Episode 18 – Season 2

Published: January 17, 2022

Dr Bob Nelson, President of Nelson Motivation & Mario Tamayo, Principal at Tamayo Group inc. | How to make work fun

Dr Bob Nelson, President of Nelson Motivation & Mario Tamayo, Principal at Tamayo Group inc. | How to make work fun

Ian is joined by DR BOB NELSON and MARIO TAMAYO.  Bob is president of Nelson Motivation and is one of the world’s leading authorities on employee recognition and engagement. He has worked with over 80% of Fortune 500 companies. Mario is a principal with Tamayo Group Inc, a no-nonsense consulting firm specialising in leadership and organisational performance. Together they have co-authored the book “Work Made Fun Gets Done!: Easy Ways to Boost Energy, Morale, and Results” between them these guys have sold more than 5 million books.

In this podcast, we discuss how we make work fun. I am sure we can all agree that making work more fun will improve wellbeing, but does it improve results?  So we also want to explore the impact on efficiency and productivity. 

Bob, Mario and Ian discuss:

  • Bob and Mario’s background
  • Wellbeing through the ages
  • The impact on the bottom line of making your workplace fun
  • How to make remote working fun

What is inspiring Bob and Mario : 

Humour, Seriously: Why Humour Is a Superpower At Work And In Life by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

1,001 Ways to engage Employees: Help People Do Better What They Do Best by Dr Bob Nelson

Work Made Fun Gets Done! : Easy Ways to Boost Energy, Morale, and Results by Dr Bob Nelson and Mario Tamayo

How to Contact Bob and Mario:






Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast, the podcast for wellbeing professionals that looks at best practices in organisations that care about their people, and which keeps an eye on the growing number of suppliers in the wellbeing space.

The workplace wellbeing podcast is sponsored by fastPAYE a financial wellbeing solution that facilitates flexible salary advances. It also provides access to financial education, a benefits assessment calculator, and a host of other financial wellbeing tools. fastPAYE he is part of the work tech group that includes ShopWorks Workforce Solutions, and SolvedBy.Ai.

ShopWorks offers Scheduling and Time and Attendance tools that improve your workforce management processes. Whilst SolvedBy.Ai provides unique artificial intelligence products that deliver optimum staffing levels and improve employee retention.

Ian Hogg  0:56  

Hi, and welcome to another edition of the Workplace. Wellbeing Podcast. I’m Ian hogg Chairman of fastP.A.Y.E. Today I’m joined by Dr. Bob Nelson, and Mario Tamayo. Bob is president of Nelson Motivation and he’s one of the world’s leading authorities on employee recognition and engagement. He’s worked with over 80% of Fortune 500 companies. Mario is a principal with Tamayo Group Inc, a no-nonsense consulting firm specialising in leadership and organisational performance. Together, they have co-authored the book, ‘Work made fun gets done easy ways to boost energy, morale and results. Between them, these guys have sold more than 5 million books, so I was keen to hear what they had to say. So in this edition of the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast, I want to discuss how we make work fun. I’m sure we can all agree that making work more fun will improve wellbeing but does it improve results. So I also want to explore the impact on efficiency. Hello to you both. And thanks for joining us.

Mario Tamayo  1:58  

Thanks for having us.

Ian Hogg  2:01  

Why don’t we start with a bit of background? Who wants to go first? You know, give the listeners a taste of who you are and how you got here.

Dr Bob Nelson  2:10  

Okay, well, this is my 31st book. So I’ve been at it quite a while. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was write a book, but somehow I keep at it. And oh, no. So until we once at all, every author is writing the same book over and over. And I think there’s some truth to that, because all my books are out the same kind of cloth how to how to, to maximise human performance in the workplace, how to impact and create a culture that attracts and retains talent today and gets the best they have to offer.

Ian Hogg  2:53  

Thanks very much, Bob. And Mario. Oh, what about you?

