Fun invigorates a workplace through deliberate practices that add to its value. Last week, while speaking at a Seattle business leadership conference, I had the honor to stay with a young leader I mentored over 30 years ago. What a delight to observe leadership values implemented in a talented person I’d observed with so much expectation for fun at work, decades earlier.
Back then and still today, Donna adds enthusiasm and excitement at her work in senior executive finance. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of watching fun that invigorates Donna's leadership, and now that I apply brain facts for innovative change, it’s obvious to me why brainpower for successful results increases with fun. As fun fuels any organization, it adds collective brainpower for advancing innovation.
From Donna's past roles as student union president, to current highly responsible financial executive positions, she models newly discovered research about why highly successful leaders tend to play more.
Below is a video of one discussion I had with Donna Mah DeLaughter about legacy, integrity and work adventures, and also a collection of neuro findings that build bridges between fun and high performance minds. This hack implements related brain facts to support adventures that Donna illustrates at work and beyond. It's my hope to continue to show how fun's elixir reconfigures business for finer productivity in any enterprise with innovation at its core.
Young leaders coming up, want more. In fact, many of these talented young women and men tend to look long range to find ways to add enjoyment at work. Rather than value fast grabs for greed or power that characterized the past era, they find pleasure in little things. They tend to step up quickly to open gates for folks who differ, and when valuable brainpower gets left behind at work because some people still fail to find access, it's often fun-loving innovators that lower the latch for inclusion.
Several discussions with Donna reminded us both that fun can be central to a workplace, as it is germane to Nintendo, the parent company to SIRAS. There, Donna said, fun is written into the mission statement to ensure its impact. That organization constantly repeats words such as, “smiles on every face." In her role as accountant, at Nintendo's subsiduary, Donna also lives Nintendo’s tag line to have fun. The theme spills over into her own busy workplace.
Different from my own generation, Donna sees that fun invigorates trust at work, and extends to generosity for the firm and its workers, as if she owned it. She suggests that whenever we treat a workplace as personal property, we’ll be far more ready to place it’s people at the center and foster fun-loving approaches.
In the following areas, I observed fun and adventure that prospers Donna's work and influences her organization. Each relates to current neuro research about adventure's cabilities at work. In laying these examples out, I'd like to add to other's ideas about how to take more of the work out of work, in so many bogged-down organizations.
Included are Donna's work approaches - alongside supports in research that offer solutions for romancing the joy of workplace productivity.
1. When fun rules, boredom rarely follows. Research shows monotony as a choice that limits brainpower, just as Donna’s choice for enthusiasm –opens new possibilities at work.
2. A workplace setting can add or limit brainpower to transform problems into solutions with adventure. Donna’s bright spaces, with soft chairs to curl up, naturalistic views everywhere, and expansive well-kept desk, and bright colors transform doldrums into delightful spots to work.
3. Serotonin chemical fuels and sustains fun for added brainpower when people laugh easily, give often, support deeply, and care about other’s progress at work.
4. Over several meetings I watched Donna playfully turn negative events into challenges to chase as teams. In one situation, over breakfast, she shared why she tends to avoid politics or gossip anywhere she works. It makes sense if one considers that cortisol chemicals fuel and sustain anger, fear and frustration to limit brainpower.
5. Consistently I saw Donna laugh in ways that move people past problems that tend to hold back talented employees. New research reminds us that venting creates neuron pathways for more of the same and limits innovative brainpower.
6. Fun requires stepping out of ordinary spots to create systems that chase new adventures. At one minute Donna is dashing off to a sports event, at another she is learning to play golf from a pro she works with, and at another she signed up with a few volunteers to work a day in Seattle's food kitchen while I was there. Dendrite brain cells use the outside world to limit or increase innovative brainpower, based on what you do.
7. Music changes brain wave speeds in ways that impact moods and alter productivity, and Donna’s musical interests have already rubbed off on her son who plays drums in several well respected bands.
8. Highly developed interactions create the impetus for shared adventure. Rather than adhere to lectures or talks that work against listeners’ brains, Donna increases people’s personal sense of fun through intelligent questions and easy going applications of novel ideas.
9. During our one week in Seattle, Donna started several new innovative projects based on fun suggestions of her many colleagues, friends and acquaintances. In contrast, hebbian workers rewire daily through doing the same things the same way, so as to kill incentives, limit focus, or even shrink their brains.
10. Confident in both her highly developed and growing skills, Donna consistently engages people who differ. Recently she won a week’s vacation at a holiday spot in Hawaii, and she made it possible for more than a dozen different colleagues to join her and her family for the week away. Diversity training tends to work against benefits that come from differences because of its deficit model.
