Founder of Breakthrough Play

Today on Lead With Who You Are we are talking with Gary Ware about the role of Play in our leadership. 

Turns out that with play, you can learn more about who you are so you can lead with it. In my conversation Gary, you’ll learn about the 9 play-types so you can identify which one is yours. 

You’ll get a prompt to help you connect how you play with how you lead and show up in other contexts in your life. 

One of the key takeaways here? You need to make play part of your routine.

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Gary Ware is the Founder of Breakthrough Play and a Play Consultant who helps leaders and companies use play in order to help people and businesses become their most successful and fulfilled selves. 

Turns out that with play, you can learn more about who you are so you can lead with it. In my conversation Gary, you’ll learn about the 9 play-types so you can identify which one is yours. 

You’ll get a prompt to help you connect how you play with how you lead and show up in other contexts in your life. 

One of the key takeaways here? You need to make play part of your routine. 

You can learn more about Gary and Breakthrough Play here.

Get Gary’s book “Playful Rebellion: Maximize Workplace Success Through The Power of Play” here.

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

Dia Bondi  00:19

Tell low this has lead with who you are. I'm Dia Bondi. And on this show, we explore and discover what it truly means to lead with who you are. And we're doing it with people who embody just that. Today we're talking with Gary were about the role of play in our leadership. And it turns out that with play, you can learn more about who you are, so you can lead with it. In our conversation, Gary and I talk about how to do that. You'll learn about the nine play types so you can identify which one is yours, and you'll get a prompt to help you connect how you play with how you lead. Alright, let's go. Hey, just a quick reminder, you can subscribe to this show on your podcast platform of choice. We're live nearly everywhere. And you can always listen to the if there's a leader or innovator in your life, who is it their shiniest when they lead with who they truly are, Please share the show with them. And rate subscribe, and leave us a review makes a huge difference in the reach that the show has when you let everyone else know what you love about the show. Thanks so much. Gary, were the founder of breakthrough play as a corporate facilitator, keynote speaker, certified coach and author of the book playful rebellion, maximize workplace success through the power of play. After experiencing burnout. In his pursuit for success and happiness, he realized that what he was missing was play. Committing to a life of play is what led Gary to discover his passion for facilitating. And Gary uses the power of applied improvisation and other playful methods to assist people in unlocking creativity, confidence and better communication. Gary,


Gary Ware  02:12

what's happening?


Dia Bondi  02:13

I'm so glad to have you. So what's what's wild to me? So I met you before I met you. Well, this is the first time we're meeting meeting. But I met you before I met you because I gave a class at Creative Live, which is still live up there. I don't remember which of the three it was. And I think you pinged me on the you DM to me or ping me on the back end? Or you showed up in the chat or something? Am I Am I not? Am I miss remembering? It was a little of both? Yeah. And I think we there was one exercise that I was teaching in that class about using exaggeration as a way to actually shrink an unwanted behavior in a presenter. Yes. And anyway, I don't know why. I mean, that's like five years ago or something, right?


Gary Ware  02:52

Oh, my gosh, yeah. And, and I remember, yeah, that class. And it was actually, it was one of those things where I saw it. And then I'm like, This is awesome class, I want to go check it out. And I don't even know how it came into my purview. But I'm glad that it did. And then of course, I'm like, Oh, she's amazing. Let me send her a message. And yeah, and the rest is history.


Dia Bondi  03:16

That's great. That's great. And we actually have a few other folks and comments through the sheet, yo Shijo, which is now correlates and some other people, which is kind of wild. So let me just say that I'm having you on, lead with who you are. Because, you know, because you've done that you lead with who you are, I perceive that from a distance. And I want to dig into that. And also because you know, the work that you do, I think can help others do that, too. I want to talk with you today about the role of play in our leadership and in accessing our own sort of resourcefulness and how we can use it as a tool to unearth parts of ourselves that are in fact more resourceful, maybe more regenerative and more rewarding to us and the people that we collaborate with and the people that we lead. And I will say that, you know, I have a hard time with play.


Gary Ware  04:07

It's all good. Most adults do.


