I recently read two very good books,Fish!andFish! Tales. Authors Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen used the famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle as the basis for these tales of boosting morale and unleashing personal growth.

What makes this market so unique is the employees’ enthusiasm and love for their work. They have taken the mundane task of packing, wrapping, and selling fish to another level — that of pure amusement and entertainment, for customers and fellow workers. The workers toss fish, mimic words from the mouths of the fish, engage customers in lively chatter, and make shopping for fish something to look forward to.


The book authors cited the following fundamentals as the keys to creating an engaging work environment:

  • Play — “Work made fun gets done, especially when we choose to do serious tasks in a lighthearted, spontaneous way. Play is not just an activity; it’s a state of mind that brings new energy to the tasks at hand and sparks creative solutions.”

  • Make Their Day — “When you ‘make someone’s day’ (or moment) through a small kindness or unforgettable engagement, you can turn even routine encounters into special memories.”

  • Be There — “The glue in our humanity is in being fully present for one another. Being there also is a great way to practice wholeheartedness and fight burnout, for it is those halfhearted tasks you perform while juggling other things that wear you out.”
  • Choose Your Attitude — “When you look for the worst you will find it everywhere. When you learn you have the power to choose your response to what life brings, you can look for the best and find opportunities you never imagined possible. If you find yourself with an attitude that is not what you want it to be, you can choose a new one.”

    Fish! Tales uses real-life examples to emphasize these fundamentals, describing them as choices that everyone can make. The owners of Tile Technology Roofing Co. in Tacoma, WA, acknowledged that roofing was a hard job (sound familiar?) and often attracted people with hard lives. The owners tasked themselves to teach their people how to grow and to value happiness — a daunting task.

    The company sent their people to Pike Place Fish to learn about attitudes, because the fishmongers were young men like themselves, and were doing a job that few others wanted to do.

    The employees were deeply affected by what they saw at the market. One posted the words “Choose Your Attitude” on his front door and said that as he walks out, he chooses his attitude for the day “then and there.”


    I began thinking about these books and the real-life examples when visiting Randy Seaman, owner of Seaman’s Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration in Grand Rapids, MI. Seaman’s company won the “2002 Commercial Contractor of the Year” award from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).

    Seaman has a refreshing and uplifting attitude toward his customers and his employees. He credits the award to what his team does, not what he does.

    The whole time we conversed, he never started a sentence with “I” — it was always “We.” I think Seaman uses a lot of the Fish! principles, whether he is conscious of them or not. He has a genuine passion for his job, which is very uplifting. I’ll tell his company’s story in a future issue of The News.

    In the meantime, grab a copy of these books. I believe you will be moved by the messages.

    Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); johnhall@achrnews.com (e-mail).

    Publication date: 05/20/2002