A recent interview with FISH! co-author Harry Paul
(otherwise known as "Harry the FISH! Guy") discusses the importance
of workplace appreciation, engagement and fun.
Paul has more than 30 years of business experience in sales,
marketing, and management training. He served as a senior vice
president of the Ken Blanchard Companies, where he worked closely
with Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager.
His first book, FISH! A Remarkable Way To Boost Morale and
Improve Results!, has been on the bestseller lists of The
New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA
Today, BusinessWeek, Amazon.com, and Publisher's
Weekly. His latest books, INSTANT TURNAROUND! and
REVVED! show that employees and managers alike have the
responsibility to create a dynamic, open, and fun workplace that
fosters creativity and efficiency and values the people who make it
all happen. This leads to an increase in productivity and
Paul can be reached by email at email@example.com or through his
Q: How is FISH! relevant in today's economic
Paul: Today we're asked to do more with less.
Staffs are shrinking, budgets are being cut, and yet businesses
have to survive. They have to function and thrive. Companies must
create a culture where people understand they are making a
difference - that what they do matters and is fulfilling, engaging,
and fun. Once companies have established this culture, people start
to perform at a higher level.
There is a real disconnect between management and employees. We
have to turn that around and make sure employees know how important
they are, because right now a lot of them feel used and abused. As
the economy starts to turn around, people are going to start
looking for work elsewhere. This is one of the highest costs that a
company could get tagged with - finding new talent, especially good
talent. Once the market turns, the chances are good that the
mediocre performers under the radar - those doing just enough not
to get fired - are the ones' that will stay with the company. The
top performers will look for jobs elsewhere and at a tremendous
cost to the company. So we've got to start creating workplaces
where people feel appreciated and fulfilled. I think that's one of
the key's to turning around the economy because when you look at
the people who leave an organization many times it's not because of
salary, certainly not because of benefits, but because they do not
feel appreciated or believe they are making a difference.
Q: We just need to get that message out there right
Q: Tell me a little bit about your book, Instant
Paul: When my co-author Ross Reck and I started
talking about this book project, we asked, "What's a real challenge
in the workplace today?" People have been managed a certain way
forever and it's not working - it's called "management by the
numbers." In other words, the manager sets the goals, and you have
to go out there and do it; and if you don't do it you get
consequences. Well, that's a management concept based on fear. It's
also a management technique that's based solely on the numbers and
communicates that the numbers are more important than people.
In Instant Turnaround, Ross and I created a program called
"Destination Work." Numbers are important, and people are just as
important, if not more so. If you take care of your people and give
them all the information, skills, and tools they need to be their
best, they will take care of numbers. What you're doing is meeting
their needs, and if they're getting their needs met, they will meet
the needs of the organization. People have to want to do a good
job, and the only way they'll do a good job is if you match their
needs to your needs and you can't do that by only managing the
Second, you can't manage with fear. You have to manage with trust,
and when you manage with trust, you are real with people. You must
appreciate their hard work. Show interest in them, be nice, and
communicate, "I care about you." If someone cares about me, I'm
going to work hard and turn on the discretionary effort.
Discretionary effort is like the spare change in your pocket. You
get to spend it the way you want. If they're not turning on the
discretionary effort, they're doing something else. That's why
YouTube exists - so that people have something to do at work.
Seventy percent of the workforce is not fully engaged at work,
according to a Towers Perrin worldwide workforce study based on
approximately 500,000 workers. No wonder productivity is down. If
people are not fully engaged, they're not meeting the mission and
goals of the organization. You're not going to get them engaged
unless there's trust. Trust and engagement go together.
Third, you have to make work a place where people want to show up
every day. So you must bring in an element of fun.
And fourth, management must be visible, and they can't just swoop
in and start yelling at people and criticizing them. A good leader
is a supportive person who gives his employees everything they need
to be the best they can be. That's their job.
Q: That's so true, but unfortunately, it's a rarity,
Paul: It really is. I recently read about Sir
Richard Branson - whose company has 60,000 employees - and how he
manages those employees. He says he never yells, criticizes, or
gives negative feedback. He only praises because employees know
when they messed up. They just need reminding of how good they are
and how important they are. Wow! That's a very successful company
and a very successful guy.
