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Good Leaders: What does fun mean for you at work?

Is this what you’d expect the from the face of a seriously talented eCommerce executive?

As I write this blog at 6AM, I’m energized by listening to the theatrical rock and roll band KISS, because that’s Darin Lynch’s favorite band. Darin’s firm, Irish Titan, is growing exponentially due in part to a culture of fun where employees thrive together, with encouragement and accountability for meaningful work. And high-energy music in the office.

Darin Lynch was the speaker at the October Good Leadership Breakfast this past Friday. He approached his moment on stage with serious preparation to drive home this point: “We expect excellence in everything we do at Irish Titan. And to do that, we have to maintain a culture that’s fun – I don’t mean silly fun, with foosball and bean bag chairs,” he cautioned. “It’s about creating an environment that allows for effortless performance.”

Darin Lynch shared his ideas about how to create “effortless performance” at Irish Titan by emphasizing “fun” at work.

How does fun add to the bottom line in an eCommerce digital agency where they put “Business first, online second?” “Unlike most of our competitors, we are building a company with full time employees, not freelance contractors,” he explained. “We want more influence on our service culture. And while it’s easy to have fun when things are going well – it’s critical to our success that we find the fun in our work when things are going haywire. And in our business, that happens a lot!”

The Faces of Good Leadership

He and I share many things: a love for family, hard work, music in the office, beer, and the joy of a job well done. In the infancy of our two firms, we shared a central office space. It worked because of converging ideas about office culture: I  describe the culture of Good Leadership Enterprises as “intensely casual.” Darin describes the culture at Irish Titan as “professional shenanigans.”

St Patrick’s Day is like Super Bowl Sunday for Irish Titan.

“Every once in awhile I have to call people into my office and say ‘we can’t do that anymore,’ or ‘you can’t wear that into the office again’…but that’s my job. With all due respect to HR, we don’t have many policies – it’s just good leadership.”

The mad genius of Shakespeare was his commitment to a predictable rhythmic meter that structured his creativity. Darin approaches fun at work in much the same way. “We can’t expect the fun to be spontaneous. We set and maintain predictable moments at staff meetings, team meetings, and client reviews to bring out the fun in our work.”  And true to Darin’s Irish heritage, they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (St. Titan’s Day) like it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

Why Fun at Work is Important

Darin and I laughed about our “matchy-matchy” outfits.

As a coach, I’ve been studying high performance for years. My observation: Tennis, baseball players, and golfers can’t hit the ball effectively when they hang onto the racket too tight. Violinists and painters can’t create a masterpiece if they grip the bow or brush with an iron fist. Mathematicians and engineers see the formula when they step back and let the ideas flow, instead of forcing the equations. So why do we think we can drive financial performance with managerial intensity that creates a white-knuckle, hang-on-for-dear-life environment where people fear for their jobs?

Good leaders create a culture where people thrive together, where smiles and laughter of a job well done is the currency for success. And they pursue “fun at work” as a condition of effortless performance that is light, easy, and joyful.

Congratulations to the Bucket of Goodwill Winner: Brenda Devlin, VP of Human Capital, Harris Companies, who donated $4460 to Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services. The funds were contributed by the guests of the Good Leadership Breakfast Series, and matched by Mark Bergman, of HANDy Paint Products.

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