Mario Tamayo  2:57  

Well, I started off as a physical education major in college. And I knew that if I was going to be successful in life, I had to do what I most enjoyed, which was playing, playing sports playing games. And then from there, I said, Well, how am I going to make this work in the business? And, and I got into wellness. And I got into that this back in the 1980s, early 1980s. And I had the good fortune of being part of the new wave of wellness at the workplace efforts. And I worked for a defence contractor General Dynamics and helped to create the programme that we had 18,000 employees in San Diego and so we did programming for not just physical, but also emotional, financial, career, family social, really every aspect of life when we realised that we had to take care of mind body and spirit and get the right balance. So it wasn’t something that you split work from personal it was you had to have that balance wherever you were not only at home but also at work. And that turned into leadership and what you’re doing right now Ian

Ian Hogg  4:22  

You know, what’s interesting is a lot of people I speak to on the podcast, think that this wellness is is a new thing. Yeah, Mario, you’re telling me you were doing this in the 80s.

Mario Tamayo  4:32  

We were doing it in the 80s and we thought it was new then but it was actually the ancient Greeks that talked about the mind-body-spirit, and then into the 1800s it was called muscular Christianity back in Europe and then was YMCA in the United States in the early 1900s. And the plan and the awareness of having balances goes back to antiquity. And we have a tendency to forget about that and just get into autopilot, where we’re, we’re doing just automatic responses rather than living purposefully and living on purpose.

Ian Hogg  5:14  

Okay, and where did you two meet? How, where did you meet? And why did you start this? Why did you decide to write a book,

Mario Tamayo  5:21  

I’m going to start it and then and then Bob’s gonna finish. But we wrote this book on fun, and we met at the world’s happiest place on earth. And Bob wanted to take it from there when was that

Dr Bob Nelson  5:32  

Walt Disney World. 34 years ago. We were both there at the invitation of Dr. Ken Blanchard is author, Of the One Minute Manager and about 60 other books. And he was arranging the back tour with one of his good friends that ran resorts there. And we’re not only were we on the guest list, but we found out the airport we’re rooming together.

Ian Hogg  6:05  

He dressed as Mickey Mouse. Okay, fine. So you met there and then what you decided to write a book together?

Mario Tamayo  6:15  

No, we both went to go work for Dr Blanchard. Bob, you started in early July. And I started a couple of weeks after that. And we worked together for several years. And then Bob scored a huge hit. I don’t know what number book it was. But that was 1001 ways to reward employees. And, Bob, what did you do after that?

Dr Bob Nelson  6:41  

I left Blanchard to start my own company and help people on that topic and which is now in its 64th printing, and it sold about 2 million, 2 million copies. So actually, it’s probably spent about 12 years just criss crossing the country and around the world. Talking about the importance of recognising and thanking people when they do a good job. What a common-sense notion, right? You think that’d be well could be easier to do tell people that, hey, don’t forget to thank people when they do a good job. But surprisingly, very few people get meaningful recognition at work only about 12% of them all want it. Only 12% of employees say that they feel valued, recognised, supported, where they work today, a number that I’ve maybe raised awareness of, but still a problem.

Ian Hogg  7:38  

Yeah, and if you sell 2 million books, presumably as you go round on the sort of, you know, the lecture tour the speaking tour afterwards, you probably learn as much then do you read all the feedback? And the discussions post? Post the authoring?

Dr Bob Nelson  7:53  

Absolutely. Every session has questions and makes you think more about the topic. And I actually did my doctoral dissertation on the topic of why managers use or don’t use recognition. We know it’s the most proven principle of management that drives all performance. In fact, works in any relationships, whether it’s with your, your employees, or your boss, or your spouse, or your neighbours, or if you pay attention to acknowledging them, and for things they do, you’re gonna have a much better relationship.

Ian Hogg  8:32  

Okay, who of the two, we first discovered that making work fun, could you know have a benefit on wellbeing at work?

