The Pike Place Fish Market took a look at jobs that are not very glamorous or exciting and have made them interactive and fun.

Many are probably looking at this title and wondering how in the world we could learn leadership skills from fish. No, I haven’t studied fish and what they do. I’ll leave that to the experts, but I have used something known as the “Fish Philosophy”. This leadership tool has been around for many years and it is one we have used in our program for a while now. Let me explain.

There is a fish market in Seattle, WA called the Pike Place Fish Market. The creators of the “Fish Philosophy” patterned this tool after observing the work of the people at this market and it has become a creative training tool for corporations, schools, colleges and programs like Leadership Butler.

Leadership Butler uses this tool to look at creative thinking, which is an important capacity in leadership development. The Pike Place Fish Market took a look at jobs that are not very glamorous or exciting and have made them interactive and fun. Not only for those that work there but for those that are walking by.

People stand around waiting for what is coming next. I will try to give you a glimpse of what the creators of the “Fish Philosophy” saw and incorporated into this training tool.

They observed PLAY: Workers at the market began tossing fish to the back of the counters to get them ready for the customers. They banter with their co-workers and their customers in a playful manner.

They create a game out of selling fish. What can we learn from this? It’s not about throwing fish. It is creating opportunities to have fun with what you do. We can get stuck in our day to day work and we don’t make time to really enjoy what we are doing. There are times when it is appropriate and times when it is not. You have to be the one to decide when PLAY can be incorporated, but don’t give up on this because it may be too difficult to decide when is the right time; make time.

MAKE THEIR DAY: The creators of “Fish Philosophy” observed how the workers of the Pike PlaceFish Market interacted with their customers. They saw how they would get the customers involved in what they were doing. They made time for the customers, talked to them, listened to them and made them feel a special part of the work they were doing. Think about how you could make someone’s day.

Whether it is a boss, co-worker, employee, spouse, or your children, think how you could brighten their day and make them feel special. It makes us have a good feeling to be recognized for the things we do, even if we aren’t doing it to be recognized, it still MAKES OUR DAY. Pay attention and send an email, a special note or there are times I will write on a sticky note and put on their computer, just to let them know I observed what they have done.

BE THERE: The workers at Pike Place were “there” for their customers and each other. They listened and were there in the moment. The learning from this is to pay attention to what people say, to be in the moment at all times. I tend to be a “fixer”. I want to fix things or come up with a solution to whatever dilemma that is being told to me. My mind is not always on what is being said at the moment but going quickly to “how can I help”. That is not really “being there”. While I am listening to what people are saying, I am already trying to come up with an answer or solution. It takes discipline to truly be in the moment. It is not easy but it is a vital skill as we exercise leadership. Others do recognize when you are not there or in the moment.

CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE: There is one gentleman at Pike Place who put this so distinctly. I am

paraphrasing but basically it was that he could get up and come to work grumpy and difficult, but he

made the choice the minute he got out of bed that it would be a good day. He had only 3 or so hours of sleep, so he was tired but he CHOSE to have a good day. I remember getting my daughter up in the mornings when she was little and she would be such a grouch. I always told her she could make it a good day or a not so good day by her attitude and that it was her choice. Did she get it? Not all of the time, but

I can’t say I do either. It is a conscious decision. Circumstances can play a huge part in this choice, but I would much rather have a good day than a not so good day. It isn’t always easy to make the choice to have a good attitude, but it is better than the alternative in the long run and could change circumstances.

Exercising leadership is hard and it is risky plus it takes time, which we don’t always have very much of. Being intentional and deliberate while incorporating any of these “philosophies”, making conscious choices to PLAY, MAKE THEIR DAY, BE THERE and CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE will create a different atmosphere in your work environment, your volunteer work and in your home.

For more information on this topic and others, contact Becky Wolfe, Leadership Butler at Website