Workplace lessons from a classical conductor

Christmas this year was spent in beautiful North Norfolk, UK with my family. The combination of bad weather, and a small bungalow meant limited scope to keep an active an 9 year old daughter from getting cabin fever.

My mother-in-law suggested watching a classical concert that she’d received as a present. Much as my daughter loves music of any genre – my husband has a very eclectic mix – I couldn’t imagine her sitting still for 2 hours. How wrong I was! She was absolutely captivated.

A world-class performer 

What was the music? It was a concert given in Maastricht by Andre Rieu and his 60-piece Johann Strauss Orchestra, the largest private orchestra in the world. Yes, the music was fantastic, and the setting was beautiful. But that wasn’t what enthralled my daughter, or the audience.   

André’s passion for the music, showmanship and great sense of humour dissolved all classical concert stereotypes – there was nothing serious or staid about it. The musicians were having so much fun amongst themselves and with the audience. People were dancing in the aisles, laughing with their neighbours, and crying with joy. It was all about emotions! 

Remembering to have fun 

This set me thinking about work, and how we can all become so wrapped up in discussing strategy, meeting customers, achieving our objectives that we forget to have fun. Of course, running a business is serious stuff, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring a sense of humour into it. Fun doesn’t need to mean having wacky designed offices with climbing walls – it’s about people choosing to bring energy, passion and a positive attitude to their job every day. As leaders, we need to inspire people too, just as Andre did.  

It’s a quality many major business leaders possess in abundance. Look no further than the playful style Barack Obama’s brought even to major global summits. Mark Josephson, CEO of Bitly, connects with his employees through his Cocktails & Dreams initiative – every week, a team member is nominated to be a bartender with everyone in the company grabbing a drink together. It’s here that Josephson updates his people on company progress, goals, and wins as well as setting the stage for the following week. Richard Branson and his hot air balloons… 

A better place to work  

Evidence1 shows that a workplace where people believe they have fun creates an environment of empowerment, creativity, trust and well-being, leading to high performance. Fun in the workplace doesn’t have to cost a lot – as leaders we can choose to bring a playful attitude to work and encourage others to do so, supporting a positive culture.  

At Risk Decisions we’re actively bringing more fun into our workplace – lunch at Redstar noodle bar to catch up with each other and get to know our new starters a little better or our local ‘duck’ pub in the summer. An afternoon at City Maze brought out the collaborative working in some and the competitive streak in others. We connect in a different way – it gave me a fantastic insight into the awesome problem solving skills of a new member of our team within her first week.  

We build relationships with our customers in this way too. The evening before our Community event last summer, customers joined us on a Tolkien themed tour of Oxford and punting.  The risk of falling into the River Cherwell, clinging to a punting pole, certainly helps to build strong collaborative relationships with our customers! 

So, thank you Andre, for captivating a 9 year old and helping me reconnect with just how important fun at work is.