By: Rianne Coale, RedEye Chicago
Penguins in the clubhouse? Magicians? Pajama parties? It’s safe to say that Cubs manager Joe Maddon has an arsenal full of crazy antics.
But as we wait to see the outcome of the Cubs wild-card game on Wednesday, it’s hard to dismiss Maddon’s outside-the-box thinking as just crazy nonsense. His unconventional leadership is at the forefront of the Cubs’ record-breaking season and is what has rejuvenated fans’ faith in the age-old Chicago team. So maybe crazy and unusual isn’t so bad, after all.
“You have to have a little bit of crazy to be successful,” Maddon said during his introductory press conference, as reported by MLB.com last November. “I want crazy in the clubhouse every day. You need crazy to be great.”
From the clubhouse to the conference room, other team leaders try to incorporate high-energy and fun activities into the typical work place. Many executives see benefits in offering their employees a break from the day-to-day work routine, such as improved work relationships, a boost in morale and an increase in confidence.
Whether it’s having teams brew their own beer, listening to upbeat music before a meeting or biking to Chinatown for a company outing, changing things up can provide interesting experiences for everyone involved.
“We have a lot of smart people who work for us, and we challenge them to be their very best through competition and collaboration,” said Gustavo Razzetti, managing director of LAPIZ, a multicultural marketing agency that is part of the Leo Burnett Group. “It refreshes people, and by doing it together, we can achieve more things.”
The Shedd Aquarium may not be able to bring aquatic life to Chicago office buildings (darn it), but they partnered with MillerCoors for the Great Lakes Action Days program that gives companies a chance to clean up Chicago beaches by working together to clear invasive species and pick up trash.
“I loved it because it was a great chance for me to meet employees outside of my department and floor,” MillerCoors media relations manager Marty Maloney said. “GLAD gave us a chance to build comradery and get to know the folks we’re working with.”
Improvisation is not necessarily the first thing you think of when you think of breaking routine at work. But Erin Diehl, founder of Improve It! and a winner of RedEye’s 2014 Big Idea Awards, says improv is great for anyone who wants to build confidence and character both personally and professionally.
“Companies must innovate to survive, and improv is, by nature, innovative,” Diehl said. “Improv is not only fun, it encourages individual choice, trust and risk taking.”
By offering an improvisation workshop, CEO Russ Klein of the American Marketing Association, which was a client of Improve It!, hoped it would aid in building up his team’s confidence, collaboration skills and empathy toward one another.
“There are three ways to move people: force them, persuade them or inspire them,” Klein said. “We strive to give our employees a vision where they are playing a starring role. We want to show them where they fit and belong in the company.”
McGladrey LLP is an assurance, tax and consulting firm that offers its employees some fun and socially engaging activities throughout the year. Tax associate Ashley Bugos said her employer, McGladrey, does anything from ordering Potbelly milkshakes for everyone to offering a boat ride on Chicago’s First Lady as a way to break routine and motivate workers.
“These types of activities give us the chance hang out with co-workers and get to know our peers on a more personal level without the pressure of having to talk about work-related stuff,” Bugos said.
But Alice Stuhlmacher, professor of industrial/organizational psychology at DePaul University, says there is no real evidence to prove that breaking routine at work with unconventional team-bonding and -building activities is helpful.
“Novelty at work can be energizing, but it could be a distraction if more and more time is spent on providing new and exciting diversions [that] takes away from the goals of the team and may not be of help in the long run,” Stuhlmacher said. “But having a leader who sees employees as humans and is interested in their work life could be a reason for increased morale, not necessarily the specific activities.”
Organizations such as the Anti-Cruelty Society say companies are constantly reaching out to them, requesting to have shelter animals brought into workplaces for a morale booster or stress reliever. But they fulfill those requests on a case-to-case basis.
There are benefits to bringing a pet into a work setting, Anti-Cruelty Society public relations manager Colette Bradley said.
“If you’re having a stressful day and need to break your work routine, it’s nice to get away and pet an animal,” Bradley said. “Most animals can pick up on your stress level and serve as a comfort.”
While Joe Maddon may push the extremes with his outlandish team-building efforts, many Chicago companies follow suit in subtler ways.
“When people are happy and feel really good about what they do, they work harder,” Karsh said. “You need high morale to lead an effective team.”
Here’s a list of some other unconventional/unusual team-bonding and -building activities people and businesses mentioned doing.
See the full article on the RedEye Chicago website.