Mario Tamayo  8:42  

Well, I think we just naturally came into it. Bob was that way when I met him, and I was that way. And what we did is we worked together at Blancher. Bob was my boss and so we did a lot of fun things in our department, which was product development at the time. And we, we proved it, we prove that when you have a lot of fun, people want to come to work, they want to do a great job. And other people want to join your department. And I know Bob, you got some stories about that about other people wanting to come in, but why he’s mentioned a few things about that.

Dr Bob Nelson  9:18  

Well, absolutely. It’s one of those things that, you know, there’s a lot of things in life that you kind of know is important intuitively, but to bring it to a focal point, it’s a different matter. And, and there’s, I guess I thought in the mix of topics, maybe especially during the time we’re now in hopefully post COVID That, that people have been isolated. They’ve been stressed, they’ve been alienated. They’ve been lonely, and what better way to help bring them together than to have some fun. And so we took this fun topic very seriously. We looked at the research and we explored companies that were doing it and had some companies have it as part of their core values. And we did interviews and research and the book, the final book has over 400 real-life, explicit ideas that companies are doing in any given workgroup or, or in the organisation to make fun part of the work environment on an ongoing basis. So it’s a, you know, again, common sense, but not common practice. And we hope that, that people can make it a little bit more common practice by getting the book and if they do that, write us and tell us what happened because we’ll add you to the next edition. Yeah,

Mario Tamayo  10:47  

I’ll give you one example. Ian we, you know, we were in product development, and we have a lot of deadlines, a lot of products to get out on time. And in one case, we mentioned to the team, hey, what do you guys want to do? When we make this deadline on this particular product, they said, Well, you know, Jurassic Park coming out the movie, it was debuting. And what Bob and I did is, one afternoon, we, we closed our office, and we took everybody to the debut showing of the movie, we made our goal. First, we had a popcorn lunch. And then we left for about four, three to four hours. And we had to put a sign on the door that said, we’re at a palaeontology workshop. But everybody had a great time, and people talked about it afterwards. And you know, those are the things that keep people focused, they keep people working and committed and giving, devoting their discretionary effort to the enterprise,

Dr Bob Nelson  11:57  

Making the work experience memorable and enjoyable, or spending the bulk of our waking hours doing the thing called Work wouldn’t it be great if it could be enjoyed along the way. And for a lot of people, it is and for a lot of people, it’s not. And so we have strategies to help those that aren’t experiencing joy in their job about how to how to make it happen, how to get their boss in the game, and whether you’re just a part of one team, how to get things going.

Ian Hogg  12:30  

Well, one of the things I’ve seen intrigued about when I was going through the book was you sort of break up the responsibility between the individual, the leader and the company. And quite often on this podcast, it sort of always feels like it’s the employer’s responsibility to solve all problems. And actually, you put quite a lot of onus back on the individual in your book, don’t you?

Dr Bob Nelson  12:54  

Yeah, and I think I think it’s not fair to say it’s just up to the, what happens when employees fault for everything is that employees just end up crossing their arms and complaining. And if you get some skin in the game yourself, you can get a lot more success and, maybe show proof of concept. So it’s maybe it’s just a little too easy to just say it’s someone else’s fault. And I think a lot of people do that. And I just hate seeing people that are miserable at work and just waiting for one day, their boss’s CEO to get enlightened, and that probably is never going to happen. But if they can get some things going in their own area, and I see a lot of success, where companies got something going and kind of bubbled up and CEO got involved as you know, as you maybe increase the budget for what you’re doing to make sure it’s strategic and then then you’re in serious play of having a great workplace. One the research basis that we found that the book on his research from the work workplace Institute, which creates a list of 100 best companies to work for an America that’s published this year by Fortune magazine. And when we looked at the data on their research, we found that companies that make that list, employees that companies make the list 81% report that where they work as a fun, fun place to work. Those companies that apply for that award, but don’t get it. By contrast, it’s only about 60% that say they work in a fun work environment and that 20 point differential is This is actually one of the largest in their research that says, this is serious. If you want a great place to work, you got to look at it to make sure it’s fun. And it’s not that hard to do. It doesn’t mean closing the office and just having a party it means what can you do along the way? What can employees do? Along the way? In their own work? If they’re not having fun? How can they? How can they make it more enjoyable with the work they’re doing on their own? And then of course, what if you’re part of a team, you can always, you know, make a suggestion. And, and again, Mario and i used to love experimenting with stuff like this, we’d have, give you a quick way, we would have, again, very simple we, when we’d have department meetings, we said well, we start with a joke each time we connect, who wants to do it first and, and just have started a meeting with someone telling a joke. And some people were good at it. And some people weren’t. But if they were next, they had a week to practice. And even if there wasn’t that funny joke, we’d still laugh and kind of break the ice. And you know, off we go.

