” and succeed the first time.

·     A bias for action. Despite millions of health books and videos sold each year in the United States, public health data show obesity steadily increasing. It’s clearly not enough just to know how to do things – you must get into action and apply your thinking to get results.
Without these, there’s no point in embarking on leadership improvement. I used to think that these three conditions were all leaders needed. However, over the past decade I‘ve discovered to become truly effective leaders, people also need:

 A comprehensive and practical framework for leadership that works in the real world.
Without an overarching framework, many leaders end up trying different techniques. These techniques can often conflict with each other.  And without a clear and consistent set of coordinated actions, leaders find themselves treating symptoms, not finding and solving the root causes.

I wrote Ripple: A Field Guide for Leadership That Works to provide my clients – and you – that comprehensive framework. It starts with self-leadership (knowing yourself deeply and getting into action as a leader), moves through interpersonal leadership (how you respect and enable others to succeed), and finishes at organizational leadership (how you design and tweak the system to enable effective results efficiently).
Most people in leadership positions start working on efficiency (results!) in the organization first. When that doesn’t work, they backtrack to effectiveness (let’s reorg), then to positively enabling others (ah, you need the right resources to do the work), and then to respecting others (silly me, I didn’t realize you have different talents than mine).

If these efforts still aren’t working, things get uncomfortable. If we’re honest with ourselves, we start asking: “As a leader, am I in action about what matters? And if not, could it be that I don’t understand myself enough to get out of my own way?”
It begins with you

From my experience, you will get the best results by starting with yourself, then learn to work well with others, and together you can optimize your organization. All we need to do to kick off this positive chain reaction is to change ourselves.
Relatively simple, yet as Marshall Goldsmith says, changing behavior is one of the most difficult things for adults to do. Why? As adult humans, we believe we are highly competent and effective. We often wrap our self-esteem around this perception of competence. To get better, we have to admit that, in some way, we’re not as competent as we thought.  Yet, we can only admit that if we make it through denial and confusion – our internal barriers that keep us in our place of comfort and known competence – first.
The good news is that with the right mindset and level of willingness, along with some hard work and an overarching structure that works, you too can hurdle your own barriers and train yourself to be a highly effective leader.

 So – what are you waiting for?

About Chris Hutchinson:
Chris Hutchinson has invested the last 25 years working with organizations and leaders to help them reach their full potential. He founded his company – Trebuchet Group – in 2002 to help business leaders tap the abilities of their whole organization to get where they want to go quicker and less painfully.

Chris is an international speaker and published author of Ripple: A Field Manual for Leadership that Works. His experiences in the military and the business world taught him great leadership can be learned, and everyone is in some way a leader.
Chris has a passion for helping people grow and be their best. Clients and peers describe him as an inspirational catalyst for positive change. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Brave Leadership

Guest post from Darrin Murriner:

Most people would agree that good leaders are brave leaders. But our definition of brave may vary widely. For some bravery could mean facing a tough personnel decision or making investment decisions to enter a new market.

And while those decisions can often be brave, I contend that the highest form of bravery in an organizational context is keeping at bay the opposite of bravery; fear.

In our business organizations fear has a growing influence. This can be seen in our capital allocation decisions, how we react to competitors and how engaged our employees are in the mission of the organization that you are leading.

To be a truly great leader you must tackle the three primary areas that fear can influence your organization and prevent your business from realizing increased returns and long-term value creation.

 1. The Cultural Core. I represent this strong cultural core through several key elements including the development of trust, breaking through organizational hierarchies, being willing to take risks or even fail, finding employees that are the right cultural fit and supporting their individuality, and finally, by developing great communication. Building a strong core lays the foundation for the next two areas.

2. External Factors. It is important to avoid the pull to react to the competition, regulation and risk & control functions, but rather, focus on getting out in front of these three areas. This requires staying close to the customer and anticipating where the market is going. You can limit the influence these factors have by leaning into the cultural core.

3. Improve Decision Making. Good decision making from a place of strength in your organizational identity keeps you from getting distracted by concerns around possible legal land mines or the possibility of negative media exposure. Good decision making allows the brave leader to go from good to great.

I would love to go into each of these areas in more detail, but this is a blog post and I spent eleven chapters on these in my book, Corporate Bravery.

