Summer Fun-damentals: How to Keep Employee Performance Hot, When the Temperatures Rise

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It is summer and your employees are thinking about days at the beach, not days behind a desk. They are looking for a break from the routine. So why not go with it? Instead of trying to keep them focused, give them what they want. Here are three research based ways to use summer fun to get the most out of your team:

1. Fun Pays - While we all like to have fun, leaders are so pressured for results they can forget to plan it in. Maybe this will help: research links fun to higher performance. In the HBR article, The New Science of Building Great Teams (April 2012), the authors found that the teams that enjoyed the most lively time together, when not working on job tasks, are the most productive. That means that a team having together on a break or at lunch gets higher performance. Dan Clemens’ 2012 research also found that fun increases performance: specifically a fun workplace is one where you like the work, the environment and the relationships. So use the summer spirit to build relationships by having fun together. Whether it is a BBQ, a water park or running a race together doesn’t matter. The planning, the event and post event picture sharing will create team bonding and good feelings for many months.

2. Team Sabbatical – Now that we have established that having fun isn’t just for slackers, let’s take it further. Professors and clergy often get sabbaticals to learn and recharge. While you probably can’t give your team members 3-12 months off to go to Israel to learn something new, you could take a day for a Team Sabbatical. Daniel Pink’s best-selling book Drive, drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, found that the desire for mastery is one of the three key motivators at work. So why not take a day this summer to help people reach their mastery. Make it a fun event. Go somewhere that helps reflection – like a beach or a park. Sit outside and talk about what each person needs to reach peak performance. Let each person show off their stuff by giving a short presentation on their best practices. Brainstorm ideas together with a "what if" mindset. Give out fun prizes (you can get them from the dollar store) to each team member to honor their skills (a stack of play money for the best budget manager; a comical coffee mug for the person who burned the midnight oil on a important project) It’s a win /win: employees get what they want (time away from the routine and more mastery at their job) and you get what you want (increased team spirit, improved skills and better results through the year).

3. Whatever You Do, Decide Together - Before you run off and decide what and where to have all this fun, consider this. Dr. Jason Jones, author of the 5 Habits of Maximum Motivation, recently educated me that Daniel Pink drew his famous findings from Edward Deci & Richard Ryan’s work on motivation. What Pink calls mastery, they call competence. Additionally, their findings also included the positive impact autonomy and relatedness have on productivity (Deci & Ryan, American Psychologist, 2000). The bottom line is that letting your team decide what to do this summer, builds team spirit. So let them pick the location of your sabbatical and the most fun activity. And then doing it together is the icing on the cake in your pursuit of hot results.

Want to really leverage the fun? Use all three strategies together and your team will be pumped and ready to take on whatever comes their way until your holiday party.