Santa Claus and the Elf

I had a one-on-one meeting with Lee over the holidays when I was at Epcot.  I asked if we could meet at the American Adventure pavilion.  Lee arrived right on time and promptly walked right past me with a cheery greeting of “Hi, Santa!”  Somehow he didn’t recognize me under my white beard, hair and eyebrows, with a large Santa belly and bright red costume, all provided by our Entertainment team.  We had been shooting the holiday video for our Cast Members, and we had fun dressing me as Santa to tell our Cast that they were the greatest gift our Guests could ever have.

As a leader, you have the power to make your workplace fun.  High-performing teams have fun leaders. Have some fun today!

Santa Claus and The Elf

I think we’re having fun. I think our customers really like our products.
And we’re always trying to do better.
Steve Jobs
 If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
Dr. Seuss

As part of the preparation for the Naval Nuclear Power Program Engineer’s Exam, candidates meet with different submarine commanding officers to be quizzed and learn about the most unique situation the CO had ever faced. After a few questions and stories, one of the Captains told me about his leadership style. He said, “If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t doing it right!” I was somewhat taken aback by his comment in the middle of a very serious discussion. But, as I thought about it, I realized that his boat was the top performer in our squadron, and his crew had high morale.

In my leadership roles, I have always tried to make work fun. We spend far too many of our waking hours at work for it to be so serious. Some leaders believe that work should always be serious, and any “fun” should take place after hours. The facts prove otherwise, with happier employees boosting returns. Based on a study by Alex Edmans of the Wharton School, companies listed in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” had 3.5% higher equity returns per year than those of their peers over a 25 year period. One of the key determinants of employee satisfaction is having fun at work—fun does equate to financial success.

There are many ways to inject fun into work, but I have found one of the best is to have the leader dress up in an unusual costume. I have been Elvis, an elf, Santa Claus, a surfer dude, a Roman statesman (in a toga, of course), a pirate, and countless other characters.

When I led one of the major finance teams at Disney, I was responsible for the monthly Cast Member recognition program. Turnout had been sparse, and interest in the program was dwindling. The recognition team asked me if I would be willing to dress in a costume if they came up with a theme for each month. I agreed, and we soon had a packed crowd, eager to find out if Brad was really going to deliver as promised, such as dressing up as a ladybug for the Spring Fling. (I was a pretty good looking ladybug, if I do say so myself!) Each time was immense fun for the team, and created a lasting memory. Many years later, I have had employees reminisce about these events; “I remember when you dressed up like Elvis for the awards ceremony.”

While some leaders might refuse this approach and say it is “undignified,” I have found people have greater respect for a leader who has the confidence to serve his or her team by putting on an outlandish costume. Surpassing leaders of the best-performing companies make having fun a high priority, and create a fun working environment.

Action Points

• Make your work environment fun

• The more intense the pressure, the more important it is to inject fun

• Dress up in a costume, especially for recognition programs and holiday videos


Improved morale, more satisfied employees, a reputation as a confident, respected leader

This excerpt is from Chapter 41 in The Surpassing! Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence.  To find out more about the book and sign up for a free weekly tip for life and leadership excellence, go to

If you want to see a world class team have fun, watch our U.S. Olympic swimming team performing in this video,      U.S.A.! U.S.A!



  1. Brad- I have enjoyed reading your blogs- and sorry I missed seeing some of those costumes! All the best, Kristen (Vaughn) McNab.

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