“It is easy to be solemn, it is so hard to be frivolous.”
One thing I have observed about people in information technology. We are WAY too serious. This is probably why people don’t like coming to meetings with us. That, and we have almost no fashion sense. We joke less, frown more, and are quicker to poke holes in ideas than almost any other job type. Except auditors. Auditors are almost universally devoid of joy. Accountants and budget analysts are a close second to the IT people.
Why is this? Well, first of all we are trained to be serious. After all, all those electrons flying about every which way and all those lights going blinky blinky and all those GANTT charts (what is a GANTT chart anyway?) are enough to make anyone seem serious. Also, people take us seriously when we act serious. Really? Do they? You know they don’t. But, the main Godzilla-style reason why we appear to act so serious is because we take ourselves too seriously. By “we” I really mean all of “you”. I’m just picking on the IT folks because I know them best, being a chief among them.
So, take this little test to see if you take yourself too seriously:
- Do you make it a habit to laugh at least once in each meeting. Not annoyingly so, but just a hearty chuckle or two.
- Do you tell stories and jokes?
- When people laugh do you laugh along with them?
- Can you and do you laugh at yourself in front of others?
- When was the last time you missed a deadline and didn’t feel bad about it?
- As a leader where do you encourage your people to find their value? In their work product or in their contribution to the team?
- Has your staff ever seen you out of character?
I want you to consider something. Being business-like is not the same as being serious. Being business-like is about results. You achieve results when you build an environment where people are happy, and they can relax and be productive. As a leader you are successful when your people are successful, and they won’t be as successful as they can be if they take themselves too seriously. So lighten up.
Lets face it. Government service isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. The hours can be long. The challenges immense. The pressure comes from all angles. The pay can be low. Modeling a behavior that you know will help your people is one of the best things you can do for them. Model happiness. Model relaxation. Model humility. Don’t be so dreadfully serious all the time. Nobody wants to work for people who don’t laugh.
I learned an important less at Circuit City when I was a Director there. I took myself very seriously. I was very important to the success of the company. A lot of business depended on my delivery of services, and my departments performance. Lots and lots of stuff depended on me. I came in one Monday, and was laid off. Me and almost every other Director and VP in the IT department, AND the CIO. Apparently, I wasn’t as important as I thought.
So at least try to not take yourself so damn seriously all the time. You have an important job, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stress out (and stress out those around you) over each and every little thing. Keep the big picture in mind and try to create an atmosphere around you where people feel comfortable, welcomed and happy. And stay away from the auditors.
Barry Condrey is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.