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A fish story

Published November 21. 2009 09:00AM

Training videos are usually a necessary evil for most employees. Almost every company has some sort of standard training video to show new hires during orientation, and will show others as new policies and procedures are brought in.

It's true that most of these videos are full of bad acting and outdated clothing, as the main focus is on the information being shared, but every once in awhile you watch something that actually inspires you. That's what happened with me with a program called FISH! Catch the Energy, Release the Potential.

FISH! isn't just a corporate training video; it's actually an entire workplace philosophy. The idea behind FISH! started at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. This fish market could just be any other vendors' stand in any farmers market in the area, but it's the guys who work there that make it unique. These guys, who when you get right down to it are merely selling fish, create a memorable experience for their customers by just being themselves. They are able to turn a job that could easily be boring or tedious into something fun using very simple concepts. Their fun-loving attitude can be a lesson to anyone who wants to have a workplace that takes itself, though not the work, a bit less seriously.

The FISH! philosophy has four components:

Be there. If you're not focused on the task at hand, everyone suffers. In the video, the guys at the Pike Place Fish Market zero in on a few choice customers and treat them like the royalty they are (businesses are nothing without customers!) Be mentally present and focused on your job and those around you. Anything less is disrespectful.

Choose your attitude. Many folks don't realize that they often set the tone of their own day. If they wake up in a bad mood, chances are things will just get worse as the day goes on. But if you go into work thinking "I'm going to make this a great day!" and keep up the positive attitude, it will be a great day. The fish market guys are like everyone else. They have their own headaches to contend with before they even make it to work, but their good-natured attitude and playful teasing with the customers create a fun atmosphere. Even if they are having the worst day of their lives, they're choosing to put a positive spin on it.

Make their day. The fish market guys are known for focusing their attention on their customers to create a positive experience for them. One of the guys in the video pointed out that "It's not about selling fish", but rather about creating a memorable experience. The guys regularly toss around the huge fish that are brought in fresh from the docks each day, and often let their customers try their skills, too. And we're not talking a friendly game of catch with a tiny little minnow. I'm saying they hurl king salmon, sea bass, and others across the room (into fish paper, of course). They challenge their customers to match their skills, complete with taunting and ribbing. Crowds gather regularly to see what all the fuss is about. And you know what? It works!

Play. You can take your work seriously, but not yourself. Find ways to be creative and lighthearted in your workplace to make the day more enjoyable and pleasant for everyone. The guys have perfected the art of having fun at work. Even if the day is slow and there's not much business, the guys will literally stand around yelling "Somebody buy some fish!" That may not work at every business, but there are plenty of ways to make your workplace more enjoyable. You just have to be creative.

I wanted to go to Seattle to see these guys in action after I watched FISH! The philosophies the guys share can work at any company if you put your own spin on them, but they're most effective when everyone agrees to work on making the change.

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