But the reason why these factors matter is because fear has a way of creeping into your culture little by little through small decisions that are made every day by managers with influence within your organization.

That may seem overwhelming since leaders often struggle with the balance between micromanaging the details and supporting and empowering their managers towards improved performance. But it is achievable, and it starts with great leadership.

For that reason, the selection process for managers must be rigorous and ensure the full alignment of organizational values, management competencies and performance management to protect the cultural core from trending negatively over time.

Too often leaders are derailed by fears that influence their decisions and create cracks for fear to root itself in the cultural fabric of their organization. It can start out small but will eventually have an outsized influence on every area of business performance. Great leadership values bravery over fear and fights to protect culture from fear’s polluting influence.

About the author:
To learn more about Darrin Murriner or this topic you can read more at If you are interested in reading Corporate Bravery, the book is available on Amazon ( & iTunes.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Five Degrees of Workplace Culture

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:
How healthy is your workplace culture? Is yours a safe, inspiring, productive culture or far from it?
I recently spoke to leaders in two different organizations about the difficult dynamics in their work environment. Both organizations are experiencing “senior leaders behaving badly."

The behavior is disruptive, aggressive, and exhausting for anyone that interacts with these leaders. Tantrums happen frequently. These leaders’ teams demonstrate inconsistent performance and poor service (to internal and external customers). When challenged to improve results or service, these leaders pop a cork, even cussing up a storm, which diverts attention from the core performance and service issues.
These dynamics cause stress, frustration, and heartache. Worse, the bad behavior by these leaders has been tolerated by the top leaders of their organizations - so it continues, unabated.

If leaders want a high performing, values-aligned culture, they must be intentional about the quality of their workplace culture. They must design their desired culture through an organizational constitution, which specifies their team or department or company’s present day purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. Once defined, leaders must align all plans, decisions, and actions to that constitution.
Crafting an organizational constitution then aligning practices to that constitution takes time, energy, and attention on the part of leaders, every day. Leaders must demonstrate their values and behaviors in every interaction - and coach everyone else in their organization to do the same.

The problem is that leaders spend greater time and energy on their organization’s products and services than they do on it’s culture, yet culture drives everything that happens in their organization, for better or worse.
Leaders have never been asked to manage their team’s culture. They don’t know how. Yet the benefits of aligning practices to an organizational constitution are impressive: 40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer service, and 35 percent gains in results and profits, all within 18 months of applying this framework.

To reap these gains, leaders must assess the health of their current team or department or company culture. My book, The Culture Engine, presents five levels or degrees of workplace culture health. They include:

  • Dysfunction - This is the lowest quality level, indicating a culture of low trust, inconsistent performance, and consistent frustration when trying to get things done.
  • Tension - This level indicates that trust is slightly better but below standard. Performance is slightly better but remains inconsistent. Disagreements occur regularly, but overt conflict is not as common.
  • Civility - This is the middle ground and represents the minimum standard of culture quality. At this level, leaders and team members are treated with respect. Interactions are formal and professional. Performance is consistently good. Disagreements about ideas are conducted calmly without denigrating the leader or team member's commitment, skills, or role.
  • Acknowledgement - This quality level is reflected in the active recognition and expression of thanks and gratitude for effort, accomplishment, service, and citizenship. Team members do not wait for acknowledgement from leaders - they proactively thank each other. Customers are treated respectfully. The phrase "thank you” is heard a lot.
  • Validation - This quality level demands the active valuing of team members' skills, ideas, enthusiasm, and talents. Leaders frequently delegate authority and responsibility to talented, engaged team members. Productivity is consistently high. Cooperative problem solving and team work is the norm.
The research proves that teams that implement and align to an organizational constitution enjoy a validating culture. That quality level is reflected in consistent team member engagement, customers being WOW'ed daily, and exceeding performance expectations over time.

To what degree is yours a validating culture? Add your comments below.

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

7 Signs that it May be Time to Step Down as a Manager

How do you know when it’s time to step aside, or down from being a manager? Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to find out more:


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Stop Criticizing and Start Leading Your Youngest Workers

Guest post from Claudia St. John:

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”  -- Socrates circa 400 B.C.
Some things never change.  It sounds like Socrates is talking about our current millennial generation – those currently between the ages of 18 and 34.