Dia Bondi  04:09

I have? I think I have since I was a kid, I had a hard time with play a hard time with joy. It's funny, because my clients would say that I'm fun. But I think one of my sort of secrets is that I struggle with play. And yeah, like that. I use it as a tool. I make myself do it. And when I do, you know I can in fact find myself again. But I find there's a sticking point it's like exercise, you know, where you don't want to do it until you're doing it and then you're like doing it. Yeah, you know, and then you feel great. But it's a struggle for me and for many of my clients and people who participate in programs like our intensive it can be a struggle to they're sort of under Print, you know, folks that I work with are under a pretty serious pressure both in the startup world and established leading established organizations, immense expectations. and that can make things super not fun, and can close up their resourcefulness. So I'm, you know, I'm having you on to talk about the relationship between leadership and play. And I'm gonna go back to the same word of like accessing our own resourcefulness, when we're in a more open state, instead of the state. That is that work begs us to have, which is hyper focused, very compressed under pressure and not spacious. So I want to start with the question that I like to start with in this show, which is, who are you?


Gary Ware  05:38

Wow, that is so deep, all right. At the surface, I am a father to two amazing kiddos, a five year old named Garrett and a two month old named Cameron, two months, right, we're back again. And I'm a son, I'm a brother, I'm a big brother, specifically, I'm the oldest of three. On a deeper level, if you really knew me, you would know that I have ADHD is something that I was diagnosed later in life, when I was almost 30. To be specific, and I'm dyslexic. If you really knew me, you would know that. I'm extremely goofy. I love making making jokes and pulling pranks on people. I'm normally like, a light hearted person, like, you know, outwardly. But I do. I do face a lot of like, anxiety and stress. Like when I'm by myself, I'm like, Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, am I am I doing this? Right? So that's one of the things when people are like, oh, yeah, you're the playground. I was like, Yes. And I also get stressed out a lot. And, and I have to remind myself that play is the antidote. So that's in a nutshell, who I am.


Dia Bondi  07:06

And so when, like, how is it that you discovered play as an adult in the way that you have a relationship to it now?


Gary Ware  07:13

Yeah. And so my rediscovery of play came by accident. And I find it very ironic and funny. Because I was a new executive at a digital marketing firm. I wanted to just optimize my performance and knowing like as a, as a director, I'm gonna have to give more more talks and speeches, and I hate it. Toastmasters. I hated it with a passion. It's very functional, it helps you but it costs so much anxiety. And like, they're always judging me. And so I said, there has to be something else. And a mentor of mine said, why don't you take an improv class? And I was like, what? I'm not I'm not a stand up comedian. I'm not trying to be funny. And he said, No, no, trust me, and trust me on this one, I think you're gonna really like it. And so my intention of taking the improv class was just to optimize my performance to get better at public speaking, I just wanted to go in, take that one class, learn everything I needed to know, and then be able to be a rockstar presenter. And I went in. And to be honest, I almost didn't go to the first class, just because it was a Monday, Monday is really busy in the agency world reports and whatnot. And then I was like, no, no, no, no, no. Your company's paying for this class, you better show up. It's so went, and then I was pleasantly surprised. Most people are, especially if they're not familiar with improv, they have never taken theatre, you know, in college or anything like that. For two hours, we played these silly games. And I was completely captivated. I was, yeah, can you can you


Dia Bondi  08:45

help folks understand when you say games, what you mean, because folks listening might think, you know, chess, like card games, you know, word games like this, set it up, like what improv games really look like?


