Santa Claus and The Elf

The average person living to age 70 has 613,000 hours of life.  This is too long a period not to have fun. - Author Unknown

In my leadership roles, I have always tried to make work fun.  We spend far too many of our waking hours at work for it to be so serious. Some leaders believe that work should always be serious, and any "fun" should take place after hours.  The facts prove otherwise, with happier employees boosting returns.  Based on a study by Alex Edmans of the Wharton School, companies listed in Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For in America" had 3.5% higher equity returns per year than those of their peers over a 25 year period. One of the key determinants of employee satisfaction is having fun at work ⎯ fun does equate to financial success.

There are many ways to inject fun into work, but I have found one of the best is to have the leader dress up in an unusual costume.  I have been Elvis, an elf, Santa Claus, a surfer dude, a Roman statesman (in a toga, of course), a pirate, and countless other characters.

When I led one of the major finance teams at Disney, I was responsible for the monthly Cast Member recognition program.  Turnout had been sparse, and interest in the program was dwindling.  The recognition team asked me if I would be willing to dress in a costume if they came up with a theme for each month.  I agreed, and we soon had a packed crowd, eager to find out if Brad was really going to deliver as promised, such as dressing up as a ladybug for the Spring Fling.  (I was a pretty good looking ladybug, if I do say so myself!)  Each time was immense fun for the team and created a lasting memory.  Many years later, I have had employees reminisce about these events; "I remember when you dressed up like Elvis for the awards ceremony."

While some leaders might refuse this approach and say it is "undignified," I have found people have greater respect for a leader who has the confidence to serve his or her team by putting on an outlandish costume.  Surpassing leaders of the best-performing companies make having fun a high priority, and create a fun working environment.


Action Points
• Make your work environment fun to improve employee satisfaction and profitability.
• The more intense the pressure, the more important it is to inject fun.
• Dress up in a costume, especially for recognition programs and holiday videos.

Improved morale, more satisfied employees, a reputation as a confident, respected leader

Excerpted from Chapter 41, Santa Claus and The Elf, of The Surpassing Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence,

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