play at work

When Work Is Play

Work should be fun, but should it include play? Pause here. What were your first reactions when you read those words?Perhaps some of these thoughts are running through your mind:

  • “Work is not fun, that’s why they call it work”
  • “Play is not good for my leadership image”
  • “Sometimes, in the right context.”

In my day job, I work with different companies with unique cultures. I was in one center this week, which had developed a Jimmy Fallon meets training sort of way to keep their reps up to speed on breaking news and key initiatives. It was funny, upbeat, engaging, and most importantly sent a crystal clear message.

Their broadcast streams live to reps computers every few days, and they look forward to the next edition. After watching that short segment, reps are crystal clear on what’s important and what to do next.

The “bloopers” they shared at the kickoff were even more entertaining.

When I spoke with the COO about the approach, she shared that one of the leaders who is “anchor” is normally so serious and results-driven. It’s nice to see him leveraging the lighter side of his personality to engage these young reps. He’s a well-rounded leader using all his strengths. Results are on a hockey stick trajectory.

My Play

Ask my team, I’m dead serious about results (and we achieve them). But, I’ve also been known to play from time to time. This round of kickoffs includes a video with me doing one of my kickboxing stunts and pretending to clumsily knock over one of my Directors (p.s. no leaders were actually harmed in the making of this film).

When I was in sales, and we were launching the Droid phone, I rented professional Star Wars costumes for my leadership team (I was Leia) and we drove hundreds of miles visiting our retail locations. It inspired the team and the customers loved it. My little guy even dressed as Luke at met us at one of the stores before school (kids make great leadership side-kicks.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Of course this is not every day, but a sprinkling of leadership play can go a long way.

Your Play

I’m collaborating on a book with LaRae Quy, Alli Polin, Terri Klass, Chery Gegelman and others on Energizing Leadership. I’m on point to write about play at work. Would love your insights to any or all of these questions. Or any other ideas you have on the topic in the comments. I would appreciate you passing this along to any playful leaders you know. Looking to cast a wide net for stories.

  • Why is play important at work?
  • What are the dangers and downsides of play?
  • What’s the difference between productive play and down right silly?
  • What is your most memorable playful work experience? What made it great?
  • Are you a playful leader? Why? How has that impacted your leadership?
  • What examples can you share of play leading to breakthrough results?
  • What examples do you have of play backfiring?

If this is really your scene, or you know others I should talk to, please drop me a line at