Ian Hogg  16:16  

I think I’d need more than a week Mario.

Mario Tamayo  16:17  

So yeah, I wanted to, I wanted to emphasise that I wanted to emphasise the strategy that we really, we really need to engage the individual here, I found this out on the wellness programme at General Dynamics in the 80s, that we actually started the programme, individuals at the lowest levels actually started it. And you know, we always say, hey, one individual can make the difference. And that’s exactly what happened, we had a grassroots approach, where people who were, who were excited about doing it on their own, just started it. And before you knew it, it grew. And what happened was, the energy went from, from the bottom up, and then management and leadership at the very top saw was happening. And then they started to apply some support for it. And we met in the middle, and we ended up with a top 10 wellness corporate wellness programme. And so it doesn’t have to be started at the top, it we just have to get the germ of the idea to make the awareness anywhere in the organisation, and then it will grow. 

Ian Hogg  17:25  

Again, in your book, you talked about the company getting it right, the leader getting it right, and the individual, I got the sense from the book that if all three work in harmony is going to get much better results

Mario Tamayo  17:38  

and faster. Yes. Absolutely.

Ian Hogg  17:44  

And you know, I think if you put programmes in place with employers, you know, to sort of help them kickstart this.

Dr Bob Nelson  17:56  

Yes, we do. And, and often, it’s not just just for fun and often is, is, you know, ties in with employee engagement, and recognition, which we touched on already briefly. And it’s companies that are looking to improve their culture, maybe their turnover has suddenly gotten higher, or they find it harder to attract talent. And if you do these things, we guarantee we can help you reshape your work environment and, and move you in the direction where it’ll be a stronger one that more ties to the things that are important to you and to employees. So on the employee level that can get into not just recognition, engagement and fun, but I’ll get into career development and, and strategies for people to advance and promotion from within things of that type.

Mario Tamayo  18:55  

Just as an example of that we had an opportunity to help a company. They were an insurance company, and they wanted to launch a new smart goal-setting process. And one of the top executives there said, you know, I remember watching the TV show Get Smart, which was a really popular comedy in the US. And what they hired us to do was to come in, and we recreated the opening sequence for the TV show, so that they could actually act it out. And that’s what we did with an all-hands meeting we showed them how to do that. We had doors opening we had a telephone booth in there, and in the whole bed. And it really was fun. It was a tonne of fun. And it really made the difference in people getting the energy remembering having a solid metaphor for the SMART goal setting and that was a very successful programme that they put on. And it was a lot of fun again.

Ian Hogg  19:53  

One of the questions I posed in the introduction was about productivity and you know it if it’s fun, you know, I heard Bob, you say that before you went to the cinema use you achieve the goal first, you know performance first, I think there’s a phrase. So it sounds to me like you guys believe 100% that this pays back, you know, if I’m an employer and I’m investing in a programme to make work more fun, I will get to return on my investment.

Dr Bob Nelson  20:25  

bsolutely.100%. And for a lot, that’s a leap of faith for some managers and some executives because it just feels, aren’t you supposed to have fun on your own time, and we pay you to work and, you know, do it, if you get a kick out of on the weekend. And maybe that’s how it was, you know, at 15 years ago, but today, our work lives and our personal lives have overlapped significantly. And I don’t know anyone, for example, that doesn’t do some work emails at home in the evening or on the weekend or on vacation. And it’s just the reality that and as we draw work from personal time, sure, you got to put some fun into the work time as well to balance things out. Otherwise, people get burnt out.

