On Sunday my wife and I had the pleasure of babysitting our 2-year old great niece, named appropriately Shaniece. Because of our schedules we don't get to see her all that often, so when we were asked if we could watch her for a few hours while her mother and grandmother went to the NY State Fair, we said yes.


My wife is one of 7 children. When she was a teenager she was a babysitter of renown in her area. She also helped raise some of her siblings, being the 2nd oldest. So she's used to kids, but it's been a while for her... and for me.

My story is quite different. I'm an only child, and have had little experience with 2-year olds. My last real experience was close to 9 years ago when we babysat a 3-year old for 2 hours and he ran us ragged. When he left, we both took 3-hour naps; we were that worn out.

That and having no kids of our own left us kind of unprepared for what might happen.

This time around though, I recalled some of the experiences from the first baby. I realized where we went wrong was in trying to keep up with a baby that had an enormous amount of energy. Back then we were in our 40's; 10 years later, we were is a worse position than we were then.

We got smart. We immediately pulled out the exercise ball and got her playing with that. We set up a perimeter so she wasn't running amok all over the house. At one point we took her to Onondaga Lake Park, where they had lots of spaces and some playground equipment, so we could pretty much let her run around... other than having to keep her from getting too close to the water at the lake.

Overall, we didn't wear her out, but we wore her down enough so we could keep ourselves from running out of energy while keeping her entertained. That led to a wonderful experience for all of us... I even got a chicken nugget from her happy meal. 🙂

What was most impressive from her was her enthusiasm. It didn't matter that I don't speak 2-year old well. I was able to keep her happy, answer questions I thought she was asking, give her juice when she pointed at it, got her to watch some cartoons so we could catch breathers here and there, and I even read to her at one point.

I was amazed at her energy and how good a time she was having. I thought about my life, personal and business, and wondered if there was a way I could find that kind of enthusiasm for anything. I also wondered if I'd ever been able to create that kind of feeling for the people who worked for me, both when I was a full time employee and now when I step into leadership roles as a consultant.

I tend to believe that one of the failings of some leaders is that they don't create a work environment where people feel enthusiastic about coming to work. Sure, it's work after all, but that doesn't mean it has to be filled with drudgery and misery. I mean, even as a manager or supervisor do you want to show up at the office every day living that kind of life? Is a weekend enough to get that kind of funk off your body so you can give you all for the following week, week after week, year after year?

Truth be told, unless you're Google or some kind of technology company like that, you're probably not going to be able to set the place up with a lot of games and lots of time off so people will not only be enthusiastic but have lots of fun.

Instead, you're need to find other ways to generate good feelings for your employees so they feel better when they show up work better throughout the day, and feel good about coming in again the next day. I'm going to offer 3 ideas here; you can come up with some of your own things later on.


1. Be flexible with rules and have fewer of them when possible.

Turns out you don't need all that many rules when you have procedures, processes, and tools to track how people work. I had a few rules that were crucial to me and the company: be on time, do your best, follow the dress code (that was company mandated) and treat everyone with respect and no lying.

As it pertained to time, I set it up so that, as long as the office was covered, people could change up when they came in and left, since some folks had children they had to get off to school and make sure someone got them when school was out. I let the employees work things out for themselves; they loved that. They also set up monitoring the dress code policy so I didn't have to deal with it; that was nice. 🙂

2. Set up events for special dates and milestones.

We always had quarterly goals, and if we hit them we had some kind of party. Sometimes people brought in foods; sometimes we put money together to buy something special; and every once in a while either I bought something or talked the VP of Finance into contributing something.

With this one, it only worked because I was tracking performance on a monthly basis. We almost always hit our numbers; if we didn't, we didn't have those parties, but that doesn't mean we didn't ever do anything else.

We had birthday parties and holiday parties and anniversary parties. Sometimes I brought in donuts "just because", which encouraged other people to do the same here and there. Everyone felt good on days like that; who wouldn't?

3. Show interest in people often, and not only on evaluation day.

I believe that everyone likes when someone shares genuine time with them and actually means to do it. Just like a 2-year old wants you to pay attention to them, it doesn't hurt when you show your employees that you have some kind of interest in them other than the fact that they show up for work every day.

I'm not saying you have to be best friends with each employee or buy candy from them for their children's school. What I'm saying is that if every once in a while you took a few minutes to talk to someone, even a team of employees, about something other than work, you'll find that it becomes easier to talk about work and performance and pretty much anything else. Being a human being shouldn't require a lot of work, but if it does... do it!

That's all I have for you for now. Get in there and find the 2-year old in yourself, then pass the feelings along to everyone else. 😉