Serious Fun



See the previous entries for the continuing series on values in modern companies, by using ATB Financial’s 10 ATBs as a reference.

Story: I was the CEO of a software company, discussing a merger with an infrastructure organization that would have helped us strategically. Our two teams met in a small eastern Washington town to establish the principles that might make the deal work. We worked hard all day, and went out to the local western themed bar for well-earned burgers and beer. The CEO of the other company, after a few “pops,” claimed he was the leg wrestling champion of Washington state. I skeptically disputed the claim, and before you know it, the challenge was on. Tables cleared, and a couple hundred Thursday night crowd patrons wildly cheered on two idiots (I was one of them), on our backs, ready for the best-of-three leg dual. I still remember my VP of engineering’s crazed look standing over me, after each combatant had won one match, demanding that I prevail in the final. The place was rambunctious, and I fondly remember wandering arm-and-arm with my team, laughing our way back to hotel, with the sheer joy of our togetherness and just having so much fun. (P.S., I flukily won the leg wrestling scrap. And the deal, for mostly unrelated reasons, never went through).

Key Point: We have an explicit value at ATB that exhorts each of us to “have fun every day.” When you think about it, why would you spend time anywhere if you’re not having fun?  Negative, downer environments suck the life out of us. While it is disingenuous and unworkable to force fun as a value, it is also reasonable and even necessary to establish an atmosphere where people have fun all the time. Laughter echoing throughout the hallways or on digital meetings should be a way of life. Yes, banking is serious business, but it’s not life or death. Yet, speaking of that theme, my father was in a palliative care unit of a hospital for three months before passing, and there was still time for laughter between the care staff, family and patients. The way daily fun becomes a true value is when people can fully, freely, and safely contribute. That includes much spontaneous laughter, celebrations after milestones, tributes, recognitions, appreciations, and much more. People wanting to come to work and have fun while doing serious business, is a condition that is fostered by confident leadership.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Do you set a tone for having fun everyday? Is laughter prevalent? How about during your meetings?
  2. What are your intentional milestone celebrations? How does that happen with consistency?
  3. How often do you give recognitions to folks? How do you do that?

Laughing and serious fun in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: This is too true, and too important. There’s a reason why sales floors at companies like Yelp (and more) are a ruckus, with upbeat music blaring. High energy is key. The workplace is generally not a library, and I’ve always been apprehensive about organizations that expect a shush-shush environment. After all, if you’re not enjoying your work day, how is anything positive being completed? Yes, serious business needs to be conducted, but you shouldn’t be wrestling with an un-fun atmosphere. Instead, you should be occasionally leg-wrestling after a hard day’s work.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis