This is a great question for people who find it hard to listen. Your assignment when you ask this question is to watch even more than you listen. Watch people’s faces light up, their bodies relax, and their voices resonate with energy. Don’t stop listening to what they’re saying, but pay special attention to the transformation. The answers will be as varied as the people who give them, but the physical changes will be similar. There is a physical response when people talk about or do something that brings them glee.
That’s why laughter is important in the workplace. Hey, stress is a part of our work life that isn’t going to go away. Hard work, repetitive tasks, and frightening situations all cause stress in the workplace. But not all stress is bad. The things we do for fun are often hard work (ever try to dig out a garden?), repetitive (ever quilt a bedspread?), or scary (bungee jumping, anyone?). But we have fun doing those activities. Understanding that what feels like fun for one person can cause negative stress in another is a valuable lesson. Leaders who learn about the fun profiles of their people can use that information creatively when handing out assignments. You might have people whose eyes sparkle when they talk about their latest work endeavor.
There’s a bonus for listening to the answers to this question. You’ll be amazed at the hidden skills you’ll uncover. There will be stories of confident leadership, technical ingenuity, and amazing creativity. You’ll discover writers, salespeople, and inventors in your midst. One leader I know, after being overwhelmed by the answers he received from asking this question, arranged a special interest fair over a lunch hour. Based on the response to displays people created and the conversations that occurred during the exhibits, the company dedicated a room and developed a series of How To… classes organized and run by a volunteer committee. Their people now come in early and stay late to learn a language, paint a picture, and master spreadsheet development for kid’s sports teams. It’s a fun place to work.