Keep it Fun

  • Published
  • By Master Sergeant Matthew Thompson
  • 420 MUNS/CCF

High-performing units are like unstoppable machines and are wonders to behold. Their members are motivated and seem to over-deliver. Processes are streamlined while work gets done faster and with higher quality. It’s almost as if something is in the air that drives everyone forward, ever gaining momentum while racking up win after win after win. In my experience, units like this can trace their successes back to a single defining characteristic: they’re fun.

Fun is often times an overlooked factor when thinking about unit productivity. In fact, it is frequently viewed through a negative lens; from the dreaded mandatory fun, which some view as wasting of time, to the Staff Sergeant we can't give a project because he likes to joke, fun is relegated to unimportance, or worse, a hindrance to service. This couldn't be further from the truth. Fun is one of the most vital things in enabling us to do what we do as military members.

When I talk about fun, what am I really getting at? Am I advocating for a 24-hr laugh fest that leads to fancy, espirit de corps EPR bullets? No. I would offer fun as this: it is simply those things that improve morale and increase productivity of a work center. It is the things that make people want to come to work every morning. It is having a meaningful, fulfilling and stimulating job that challenges you to do better and grow. Fun is feeling that your ideas can be shared and will be heard. Further, it is knowing that your teammates can count on you and vice versa; a sense that you can support each other without ego or backstabbing. Fun is having clear guidance and standards set by leaders and is an environment where it is understood those same leaders have your back and (calculated) risks can be taken without fear. Fun is what drives innovation and has made our Air Force what it is today. And yes, sometimes it’s a stupid joke and a picnic.

Far too many times, we as military members resort to anti-fun: fear, anger, bad attitudes, etc. Used sparingly, these things can be effective or warranted. However, I have personally seen too many young officers nervous to brief a senior leader because of possible career impacts and too many airman disparaged and disciplined for things as simple as grammatical errors in a document. Who does that serve? How is that benefiting the Air Force? Would it have been that much harder to respond with a little fun?

Fun is one of those key tenets that has the potential to drastically change yourself, your unit, or the Air Force as a whole. If you find yourself in a place or unit that could use a change, I would challenge you with this: try a little fun and see what happens.