We’ve all heard the rap against them.  They’re entitled, self-absorbed, disloyal, tech-crazy and don’t know how to communicate.  They are a generation we love to complain about.  But they’re also creative, smart, compassionate, tolerant, enthusiastic and giving – especially to those jobs or bosses that understand what makes them tick.  
Millennials, also known as Generation Y , are often maligned and quite misunderstood. And figuring out how to harness the energy and enthusiasm is clearly a worthwhile endeavor, as they are the fastest growing, most diverse group in our population and just this year they surpassed all other generations in the workforce – one in three U.S. workers are millennials.  They value family, community, creativity and the environment.  They are entrepreneurial, tech-savvy and are fiscally conservative.  They are also notorious job-hoppers and

What this means for business leaders is that, more than any other generation, our youngest employees need to be actively engaged at work or they will leave for another job that offers them growth, opportunity or, more often than not, a meaningful, value-based work experience.  So, as you as you welcome these workers into your company, here are five things you might consider:
  1. Treat them like the adults that they are…even if they show up for work in hoodies and sporting tattoos.  Relationships, respect and purpose matter more to this group than money.  Connect the dots for them. Explain how their jobs matter in the big picture.  And they are a generation that celebrates self-expression and diversity – get past the superficial and look for the value and purpose that they can provide.
  2. Let them use their personal technology at work.  Get over it.  If it doesn't cause a safety problem, let them have access to their phones during breaks at work.  They see 24x7 connectivity as essential to their own sense of purpose (and face it, so do many of us older folks) and they will be more productive if you don’t restrict their natural form of communication.  And they may see opportunities for using technology in unique ways to build your brand or engage your customers.  Incorporate their technology into their jobs – use them as your organization’s social media ambassadors.  No one knows that space better than they do.  Heck, they created it! 
  3. Over-indulge their need for feedback.  Their parents gave it to them, their teachers give it to them.  It’s about time their bosses gave it to them too.  They, more than any other generation of employee, need feedback on their performance.  If you see them doing something well, don’t just walk by, stop and tell them what you observed and why it is important.  Unfortunately, all too often we restrict our feedback to constructive criticism – if that’s all they get from you then you will lose them.
  4. They’re not looking for just a job…they’re looking for a meaningful experience.   Be infectiously enthusiastic about the mission and purpose of your organization.  Find ways for them to give back to the community and the world.  These are truly global citizens who want to do good as much as they want to do well.  Find opportunities to engage them in the world and create a work environment (with flex-schedules or condensed workweeks) so that they can engage in activities outside of work that are important to them.  If you respect their interests, they will respect and appreciate you in return.
  5. They are not entitled – they are survivors.  These amazing young workers have endured a start to their professional lives that none of their older colleagues could imagine.  They carry crippling student loan debt, entered the workforce just after the Great Recession when jobs in their field of interest were few and far between.  Lesser jobs that would pay the bills are now occupied by Baby Boomers who are failing to exit the workforce to make room for their younger counterparts.  The political landscape is full of poison.  Global warming is all that they know.  Yet they remain optimistic, engaged and in search of solutions to all the world’s ailments.  Recognize the challenges that they face and consider offering them benefits that provide financial protections and savings opportunities.  Study after study show that this cohort is more financially cautious than all other generations in the current workplace.  Use that to your advantage to help them create financial stability and security.
Are the millennials challenging to manage?  Yes, they are.  But we must also remember that we, ourselves, created these young people.  As parents, and as a society, we nurtured them and protected them and we told them to make their own way because no one (including their employer) would look out for them.  Yes, we created these creative, independent, confident generation.  And now it’s our turn to lead them.

