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Coach’s Diary: Why Recreation is at the Heart of Success


All work and no play makes for a dull and less prosperous organisation...

Research shows that organisations which encourage staff to tap into their playful side benefit from higher creativity and reduced absenteeism. It's about far more than just work/life balance. Laughter and camaraderie cement relationships - whether it's between team members or salesman and customer. And everyone in business knows that it's the strength of an organisation's relationships which determine its future success...or failure.

For Steve – who was in his first supervisory role at a major call centre – determining what was 'good play' and what was his staff 'taking liberties' was a tough call. Keen to prove himself in his new role, he’d tended to err on the side of caution and chastised anyone who was seen to joke about on the job.

While this tactic had initially generated a positive response from his own boss, his staff on the other hand were becoming increasingly demoralized. And as they found work a less fun place to be, they started to miss their sales targets – which in turn led to Steve's boss becoming unhappy.

It was a vicious circle, and Steve knew it - which is how we came to be sitting face in the organisation's quiet room. After listening to his story, I asked Steve how he felt about his new role.

"At first, I was proud to be promoted, and my Dad was pleased for me too. But then I began to wonder whether I'd be able to manage a team and whether my staff would actually take me seriously. My Dad gave me lots of advice but to be honest, three months into the job I'm finding it very difficult. It's certainly not as much fun as I’d hoped and now I'm beginning to doubt that I’m actually cut out for the role at all."

And there was the nub of the problem.

Steve's self-belief had never been high in the first place and with his boss beginning to question his ability, his confidence was now at an all time low. It was time for Steve to see things from another point of view.

"Let's face it, while your company has an excellent reputation for the way in which it treats its staff, it's also very commercially aware. No one would have promoted you into your present job if they didn’t think you could handle it.

"Maybe it's time to ask yourself how what's happening around you is reflecting what’s going on inside you. Are you trying to over control of others because you feel out of control yourself? When you say that you're afraid your staff won't take you seriously, is it that actually, you're not taking yourself seriously because you have doubts in your own abilities? Are you concerned with making a good impression on others because you don't actually have a good impression of yourself?"

They were tough questions, but I wasn't yet done. "Put yourself for a moment in your staff's shoes: How would you feel if you were being managed by you? What kind of manager would you want? And thinking about the different types of personality in your team, what kind of manager do you think they'd want?"

Steve began to nod his head and promised that he'd give the questions some serious consideration over the next month, until our next meeting.

One month later: Steve gave me a strong handshake and a beaming smile as he came into the company quiet room. "Your questions really made me think," he said. "And it wasn't long before I realized that I was playing out my insecurities in my new role. I also realized that while I needed to take the job seriously, it was important that I stopped taking myself so seriously. And amazingly, as I began to lighten up, so did my team and I'm really pleased to report that we're now back on track with our sales targets!"

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet '128 ways to harness your personal power' at


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