Mario Tamayo  21:13  

I’ll tell you, that’s what the COVID saying has really proved over the last almost two years is that we’ve got to listen to people’s needs. And we’ve got to serve what they’re looking for. Otherwise, they’re, not going to comply, and they’re not even gonna stay with the organisation, they’re gonna say, you know, I like working, but I find I can work better over here because I can have more of a life, what do you think?

Dr Bob Nelson  21:39  

On my own or in a startup company on my own, it’s, it’s, so one of the pressure points is helping to drive issues like this is his extreme shortage of skilled labour in the US at all, all levels of the spectrum. 

Ian Hogg  21:56  

The Uk’s no different, my fastP.A.Y.E customers, were part of a group called WorkTech Group, you know, all of our customers are all screaming for resources, you know, they can’t get enough skilled people to do the jobs they’ve got.

Dr Bob Nelson  22:13  

And so at the lower level that we’re seeing a lot of people quit their jobs because they are on the front lines of COVID. And, and they’re having, you know, customers yell at them for doing their job and is a very stressful thing. And that, you know, they’re done with that or at least need to be paid more. So they a great percentage have quit their jobs to get to higher-paying jobs that hopefully, they get a little bit more respect from as well. But for those that are higher in the, in the talent chain, maybe over the COVID, they had a year and a half to think about this really well I do with my life. And for those that are farther along with the research indicates that a lot of people are closer to retirement just retired earlier. And so there’s massive upheaval in the workplace, when it comes to people, our most important asset, no one can, no company can exist without people. So it’s, it’s suddenly very much needed for employers to take their people more seriously. And think of all the ways that they can help make them a better employee and a more fulfilled experience at work and both what they’re doing and their career and their, their growth with the company. So it leads to this is one of the elements that lead to a successful career where people are promoted, and advanced in ways that they’ll do even more for you. I know, when I worked that Mark and I were together, I had five different jobs in a 10 year period, I was with them. And every job was created for me. So it made it hard to leave because they, wanted me and they felt they had the skills and so if I got bored or was unhappy they would want to do next and it was great. And it helped me be a higher performer. And it helped me stay longer with the company.

Ian Hogg  24:28  

Excellent. I think I think we can all believe that. If I was thinking of if my choice is going to work and it’s not fun, or I’ll stay home if it’s fun. I might think actually why don’t want to retire. You know, I’m having a great time here. You know, I’ve only got the gardening to do that’s not fun. And I know it is for some but it isn’t for me I’m presuming the opposite is true. You know I think if you’re you know with a lot of people working from home, not the opposite. But you know you You know, there’s one challenge making it fun to go to work. But there must be an even bigger challenge to make it, you know, to try and reach out to people that work from home that on Zoom calls all the time, make that fun. Have you had much experience of trying to try to work with those sorts of organisations?

Mario Tamayo  25:16  

Yes, yes. And we, we find that they have to do similar things that they do is if people were in person face to face, but they have to do it on steroids. And what we mean by that is they have to go the extra mile to keep people connected to keep people feeling like they’re cared for. And Bob, you were gonna mention some other things there.

Dr Bob Nelson  25:39  

Yeah, this is that. And most everyone has had zoom calls. And some people their job is wall to wall zoom calls, which gets kind of fatiguing. So we need to, we need to break it up. And actually, there are things you can do on a zoom call even that, that maybe people haven’t considered and one of the ones I like is called a praise barrage. Praise barrage. That’s where you say, Hey, before we dig into our agenda here, I want to just go around our group, as I call someone, like everyone else to speak up and say what they most value about having that person work with the team. And they start with John and, and other people comment and 10 minutes later, you’ve gotten through everybody and what just happened, everyone got feedback. From those they work most closely with about things they do well, 100% positive, in a feeling good about yourself, it makes for a stronger team. And I guarantee whatever people have been called out for, they will be even better at it because what gets recognised gets repeated. So it’s it’s very simple, we’re talking about a 5-10 minute activity, you can do it, you can do on Zoom, you can also do it face to face when that happens as well. But, or we can do it next to my face to face, you could do it with index cards that have people jot thank you notes that they owe other people on the team. And it’s a very, it’s a simple but powerful exercise.

