The other day I was chatting to the head of a media company about how one of his new recruits had settled in. He’s said that his new employee, a senior executive, had settled in well, and was already making a great contribution. He’d reported that he’d already had more laughs in the first few months of the new team than in his years at a previous job.
This is startling isn’t it? Shouldn’t every business have the time and space for a few laughs, a bit of gentle banter and some affectionate piss taking?
It should. It doesn’t hurt anyone’s professionalism to chill out at the end (or during) a hard day at work. My old coach would agree with me. He’d talk about leadership not as command and control but in the context of helping the people you work with to get the best out of your team. During coaching sessions he’d show movie clips to illustrate true love and passion in working relationships. There were clips from The Matrix (for instance the kiss where Persephone wants Neo to kiss her like he kisses his true love) and from Ali (to illustrate team work and faith :”I wanna be in your corner”).
We didn’t discuss my favourite movie about a working relationship (I was the coached not the coach), so allow me to reveal it here. Clearly the protagonists’ occupation is far from exemplary, indeed it is appalling, but the team dynamic is superb. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the story of one of the most beautiful and until the very end effective working relationships captured on the big screen.
From the very beginning where Butch apparently “rescues” Sundance from an accusation of cheating the sense of absolute trust and love between the protagonists is wonderfully narrated.
There’s the knife fight where Butch has to win back leadership of the Hole in the Wall Gang. Butch says to Sundance “Maybe there’s a way to profit from this, bet on Logan”. Sundance responds ” I would but who’d bet on you? ” When Logan, the challenger, says “When it’s over and Butch is dead, you’re welcome in the gang” Butch whispers to Sundance “I don’t mean to be a sore loser, but when it’s over, if I’m dead, kill him” and Sundance replies “Love to”.
Great trust, great love, perfect understanding of and respect for each others strengths and weaknesses, countered by almost constant mild insults, lots of laughs. If you can have that with your colleagues then your work culture is a good as it gets (and the HBR agrees).