Gary Ware  08:56

Yeah. And so in order to be able to be on a stage and CO create without a script, you have to essentially practice and their way of practicing are these fun games, that, you know, most of them are in a circle, you're paired up with people, and then you're telling stories, or you're being silly, you know, there are things that help you think on your feet better, and you're going to make lots of mistakes. And there's lots of laughter. And it is not, again, like your typical class where you're going to come in, and someone's going to lecture at you. And then you're going to do some activities. For two hours. We're playing these games that are teaching us deeper lessons. The first thing I learned was that I was a crappy listener. I thought I was a good listener. But then we played a game that was going to exercise our ability to listen, and I found out that I wasn't good at it. And normally, I would judge myself and I'm like, Oh my gosh, I really suck at this. However, improv we have these principles that allow us to do that. And one of the things is, there's no such things as mistakes ever. We think is a gift. And so we celebrate mistakes. So instead of getting down on yourself, we're like, yeah, we made a mistake, you know? And to an outsider looking at an improv class that have no idea what's going on, they would think, are they in the cold? Are they on something? But the cool thing was, I left that class, feeling so rejuvenated. After a stressful day, I went home, my wife honestly thought I had been drinking, I hadn't. But she was like, did you go have some drinks afterwards? I was like, No, I just did this improv class. And so that was the catalyst that was the thing that sparked something in me that wanted to like have more of it, you know, there was all those neuro chemicals in the brain that was dopamine, endorphins, and whatnot. And I was like, Wow, this was fun. I really liked this. And again, yes, as a serious professional, it was a little bit challenging. And it wasn't until years later, where I really started to dive into the psychology of claim we can get into this, that plays a very vulnerable experience, where you were just being your true authentic self, and as an adult, and, you know, we've been conditioned to, you know, oh, you keep that part of you at home, when you're at work, you need to be the, or it, I'm a professional, and I talk like this, and I don't expose anything that may make me seem weird or different. And so it was a little bit challenging at first, but when I let go, it was it was very invigorating, and it made me want to, I was like, Alright, I've been missing out on some stuff. And it made me want to explore and go deeper.


Dia Bondi  11:32

So it was very interesting that you point that, you know, it is an act of vulnerability to play with others. And even you know, as an adult, that might even get exaggerated. What does play do for us? When it's, you know, structure plays you're talking about? Or maybe it's not structured play. But there's What does play do for us, I heard you say already, like, you learned that your listening skills were not as sharp as you thought that you were able to produce some chemistry inside your body that was good for your restorative, you know, set for restoring yourself, what else does it do for us? All right.


Gary Ware  12:15

And this is for all the professionals that are like, oh, you know, I've heard about this play stuff. And it was a do for me, here are the benefits. When you're in a play like state, it helps you navigate, change, embrace uncertainty, deal with overwhelm, and burnout, it helps you be more innovative, and it helps you collaborate better with others. And you do this all in a pleasurable state. So those are just a few of the benefits. It also, you know, helps you, you know, be perceived as someone that is better looking, it enhances your, your sex life, you know, it makes you live longer, you know, there's a lot of data that suggests that people that have playfulness, and, and play as a high value, they tend to live longer. So those are just some of the benefits of you know, living a playful life.


Dia Bondi  13:13

So when we, okay, so those are all awesome things, where do I get them? Oh, we get them at play. But I also recognize there's resistance that we can have. I mean, I, you know, is really resonant for me when you share that you weren't gonna go to that class on Monday. And then you were like, alright, just have to go, you know, making, putting your body in a place where something can happen and making yourself do it when there's so much temptation resistance to, to actually saying yes to it is really, I don't know, that's a very familiar experience for me, I have to make myself do things because I know that once I'm in it, something can emerge. But when you facilitate play for leadership groups, and you engage your room in play, what is it that you see folks resist?


Gary Ware  14:11

I think the biggest thing is, we have this perception that it's frivolous is a waste of time, we're acting silly. And to some people that's like, no, no, no, no, I don't got time for this. You know, I have other things. And if we're honest with ourselves, our to do lists are longer than a CVS receipt. They are so long, they are like Gremlins that it reproduces every night. And yeah, if if your perception of play is something childish, something that kids do as an intelligent adult, yeah. Why would you want to engage in that when there are so many other things that you could be doing? So that's the first thing is getting people to realize that this is something that's beneficial. Interesting point. As you know, I live you know, we both live in and California, and we drive a lot. We all know that it's important to take care of our cars get oil changes and whatnot. And we don't, you know, we, you know, yes, I may not do it as much as I should. But I know that's an important thing. And I prioritize that the things that we're doing through play and playfulness is like that. Preventative maintenance with our body with our minds, however, we've been conditioned to think that it's not and so therefore, our body has this resistance to it. What are we so afraid of? Some of the biggest things, if we were really honest with ourselves, we were afraid of uncertainty, what's going to happen when I really allow myself to be vulnerable and play, people are going to make fun of me, you know, it, like, I feel like there's this unconscious thing that goes back to when we were kids. And, and we, you know, it was the first time that we were meeting with, you know, on the playground, and, and we didn't want people to think that we were weird. And so, you know, we we put up this wall, we put up, you know, these masks, and they stayed up, you know, we locked the kid away, you know, in the tower, like Rapunzel. And yeah, we don't want people to know that we're weird, or that we make mistakes. Because, yeah, I