Mario Tamayo  27:03  

We have a whole chapter in our book on how to have fun virtually. And some of the things can involve food, we’ve got some companies that will send ingredients for baking, or making pancakes and cakes and other things. And they said everything that the employees need out there. And then the employees put it together, and then they all get together on a zoom call. And each person shares what they came up with, they eat together, you know, they just have a lot of fun. But again, you got you might have to take a little bit extra time than you normally would because they’re remote.

Dr Bob Nelson  27:44  

Or another kind related to food ideas. I, I gave people that working for me remotely all a microwave popcorn maker, which is kind of cool, because it doesn’t need oil, you just pop it up. And so some popcorn in and five minutes later, you got a bowl of popcorn and, and so now we can have a celebration even though we’re not together. And I’ll have popcorn together.

Mario Tamayo  28:09  

We’ve had people who have had magicians, where the magicians did things with them virtually, we’ve had people who do art projects together. And I’ll give you one example, one group that told their employees, look, we want you to identify a famous piece of artwork, a painting and drawing or a sculpture. And we want you to you have a week to do this, why don’t we take household objects, you can use your computer apps, whatever, but create and make a duplicate of that object to that art object. But do it you create it yourself. And then we’ll get together in a week. And when they did, then they all shared their creations it was I was actually invited to watch this. And it was fantastic where people had the scream, pick the painting, and were able to duplicate it with all their stuff in their garage and their kids. But, you know, again, fun stuff, it doesn’t cost anything. It just takes a little bit of time and a little forethought.

Dr Bob Nelson  29:16  

And it takes a little time. But it’s really it’s an investment in the group really, it’s an investment in who the person is at that company and the group they work with. So you do something like that. And you create a stronger bond among those people. All report comes from shared experiences. And so if you’re remote from one another, you guys still have those shared experiences to build a relationship. Yeah.

Mario Tamayo  29:46  

You know, even some companies are so serious about the fun that they’ve even named VPs of fun. There’s a design group called Kim Lee horn in Raleigh, North Carolina. And that’s one example where they are very serious about it. So the V.P. of fun. Others have fun as one of their core values. In fact, there’s one company that has fun. How many times Wow, was it three

Dr Bob Nelson  30:10  

or four core values? Yeah.

Ian Hogg  30:17  

Excellent. Listen, I could, I could listen to your examples and activates for hours on end. But we don’t have time, unfortunately. So to start winding it up.

Mario Tamayo  30:29  

You need to put another shilling into the telephone, because

Ian Hogg  30:33  

I’ve got the free account on Zoom, and it runs out after 30 minutes. So this is a question I asked everyone. And I’m not sure if I’m gonna get one or two answers tonight. But you know, which book or media is giving you the most inspiration at the moment and why?

Mario Tamayo  30:54  

I got one, it’s humour seriously. And it’s written by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas. And they’re their professors at Stanford University. The books are all about how leaders today in corporations are taking humour and fun very seriously because they do realise and has some great data in there about how laughter really helps our health help, it helps keep us healthy. And so they got the data there. And then they give really good examples as well. General examples. It’s great, that book is a great fit with our book because we give all the specifics of how to make it happen.

Ian Hogg  31:38  

Bob, do you want to share that one? Have you got another one? 

Dr Bob Nelson  31:40  

Same book!  No.

Mario Tamayo  31:49  

He knows you well.

Ian Hogg  31:53  

Gosh, listen, we’ll share that we’ll put the link to that sort of booking and also how to link to your book in the programme notes as well and how to contact you. It’s been a blast. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Mario Tamayo  32:06  

Thank you and stay well. Stay happy and have a lot of fun.

Ian Hogg  32:11  

Thank you very much. 

Mario Tamayo  32:13  


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