11. Even though she sleeps less than most, Donna developed consistency that allows her to get to sleep at the same time on workdays, and then she rises early to spend time communicating or playing with new ideas in the early morning before work. Brain waves can bring either sleep or peak performance, based on how you activate them.
12. Constantly learning new skills, Donna speaks fondly of several organizations that allowed her to add to current financial acumen. Research illustrates how successful learners hook even difficult facts onto one thing you know and learning increases in less time.
13. The entire time with Donna, reminded me of the value of new ideas engaged as a way of bridging fun and workplace responsibilities. In all human brains, basal ganglias store facts and create ruts. Working memory holds few facts and yet operates more in innovators like Donna - who lead change, and engages new facts and details.
14. Multiple intelligences, while common to all, are used by a few like Donna, to develop daily doses of fun with others whose intelligences differ. It’s deliberate, and since every person comes to work with a unique mix of intelligences, Donna's approach to shared vision, opens new spigots to brainpower that draws and motivates others. No wonder that in research and experience multiple intelligence development tends to take the work out of work.
15. In conversation, Donna discussed the only job she decided to leave because there was much drudgery and little to look forward to as one leader created conflicts through cynicism. Cynical mindsets literally block creativity, impact talent, and stomp out innovation.
16. By keeping a digital calendar and speaking to others ahead about commitments Donna plans well and so finds more time for adventure in the week, than do poorly organized people. It works because of the fact that memory can be outsourced to help people remember, and to free the mind for focus at all ages and well past golden years.
17. Donna’s daily search for life and delight in work she loves, encourages others to reach for the high quality she models as a fellow learner. Plasticity enables people to rewire the human brain in ways that keep it younger and smarter.
18. People flock to Donna Mah DeLaughter’s sense of fun at work, because she tends to hold a crown over fellow workers and wait patiently for people to grow into it. Encouragement can change the chemistry of a brain through raised serotonin.
19. Donna speaks openly to move ideas forward, and tends to remain silent when things work less well. Brain research, in contrast, tells us that meta messages destroy relationships through implications different from what is said.
20. Donna’ strong proclivity for math and financial issues only tend to strengthen her interest in and talent for different adventures such as travel, facilitating innovative teams for new projects and supporting SIRAS’ president’s progressive growth plans. Neuro research supports Donna’s highly developed habits to integrate hard and soft skills to solve problems with the brain more in mind.
21. In spite of pressures that come with fiscally related top leadership roles, Donna’s insights for fun and laughter remained contagious while I was there, much like it did in her roles years earlier. Stress literally shrinks the brain, and poor tone in communication acts as a silent killer, for those who build neuron pathways away from fun at work.
22. Again and again we were introduced to fellow workers, relatives of workers that Donna hired, or young people Donna mentored and laughed with, while I was there with MITA senior VP, Dr. Robyn McMaster. Research affirms Donna's tendancy to greet a person through speaking that person’s name, since we now know that it spikes the brain's domain where personal awareness operates.
23. Young leaders seek Donna out, because they find an ear waiting to learn about some adventure they’ve concocted and wanted to share. Research supports that way Donna inspires creativity and invention through teaching others at the same time learning occurs.
24. Donna offers fun and novel solutions in ways that support others when their chips are down, and provide fellow workers a laugh over the little things. Create new neuron pathways each time you add a solution to any problem you encounter.
Solutions lie in the models we see, as well as the research we implement for adding fun to ignite any workplace. Luckily we also know now that because of mirror neurons in the human brain, we tend to mimic leadership like Donna's. That's why the solution for this hack lies in the fact that current research offers newly discovered opportunities and leaders who emulate fun-loving and innovative practices like Donna, warrent all the support we can muster.
The key to creating and sustaining fun at work, starts with daily use of tone tactics that build goodwiill across differences.
It thrills me to see talents and leadership skills Donna uses to generate a sense of fun and well being in work across differences. She admits it’s not always easy. Granted she came from a supportive family, yet Donna faced the challenge of a single parent who raised two amazing sons, and has taken care of other people’s teens along the way. She’s been a woman leader in men’s worlds at times. Yet, just as Donna illustrates and claims that humans should be capital, she also models how this leads to the kind of business success that she tosses into the workplace daily.
Donna’s proof positive that leaders who are highly committed to people and workplace adventures, are also the mix of flexibility.
Secondly, enhanced practices based on neuro discoveries, should be included in an organization's training and development programs. Research discoveries that warrent change for the sake of innovative adventure and sheer joy at work.