Dia Bondi  16:12

think you know, that it's interesting that you point to that I find also that play doesn't have to be goofy and clown full. Okay. Like when I've engaged in, I've experienced some applied improv, and I've used it as a tool and some of my facilitation. And it, it is really obvious that play can be a serious activity, yes. Meaning, it's a tool you can use to elicit certain learnings or attributes, or I started this conversation with like, internal resourcefulness to discover your own genius in a particular space. But because it's in this play category, we think of the toy store, we don't think about architected experiences that elicit something that's actually quite useful for us. And I know, you know, as a leadership communications coach, I do a lot of work with folks in very high stakes situations, and credibility is absolutely paramount. So how do we, how do we reconcile, you know, the say yes to play, and also let our credibility coexist?


Gary Ware  17:32

Yes. The first thing is, to redefine play, just like what you mentioned, that there are so many different facets of play. Yes, there's the sort of recreational play. Matter of fact, Dr. Stuart Brown, who wrote the book on Play, says that there are different play personalities, different play archetypes. And that's important to note, most people when they think of play, they think of the jokester, or they think I'm foolery is, or they think of the ultimate like competitive person, you know, there's playing athletic sports, yes, right, or family game night or whatever. Yes, those are types of play, you know, other types of play, just like what you mentioned, is a way to sort of deep in our minds, because play happens in a low stakes environment. And it's simulation, as you know, to our brain, our brains like, oh, yeah, you know, we're sort of playing around. It's not very serious. It's low stakes. But the interesting thing is, our brain doesn't know the difference between dream and reality. So when you're playing in a low stakes environment, you're getting the rep set, so that when the stakes are higher, you are more likely to do the thing that you've been playing. You know, when when it's


Dia Bondi  18:53

off the field, you're basically, you know, my daughter plays softball, and they say, practice how you play. Yep, meaning what your whatever you're doing off the field, you need to you need to recognize it is going to show up on the field. So you want to be, you know, making that continuity as often as possible, which is not meaning, which is not to say it's constricting, it's just to say that, like, the way in which you're practicing off the field is going to show up in you know, on the field, even in low stakes, even you're just playing catch.


Gary Ware  19:22

Yeah, agreed. And forgive me, I forget the name of the researcher who did this. They found a very striking correlation between how we played as a child to how we show up as an adult. They surveyed 1000s of women, and they asked him how, like women that had Barbies and dolls, they asked him, How did you play with them? And then they researched and surveyed how they act now. And they found that you know, in some cases, you know, the, the gal that looked at their Barbie or dolls and like, oh yeah, she's a working woman and she does this this and As she acts very similar, you know, now, and again, because we got those reps and again, it's a low stakes environment. Our brain is just getting the reps but


Dia Bondi  20:11

very interesting like it surfaces I think, you know, in applied improv and folks who are listening who are curious about and applied improv can obviously look up carry wares site and also, you know, find an opportunity to participate in this in your own community, I'm sure there are improv studios that allow you to invite and host classes open to the public. But there is something about, you know, the way you come to a particular structured, playful game, right structured, I keep saying structure, because what I mean is, this isn't just like, everybody get in a room and make it up. It's everybody get in a room, and we're gonna set up a thing for you to do and then you engage in it. And then you debrief what you saw and understood so that what you what you bring to the game, and the way you play, it will reveal to you as you said, these are what did you you didn't say test events, what did you say you said, simulate these simulations, right? That you then get to reflect on what you brought, where you may have limited yourself, where you held back where you engaged, what lit you up, what you missed, what your level of listening was, all of these things that help us see ourselves and bring our more bring what we have to offer,


Gary Ware  21:23

to the fore? Yes, and that you can build on it.


Dia Bondi  21:27

And in that way, to me, this is about accessing a way to lead with who you actually are. I mean, you even shared that I learned that I was a terrible listener. And and I, in my experience doing applied improv, I learned so much about how much shutting up is so good. Shut up, DIA.