Q: Yes, Branson definitely "gets it". I would love to
work one day in his culture just to have experienced it first-hand.
Harry, tell me a little about your book, REVVED!
Paul: REVVED! is a recognition book, and
it's based on how to keep your workplace revved up and working
hard. The REVVED! model is helping people be their best by
recognizing and appreciating them when they go the extra mile. The
first secret is "winning them over." Show people you care about
them without a hidden agenda. Sounds simple. However, sometimes
when someone approaches you, they're nice because they want
something from you.
The second is "blow them away." After someone goes the extra mile,
how do you recognize and appreciate them? Do you leave a trail of
gratitude? Send a written note, not an email. Send a note to the
person's boss and their boss. Leaving a trail of gratitude makes
that person feel 10 feet tall. Employees say, "Wow, is there
anything else I can do for you?" because they want to work hard
again because they know they're recognized and appreciated. Other
people see this and say, "I want some of that recognition too!"
Suddenly, you have an army of advocates willing to help you simply
because you left that trail of gratitude.
The third secret is keeping them "revved." Always look for
opportunities to make someone feel good. Constantly look to see if
someone did something well or went the extra mile. Make sure we do
whatever we need to do to keep them all revved up, productive at
work, and happy.
Q: I think we have a tendency in the workplace to
assume the worst in people and distrust them, but when you're
looking for the good and assuming the best, you find it. It's
Paul: Exactly. You've also got to make sure that
your workplace is consistent, dynamic, and fun.
Q: With all the speaking you've done, are there any
significant ways you found organizations are having
Paul: Over the years I've learned there's no one
definition of fun. People are having fun in such unique and
different ways. In an organization, everyone's definition of fun
must be considered to keep it useful, dynamic, and fresh. Fun
really comes from within and is a part of the work process. It's
not a decoration on a wall. It's not crazy shirt Friday. It's not
we're going to have fun between the hours of 2 and 5 on Thursdays.
It's a culture where people are allowed to have fun doing what they
are doing and enjoy being at work. It keeps the energy up. It keeps
people engaged and working hard and smart. We need to recharge our
batteries; you can't just constantly work, work, work. Productivity
will suffer. Organizations need to do this. One of the sayings we
have in the FISH! book is, "Work made fun, gets done!"
This is absolutely true. Southwest Airlines has figured out how to
allow people to be themselves. Have fun, take care of the
customers, and look what happens - they've had profitability for
more than three decades.
Q: I love Southwest especially when they sing and tell
jokes. I've never had a bad experience on Southwest. As a matter of
fact, they've created for me a memorable experience.
Paul: They even have the rapping flight attendant
giving the safety briefing in rap. Interestingly, people pay
So, it's very important to understand that work made fun gets done.
The fish market threw us the fish. It's great. People want to see
it; people want to catch it. But it's also efficiency at work
because it keeps the fishmonger next to the customer while the fish
is being prepared for the customer. The fish is thrown over the
counter while the fishmonger yells the order and it's repeated by
everyone working so there's no chance of the order getting
messed-up. The relationship between the customer and fishmonger
continues to build. So it's very efficient work and fun too.
Q: What do you say to those workplaces that say, "We
can't afford to have fun? We don't have enough people as it is to
get the work done."
Paul: I hear this all the time. This is about
attitudes. It could be something as simple as titles. Change your
title and change your perspective?and that changes your attitude.
Are you a receptionist or a director of first impressions? How do
you answer the phone? How do you deal with customers? How do you
engage them? If has to fit into your workplace. You just have to
look at Southwest. They figured it out in the airline industry.
Zappos figured it out in the online shoe business. Amazon sure made
it easy to buy things on line.
Q: So more and more organizations just need to "figure
it out" in their own industries, or more specifically, in their own
Paul: Exactly. Zappos is an excellent example
because the CEO is all about fun and the fun-culture they've
created there is better than most. So we've seen it in small
companies and large companies. How do we keep people engaged by
making things fun? By keeping the energy up - that's what fun does.
It keeps the energy up, and that leads to increased productivity
Cynthia Kimball is a doctoral student in
Workforce Education Leadership at the University of Nevada, Las
Vegas; firstname.lastname@example.org .