Claudia St. John is the author of Transforming Teams: Tips for Improving Collaboration and Building Trust. She is also founder and president of Affinity HR Group, LLC, a national human resources and management consulting firm specializing in talent selection, workforce management, and human resources compliance. As a consultant and frequent speaker, she has given hundreds of presentations and workshops on topics such as employee engagement, common management mistakes, challenges in managing a multigenerational workforce, and building trust and collaboration. Her weekly HR Minute e-bulletin and columns are followed by thousands of business leaders nationwide. Claudia earned an undergraduate degree in employee benefits and labor relations from American University and a master’s degree in business and public administration from The George Washington University. She also holds an SPHR, an SHRM-SCP, and numerous other HR and management certifications. Claudia lives in Cazenovia, New York, with her husband, David, and her sons Charles and Henry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Five Questions Every CEO Should Ask

According to John Manning, “there are Five Vital Questions you can ask to get razor-sharp clarity around your organization’s productivity. Answer these questions to get the facts and you can improve goal-setting, make more empowered decisions about your company’s strategic direction, and discover how to more effectively lead and inspire performance.”

Read John’s guest post Five Questions Every CEO Should Ask over at Leadership and Management.


Monday, October 19, 2015

7 Common Myths about Leadership

According to Karen Kimsey-House, “until we move beyond some of our long cherished myths about what it means to be a leader, it will be difficult to truly generate change. Here are seven of the most common myths about leadership that keep us stuck.”

Read Karen’s guest post 7 Common Myths about Leadership over at Management and Leadership.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Laughing and Business: Don’t Be a Buzz Kill

Guest post from William Goodspeed:

To understand the challenges of humor in business organizations, it may help to look at the Ivy League. Dartmouth College, the League’s historically most fun school, is suffering from a serious lack of humor. Recently, a fraternity advertised a Cinco de Mayo party featuring margaritas and other typical features of the Americanized holiday. But one female student of Hispanic heritage complained that the event was offensive to Hispanics. The fraternity immediately cancelled the event, lest it offend anyone. The losers were the students who would have enjoyed the fun, as well as the local charity that benefitted from the event—because one woman was offended.

Are we becoming a society where any minority group can veto anything it deems offensive?

Political correctness, often embodied in ‘legal correctness,’ is choking America, especially businesses. While companies seek to create jobs, customer benefits, wealth and community prosperity, forces within have become the “thought police,” particularly human resources and legal.

Humor and fun are really important in business, much to the chagrin of human resources professionals and corporate lawyers. They are critical for two vital reasons:

1. Companies with happy employees perform far, far better than those with miserable staff; and

2. Culture is a powerful competitive weapon, and cultures of warmth and fun are really tough to replicate and beat.

On the first point, people need look no further than restaurants and airlines. It’s not hard to find the ones with happy employees. Southwest Airlines is a great example; flight attendants and pilots joke all the time. They enjoy their jobs and the customers. Delta has become more this way too. Contrast this with virtually all other American airlines, whose people sport grim looks and often act irritably with customers. Which airlines perform the best? Southwest and increasingly, Delta. In the restaurant world, who wants grumpy waiters? You can always tell which places have the happiest people, and they seem to thrive.

Maybe a little humor and fun would be a good investment?

On the other hand, culture is a critical competitive weapon for business. Products and services can usually be replicated easily, but culture not so. When I was running a successful business with a powerful, fun culture, I used to say, “Let our competitors see our strategy. They can’t reproduce our culture, no matter how hard they try, and our culture makes our success happen.” It was true. Fifteen years later, the business is far more profitable than its larger peers, and the team is still having fun.

Granted, fun and humor are not essential to every culture, but they usually go with high energy, attracting people and big aspirations.

Instead of having thought police, like human resource departments who act like cranky school marms, companies should embrace fun and humor.  They should realize that liability and lawsuits are a risk, sure, but they represent a miniscule amount of the value created by having an engaged workforce and a powerful, attractive culture. To destroy fun in the workplace to avoid liability is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as they say.

Sure, there should be limits: jokes that poke fun of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation are generally not appropriate. But does humor need to be based on these type of jokes? There are many funny shows on TV, and much of the humor is not derogatory towards protected classes.

So laugh a little; don’t be a Buzz Kill. Your people, your customers and your business will love it.

About the author
William Goodspeed held several senior executive positions in various industries and companies. While working for large companies, he kept his passion of observing behavior. He launched his writing career with, “The Point,” a seasonal Northwestern Michigan parody newspaper with 125 unpaid subscribers. His latest book is “BuzzKill”, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Balboa Press online bookstores.
A former resident of Charlotte, N.C., he currently lives in Maine and Michigan with his wife, Jen.