Gary Ware  21:48

Yeah. Just listen, just be there. And and you're absolutely right, I have this, I like to say how you play anything's how you do anything. And so when you asked about, like, these executives, and and how do we get them like sort of out from crossing their arms into the loo and being engaged? That's usually it when we start to play these games. And I like to say these games are like a Trojan horse, where, yes, they're, you know, we say we're working on one thing, but I just let people just play, just play the game, just play the game. We'll talk about it later. And it uncovers so many different things about their personality. And then they're like, Oh, I didn't know that. So if I can tell a quick story about this executive, I, it proves the point. This executive so we're playing this group game, where everyone was just sort of walking about the space. And then I gave them different ways of acting around each other. And one thing I said, everyone you bumped into, act like, you know, they have cooties, and then are every time you're around someone ignore them, or every time you're around someone make eye contact, and, and so you know, we're doing these different modalities. And then afterwards, you know, we just discussed, Hey, how did it make you feel when everyone did X? And when I said, ignore, I, you know, said, Hey, how many people do that feel comfortable, normal, and this executive raises, and oh, yeah, that's so normal. And I said, How many people didn't like that. And then this other person, she raised her hand, and she said, Yeah, I felt alone, I felt like people didn't care about me. And in that moment, that executive made a connection with how they show up in the office, and how they were potentially causing. And this is their words, a wave of despair, as they went from their office, to the break room and back, because they were so caught up in their work, that they weren't making eye contact with their their co workers and colleagues. And they just thought that was just normal, just because they were quote, unquote, busy. And then they realized, wow, has an impact, it has an impact. And that was just through a silly game.


Dia Bondi  23:54

Yeah. So when do we use play, because, you know, I think it can be more at our fingertips than then, you know, the way you and I are talking about it right now. It's, you know, take a half a day and go take a class, you know, but I think there are opportunities for it to be more at our fingertips, and built into the way in which we, we activate ourselves, you know, time over time, day, over day, week, over week and and just to share, you know, my my son is a he listens to music, I love music grew up listening to music, big role in my life. It's in our house a lot. And I invited my son. Just to tell the story. I invited my son. I was like, Hey, let's go see some live music together. But that's something we haven't done yet. And he and I had offered him a couple of different choices. And he said, at one point, he said, Look, Mom, I'm happy to go with you, but I don't really care. I was like, What do you mean, but you listen to music all the time. He said, Yeah, but I don't use music, the way you use music, you use music, to add to your life and to win Enjoy yourself, I use music as a tool for concentration. When I'm stuck on math, if I'm listening to music that has a lyric, I might shift my attention from the math, I'm stuck on to the lyric itself for just long enough that when I gaze back at the math, it'll unlock something for me. And I can, I can keep going. I use it as an unlocking tool and as as a concentration tool. But I don't actually need music in my life in the same way you do. So it's a really interesting example of using an art or you know, a creative asset which play could maybe think of as a creative asset as a way to unlock something. And he uses it every night when he's doing math homework, we know how can we fold play into our leadership lives more regularly, in order to access the parts of ourselves? Or to get those reps that mattered how we show up with our teams?


Gary Ware  25:55

Yes. First thing is to understand that play is a can be a stimulant, it can be a rejuvenator, it can also be something to relax you, as well. So it depends on what is your outcome? Is your outcome to be more creative is your outcome to rest the brain? And so that's, again, the first thing to understand what are you trying to do it? You know, as you mentioned, a day like for you, it's an immersive experience where you can go and maybe escape for your son, it is a concentration tool, you know, using music. And so that's the first thing is understanding, like, what are we solving for? And that's helping us be more intentional with how we use play. Because, again, previously, people just thought, Oh, it was just a waste of time. You you go and you play and you're not gonna get anything done? Well, yes, in some cases, that happens. But guess what, that can happen with anything. You can use your exercise routine, as an escape and not get any work done. You know, you there's so many things that can be a distraction,


Dia Bondi  27:01

how many meetings do we have? Or no work gets done? Exactly, yes.


