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Ken Keller: Are you having fun?

Posted: June 1, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2014 2:00 a.m.

I’ve always liked watching team sports. Sometimes you don’t even have to be watching a game to know how things are going. You simply have to listen. You can hear the winners.

In the summer of 1992, I heard Bill Clinton give his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. My gut feeling was that based only on what I heard he was going to be elected President that November.

At the conclusion of his speech, for the first time in my life, I did not hear “Happy Days Are Here Again,” the theme song the Democrats had used since 1932.

I heard instead, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” by Fleetwood Mac. It’s an uplifting, fun song.

Last weekend I watched the movie “Million Dollar Arm,” and enjoyed actor Alan Arkin play the part of a worn out baseball scout while the contestants threw pitches.

Arkin sat quietly at the tryouts, eyes closed. He told his employer that he didn’t need to see the kids throwing the baseball.

He simply heard the best pitches.

I’ve noticed it is a whole lot more fun when the teams you cheer for, the teams you spend money on, the teams whose jerseys and caps you wear, are winning.

The question is: are you having fun in your business?

Drive, desire and effort count, but that is not enough to win consistently.

I’ve noticed that winning teams have fun. Losing teams don’t.

Usually, when the owner isn’t having fun, no one is. That is pathetic.

The sad part is that the owner is supposed to be setting an example for all those who work in the company.

Why isn’t the owner having fun?

Apparently, they have received some bad news. Or maybe it is a bad trend. It could be a one-time thing or a decade worth of declining sales and profits.

Sometimes owning a business isn’t fun. Owning a business should be something that brings joy to the owner and the stakeholders.

What’s the slippery slope from laughter and happiness to sour looks and bad attitudes look like?

It starts when the smiles disappear. Laughter becomes a scare commodity.

Then the owner disengages from the people they are supposed to be leading. Communication is forced. Decision-making grinds to a halt.

Isolation continues. It is already lonely at the top; by further reducing interaction and discussion, the leader literally shuts down all facets of communication with those he or she is leading.

Immediate results take on more importance than before. Anger is shown and heard more frequently.

Instead of admitting they no longer have passion for doing the job or even interest in doing the job the owners tell themselves and those who ask “I’m tired.”

Hard times sometimes make hard people. One consequence is a “hardening of the attitude.”

Maybe you’ve lost the passion, and the job is ho-hum; there is no excitement left. This is no way to lead people who are relying on your leadership.

One of my clients has been through business and personal hell these past few years, and one of the reasons he maintains a smile and a friendly outlook is because he knows what he likes to do and he spends his time doing those things.

The activities my client likes energize him; they make him laugh and he can feel the difference in himself and the impact this has on his team.

Only a few of us laugh as much as we should and if we are spending as many hours a week doing what we are supposed to be enjoying, we should be laughing and smiling a whole lot more.

Owners who carry around the weight of the world on their shoulders need to understand that smiling and laughter cost nothing and are priceless.

Want to be a better leader? Lead by having fun as the owner of your company and let everyone see you having fun.

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together for education, sharing and on-going success. Contact him at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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