Dear Managers: Quit Adulting and Start Playing
It is still January, and being the top performing manager you are, you have been thinking of ways to be better at work. Not a resolution of course, because those are meant to be broken. Instead, a way to revolutionize your department and to hit the level cap in your role. Although, waking up early and exercising is not your idea of improving as a person, nor is taking down notes at a day-long convention with horrible sandwiches. You want to think outside of the box. I argue you need to quit adulting and play with the box.
You will get more out of your job if you stop being a robot and start playing. I’ve been in operations at Rocksauce Studios for two years and have the privilege of working with all of my team members in one aspect or another. It’s easy as a manager to fall into the craziness of the day: addressing emails, looking at various work chats, checking off your to-do list, and more. However, I’ve found that taking the time to play at work has provided me with far more rewards than checking off items on my to-do list. Investing in play at work actually, leads to more productivity. It also encourages innovation and enthusiasm for your leadership. If you stick with me, I’m certain you will level up as a manager by leaving adulting behind. Now let’s play.
When applying for jobs the term “efficient” is a power word that is encouraged by career builders around the internet. As in: I am an efficient hard working member of my team. This word is often haphazardly slapped into resumes, cover letters, and used in interviews. However, the word efficient can also be used to describe a robot. And not the cool Jaegers from Pacific Rim or the sassy astromech, BB-8 from Star Wars. Instead, we’re talking about the robots that make you destroy your Companion Cube in Portal, i.e. the robots that are cold and cruel. A way to combat the Ice Queen/King status of a manager is to take the time to take a break. A study in the journal Cognition revealed, “The brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. For example, most people are not aware of the sensation of clothing touching their skin. The body becomes “habituated” to the feeling and the stimulus no longer registers in any meaningful way in the brain.” Taking the time to play allows you to break away from the stimulus and allows your brain to readjust its focus back to your work. Rather than sitting and staring at your screen for 30 minutes with your brain unable to process new ideas, you could take a few minutes to knock out a round of Hearthstone and refocus all the POWER OF YOUR MIND TO DESTROY YOUR TASK! Now someone may argue that playing is a waste of time and company money. However, if you ain’t playing more than likely you ain’t staying. If you are not enjoying your work and find that it takes you forever to accomplish a task you may feel inclined to leave at 4:59 every day and keep that going until you begrudgingly finish that item and move on to the next TPS report. What’s a bigger waste of time: taking days to accomplish a task, or taking 5-15 minutes to re-energize your brain and come back ready to tackle anything that comes your way?
Companies like Google and HP are encouraging their employees to play, I don’t know about you, but I would say these companies are pretty innovative. When you play you “provide a state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving, and all sorts of creative endeavors” according to Peter Gray in Psychology Today. If you think about it, almost every win from Jim in The Office was after he played a trick on Dwight. Playing allows you to think of a problem from a different perspective and allows you to find ways to innovate in a project. At Rocksauce, I’ve found many ways to make Excel documents fun by imagining them in a different way. For instance, I can see a spreadsheet as the “doom song” Gir from Invader Zim has been singing all these years, or I can see it as a way to conquer tardiness or unbillable time. Each formula in each cell is just one step closer to getting the loot at the end of the tunnel. Or playing with the T-Rex figures at my desk may allow me to think of a way to send an empathetic letter to my customer. Afterall I would imagine that having little arms is just as frustrating as not understanding the difference from backend and frontend development in your app.
It’s things like turning an excel sheet into a game that makes you into a leader people want to be around. Naturally, when you see someone having a good time you want to play too! If you find that you are slaying projects left and right while having a smile on your face, your team will be inspired to do the same. Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, said the number one characteristic of the leaders she worked with was a sense of humor. Now one does not simply get a sense of humor. You shall not pass the leadership mark without having some fun. Basically, all work and no play, ain’t nobody got time for that. Okay, okay, that’s the last overused meme, I promise. It kept you reading though! If you’ve made it this far through this work related article in a blog for an app company then you had fun reading this. Boom, mind blown. I know.
So take these upgrades and move forth and prosper in the workplace. Be as efficient as you can be, make things fun again and lead the team to greatness. If you find that the fun force is not strong with you then come on by our office. We are having a Toy Swap on January 27th 2017, and if you can’t make it to that, then come on by another time. We can learn how to play together. Plus we have dogs!
Also published on Medium.