Remember Gumby? He’s a green clay animation figure created by Al Clokey in the early 1950s who went on adventures with his sidekick, Pokey, an orange talking pony. Gumby has been featured on television, in movies, and even parodied by Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live.
During this year’s Great Place to Work conference, I learned that Gumby has also been used as a business icon. Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop, shared her company’s turnaround story. As part of the discussion, she talked about how tempting it can be for organization’s to fall back into old habits once the crisis is over.
I’ve seen this many times. The most common example is the person who finds themselves without a job. They realize how little networking they’ve done over the years and swear that they’ve learned their lesson. Networking will now be a priority. Then the person finds a job and what do they do? Exactly. They stop networking.
But, back to the Build-A-Bear story. Once the company returned to profitability, to keep the employees focused on goals, Gumby became a reminder of the things that needed to be done:
- Stay flexible
- Keep all the parts moving together (meaning keep working as a team)
- Remain positive
- STRETCH to hit goals
- Focus on the green (aka money)
I really love this. It’s fun and easy to remember. In the Build-A-Bear story, they bought a Gumby suit and had someone dress up as Gumby for employee events. But anyone can use Gumby as a way to stay focused on goals. I bought a Gumby on Amazon. It’s on my desk. You can probably find Gumby stickers. The point is, find a way for employees to stay on track. Even if it’s using a green animation figurine.
Change is hard. Especially in situations like Build-A-Bear where they needed to make change or risk losing the business. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be moments of simple fun that serves a business purpose. In fact, one could argue that those moments of fun are part of the reason that the organization can manage change successfully – because they know how to make it work … and make it fun.
P.S. I really enjoy sharing with you my takeaways from the Great Place to Work Conference. Which is why I’m super excited to be attending the 2016 Great Place to Work® Small & Medium Business Conference in Austin! We know that investing in your people leads to strengthened recruitment, retention and overall profitability. It’s sure to be a terrific event. Readers of HR Bartender can receive $100 off registration using the code SMBAUSTIN16. Look forward to seeing you there!
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby somewhere at HR Bartender Central.