4 Keys to Curating a Culture of Joy

We live in a world that is always coming up with new ways to enjoy life. That’s not a new phenomenon by any means, now we just have a way to document it and share it with others in real time. Pictures and quick videos serve as a reminder that there are people out living their best lives—or at least posing like they are—and serve as a reminder that we have “one at-bat” in this life. We might as well enjoy it!


Yet for so many, joy remains elusive. Previous generations worked with the hope that their weekends would be filled with relief and relaxation, and even the occasional vacation would provide a lift. Joy would visit, but only periodically. Now joy is a priority in the workplace. It is not something we vacation to, but it is a reality that we want to experience in the place where we will spend so much of our lives.


I am not exactly sure when the shift was. Perhaps it was as we saw generations before us lose the battle of balancing work and life. We decided that our work environment had to be more joyful. Workplaces started designing their spaces for joy to enter the workflow. I believe the role of a leader now includes being a curator of joy. Joy must be chosen and cultivated. It can grow and it most certainly can diminish. Joy must be protected and seen as the critical piece of the mosaic it is. Joy at work keeps people connected and creates loyalty that is deeper than the commitment that’s commanded.


Joy at work keeps people connected and creates loyalty that is deeper than the commitment that's commanded.Click To Tweet


Throughout my years of working on and leading with teams, here are 4 keys to curating joy that I have found:


  1. Joy Has to be Personal

If you are not a joyful person, it will be difficult for you to foster joy in your workplace. You have to have it before you can develop it in others. Some things you can fake until you make it, but joy isn’t one of them. Joy must be fostered internally before it can be produced or developed in the lives of those we work with. Joy isn’t something you can demand, it is something that you have to model. Once joy becomes a personal posture, you are free to move onto the other keys to creating a joyful work environment.


  1. People over Projects

People are not projects to manage, but images of God to cherish. It’s easy to get focused on the bottom line and hitting the mark. I get it, I understand that too well. But if we are honest, none of us got into roles of leadership because we wanted to manage projects or deliver outcomes. We are in the people business. We want people to experience the full life that comes with following Jesus. We cannot embrace the role of Chief Joy Officer if we are reducing people to what they produce. A joyful heart will not turn people into commodities to be traded. Joy sees the value in people to be much greater than anything they can produce.


  1. Work Hard, Laugh Harder.

How often do you and your team laugh? Seriously, take a quick laughter audit. If it’s hard to remember the last time you and your team laughed until your abs were sore, then it’s been too long. I’m convinced that people don’t need to be reminded to work harder– I think that most of us lost the work-life balance a long time ago and need to be reminded that life should be enjoyed and not endured. Most leaders live with the fear that they aren’t doing enough, and that drives them to forget the things in life that matter. Simple moments have significant impact; taking time to enjoy life is one of those. As the leader, you have the responsibility to create a culture that is conducive to accomplishing mission and vision, but also a place that fosters joy. The office should be a relief, not a place that people seek refuge from. Too many stories exist where the workplace becomes hostile or becomes a place where spiritual language covers a lack of genuine integrity. We have the opportunity to create a place that honors the individuals that work alongside us and provides a place that makes them better.


  1. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Most leaders forget or are unaware of the shadow that they cast. You are respected, and perhaps even feared, whether you like it or not. People hear your words with a stronger tone than you expect. As leaders, we have to be keenly aware of the emotional wave that we create. One of the ways to overcome the tendency to be feared is to not take yourself too seriously. Fight the temptation to be right all time. Allow your people to see you smile, laugh and even be the butt of the joke once in a while. Often times, leaders are trying to protect an image when the better work is to be a curator of joy. A curator of joy knows that a little joy is good, but more joy better. The leader has to set the tone for how the rest of the team will respond. If we don’t take ourselves too seriously, it gives people the freedom to not be perfect, but to be their best.



Begin with cultivating joy in your own life, but don’t stop there. Make sure joy is the hallmark of your leadership and the organizations you lead.  


Related Articles