Credit: Disney/Pixar

Editor’s Note: Even though it’s April Fool’s Day, this post is not a joke.  Well, it kinda is.  But that doesn’t mean that fun at work isn’t a serious matter.  But not too serious.  OK, I’ll shut up now …

This week, I interview James “Sully” Sullivan – the monster whose story lead to the hit movie Monsters, Inc.   We talk about success, blue hair and the power of joy at work.

Paul: Sully, how did you come to work at Monsters, Inc?

Sully: The truth is Paul that I didn’t do that well in my schooling.  At Monstropolis High School, I paid more attention to girls and monster cars than my grades.

When it came time to pay my bills and be an adult, I didn’t have that many options.  One job that paid pretty well and didn’t require a college degree was being a Scarer at Monsters, Inc.  That’s the utility company for Monstropolis, the city I live in.

Being a big, blue haired monster … well, let’s just say I looked the part and got the job.

Paul: Your job as a Scarer – you were supposed to make children afraid.  Right?

Sully: Yes.  I’m not proud of this – but yes.

You see at Monsters, Inc we had a way to bottle the fear of human children as a form of energy.  Our entire city was run on that. Factories. Cars. Our whole economy.

My job as a Scarer was to sneak into kids bedrooms, find ways to scare them, bottle up the energy, and bring it back to the company.

I got VERY good at my job.  I was the top Scarer in the company for quite a few years, until ..

Paul: The energy crisis, right?  Tell us about the energy crisis at Monsters, Inc.

Sully: Right, the energy crisis.

What we found at the company was that over time it was getting harder and harder to scare kids.  We were getting less and less energy from each scare.

Before long, our whole city faced an energy crisis.

Paul: You found an innovation that changed everything, didn’t you?

Sully: Yes.  It was an accident. I had help from a little girl I’ll call Boo.

The short version of the story goes like this.  One day, through a little mishap, we discovered that there was MUCH more energy in making kids laugh than in trying to scare them.  We didn’t know it at the time, but later testing showed it was 10x more energy.

Think of it – 10 times more energy for the same amount of work!  It was a game changer.

Paul: It certainly brought about changes in both the company and your life.  Tell us about those changes.

Sully: Yeah, it certainly did bring a few changes (he says laughing heartily) …

The previous CEO of Monsters, Inc was Henry J. Waternoose III.  It turns out that Mr. Waternoose and other important figures were heavily invested in the fear-based infrastructure.  They just couldn’t let it go.

But you just can’t argue with these kind of results.  The facts were that the old fear-based way of powering our business were dying.  And, growing a business on the energy of joy was the only way to create a sustainable future.

So, there was a change in the leadership at Monsters, Inc.  I’m the new CEO.

Paul: And let’s get this straight – the company is powered by joy?

Sully: Literally.

We’ve retrained our Scarers.  Now, they make kids laugh and we bottle that up.  It started out as ten times more powerful than fear.  As we’ve gotten better at this laughter thing, it’s now higher than that.

Paul: What’s it like to work at the company now compared to the old days?

Sully: In the old days, our monsters hated going to work.  There were lots of sick days.  Monsters did the least they could get away with and still keep their jobs.  Our customers didn’t like or trust us much.

Now, it’s a fun place to work!  Our employees love coming to work.  We get at least 100 applications for every opening we advertise.  We attract the highest quality monsters in the industry and have won so many awards that I don’t know where to put them all.

Paul: The economies of many important nations – such as United States, many European countries and others – are in trouble.  If you had one piece of advice to world leaders about how to change this, what would it be?

Sully: Our testing has shown beyond any doubt that joy-based work is much more productive.  Most organizations in these countries are based on fear.  It’s not talked about this way, but that’s what’s happening.   You’re never going to see the full potential from an intelligent creature – monster or human – in this kind of environment.

I would encourage world leaders to study and learn from the wonderful research in the field of positive psychology.  There’s so much that business could learn if they’d just listen to the leaders in this field.

Paul: Enough small talk.  What about the blue hair – is it real or do you dye it?

Sully: (Laughing)  Oh, it’s real as real gets …

Paul: That’s all the time we have for now Sully.  I want to thank you for being such a wonderful guest.  If our readers have a comment or a question, would you be willing to respond?

Sully: It’s been fun being here Paul.  Thanks for having me.  And I’d love to answer questions or respond to comments.

Readers, you heard the monster – he wants to answer your questions or comments.  So ask away!  What are your questions or thoughts about the difference between fear-based work environments and those based on joy?

And have a wonderful April Fool’s Day everyone!