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Managing to have fun

Managing to have fun

Plan some time to be spontaneous

Terry Braverman

At IBM, inside sales executive Karen Donnalley oversees a staff of customer service people who sell computers and computer accessories throughout the U.S. Servicing approximately 75,000 accounts “is a very difficult job,” she acknowledged. “It’s really important to recognize even the small successes in this environment. I try to make sure my team is happy. People who enjoy their job tend to do a better job.”

Ms. Donnalley’s merry-making management approach has not only achieved great success for her department, but has also given her wide acclaim as an innovator in the company. “It’s very healthy to laugh at yourself too. Sometimes I will have the management team do funny things. I’ll say to someone, ‘You’re in charge of morale this week. What are you going to do?’ For one of my birthdays, they built me a throne, handed me a cape, and I was crowned ‘queen for a day.’”

In Donnalley’s wacky work world, there are mornings started with the chaotic din contrived by musically inept salespeople on drums, tuba, accordion, and other instruments played in a “wake-up” concert. A gong is hit when a salesperson closes their first deal of the day, and they advance a wooden horse bearing their photo down a miniature race track. She’s initiated a crazy socks day, a silly hat day, and organizes monthly skits ranging from presidential debates to nostalgic dress up themes. “There are thousands of people in this building complex who are abuzz over my management antics. People we’ve never seen before will come up to our floor, just to see what’s going on. But we have to stay fresh. Every idea we have can’t be implemented all the time.”

Donnalley knows from experience that if her staff is feeling upbeat, it will be projected in the phone calls to customers, making them feel good as well. And a happy customer means more business. In one year, sales in her department ballooned 30 percent, and in six months her staff grew by 50 percent. “It’s very much about business commitment. I have my strong serious side too, but being able to laugh at myself and with my team elicits loyalty and dedication that I treasure. It makes people want to come to work.” And keeps other department heads eavesdropping, wondering what she’s concocting next.

(Terry Braverman is a Los Angeles-based author, professional speaker and trainer. This article is excerpted from his best selling book, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up! Go to Terry’s web site for more about his presentations and background: www.terry bra verman.com