Why I needed to remember Richard Branson’s No. 1 business tip

Why I needed to remember Richard Branson's No. 1 business tip


You must have fun. I know you have heard it all before, but how do we as leaders encourage fun in the workplace?

There is work to be done, timelines to meet and budgets to achieve. We have very important business with big goals, limited time and must work, work, work. Things are moving fast in the hyper-connected digital economy and that means we should work hard, faster and more often.

Doesn’t it?

At school we were told fun was for the yard. You must focus in the classroom and have fun in your breaks. Have we taken this message too far? Have those old, authoritarian school teachers made us feel it is wrong to have fun at work?

Is Richard Branson right, do we need to take a load off?

This year has been my hardest in business. Categorically challenging and relentless in almost every aspect you could imagine.

Just about everything that could have gone wrong has. From staff issues to external consultants providing near business-breaking incorrect advice, this year we have experienced it all.

Always reflecting on every decision and every issue, I was adamant each lesson would not been wasted. Scraping layers of self-pity away I have had times where I did not want to read the next email or take the next call, because of paralysing fear of what was going to happen next.

Maybe I will go straight to that offsite meeting this morning and avoid dropping past the office in case there was some bad news. Fear and negative thoughts were weighing down my spirit and extinguishing my entrepreneurial flame.

Then it dawned on me, my sense of humour had disappeared. I had forgotten how to have fun.

A study by the Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders are a strong work ethic and a good sense of humour.

Where was mine? Forbes Magazine recently reported that 84% of surveyed executives felt people with a good sense of humour were more effective at work.

“Try and keep bureaucracy to a minimum and remind your team that business as well as life, should be fun”  – Sir Richard Branson

For me, business had become an undesirable chore. I was trying too hard, it was limiting my thinking. I was forcing things and perceiving pressure. But most of all I had lost sight of the essential ingredient that makes it all worthwhile.

That essential, recipe critical ingredient is FUN. 

Sir Richard Branson does fun well. I don’t think anyone could deny that he knows how to have fun. When visiting Necker Island this year for a four-day leadership workshop I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Sir Richard.

Observing him in his natural environment was absolutely fascinating. Fun is a priority for him. In his down time he kite surfs, plays tennis and socialises. He encourages his staff to interact, even drink with visitors. He loves dancing on the bar before the sun has gone down. Busy, of course. But always spirited.

Sir Richard’s overriding message to the group of ambitious Australian entrepreneurs was simply “always say yes and make sure you have fun along the way”.

 “Screw it, let’s do it”  -Sir Richard Branson

Experiment in your workplace, get creative, laugh out loud and encourage everyone to have some fun. You don’t have to be Zappos, Google, Facebook or Virgin to build fun into your culture. Well placed humour in an office environment puts others at ease. It raises the energy, encourages innovation and undoubtedly improves productivity.

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing” – Andrew Carnegie

Don’t wait until the bell goes for lunch. Take a load off now, lighten up and have some fun. It will change your world.

Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder and director of wattsnext, specialists in HR, recruitment, compliance and people performance.


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