Gary Ware  27:05

And so this is where we can be intentional about our plate, I like to say, there are three types of rest, most people don't realize that there is macro rest. So that's getting you know, sleep at you know, at night. There is. So that's macro, there is micro arrest, this is where play can come in. These are the my many moments throughout the day, where you need to step away from your work. And this is where having a play break can be just the perfect thing. And again, the type of play that you do is going to be very personal to you. I can tell you how to figure out what play might be appropriate in just a moment. But these moments, these many moments, we mostly just go on our phone, check email, or we scroll through social, that's not giving our brain a chance to rejuvenate so that we can jump back into the work and be more productive and be more focused. And then there is mezzo breaks. This, so many executives have a hard time with this mezzo breaks is where you actually step away for the work from the work for an extended period of time. And exaggeration of this is the sabbatical, you know where you're like, Hey, I'm going to go away for blah, blah, blah. And again, by stepping away from your work and involving yourself in so many other things. You can you know this where you get the inspiration and stuff, if you don't have the ability to do that. I like to say, well, we can all spare maybe two hours, maybe on a Friday, where we intentionally step away from the work. And maybe that's where we go take a class of something that interests us. And it doesn't necessarily have to be tied to your work. Because guess what, we always make connections, but the fact that we are stepping away from the work and we're engaging in something that is pleasurable, that is something that is interesting for us that we can be curious. And that is the third type of rest. And all of those play a part in us being our whole selves. So


Dia Bondi  29:03

share with us how we decide what to play you said a minute ago, like how do we decide what what the play is that we might engage in recognizing completely that, you know, as you mentioned before, not all play has to be tomfoolery, it can very well be some serious play. So help us understand how we can figure out if folks are listening and they're like, what might I do?


Gary Ware  29:27

Yes. And so these were adapted from Dr. Stuart Brown, these are these are nine play personalities. And for each personality, you know, the play is different. And so I'll go through each of them. And then you know, as you're listening, you will realize, oh, you know what, yeah, this is this is for me, or or this is interesting. I didn't realize that this is type of play. So the first one is the Joker and again yes, this is the tomfoolery if the Joker is your play personality, it it revolves around some Got a fun and nonsense you'd like practical jokes. You know, you'd like being silly, you're comfortable being see, let's just say that and you like to make people laugh that again, that's where I like to play in a good portion of the time. And then we have the kinesthetic, this is playful when you are doing some sort of movement, you know, could be yoga dance is not about the competition with this type of play. It's just about, you know, getting your body involved.


Dia Bondi  30:29

That's 100% me like already, I'm like ding, ding, ding that one right there. Yeah, I could have a three song dance party in the middle of the day. That's very useful to me,


Gary Ware  30:39

boom, there we go. And then we have the Explorer. And for the Explorer, you'd like to explore new places, or gather new experiences through travel, you know, adventure, you can explore through meditation, through music, you know, if you're just sort of diving deep into something, you know, that's the Explore. And then we have the competitor. Again, this is where a number of people look at play here. And with the competitor, you'd like very specific rules and playing to when you feel exhilarated when you're competing, like on the sports field, or even against yourself. So that's the competitor play personality.


Dia Bondi  31:18

So that would be for example, I'm just going to share that, you know, my husband will step into step he runs what you would look kind of looks like a construction company. It's not, but it looks like that they'll step into the yard and play three rounds of pretty competitive table tennis as a break.


Gary Ware  31:38

Yeah, again, and for them that is play. And I'd like to say for all of these, when you're engaged in it, time goes by like that. You are challenged in just the right way. And you're immersed in the experience. As a researcher, me Hi, Chick sent me I will say you're in a state of flow when you're in that. And then there's a few more. The next one, I like to say is my five year old is the director and with the directors, your play personality, you love organizing, planning, orchestrating events, you'd like to plan other people's roles. You are comfortable being the one that is pointing everything out. Like I said, my five year old, anytime, anytime we play, he's like, alright, we're playing this game. And it's gonna go like this and data, you're gonna be better you go over there you go over there. Yeah, he's like, you're not doing it. Right. You know what that but again, he loves it. And, and other people do as well. I like to say, my middle sister is the director and which is great. Because, again, these ways of playing I'd like to say, I like to ask people, you know, what's your play personality? And what superpowers does it give you my middle sister is the one that is always planning everything for the family, like, Alright, cool. We were having, you know, a family get together. We go to her. And we're like, alright, what are our roles? What do you need to do? And she is like, so good at it. And she does not even mind?


Dia Bondi  33:07

Yeah. Because it's playful. It's has a play attributes for her. Yes,


Gary Ware  33:11

right. She loves doing it. She can do it all day, every day. And the next was the collector. So what the collector play for you is all about gathering interesting objects or experiences.


Dia Bondi  33:23

That's so beautiful. Like already, as you say that I think of one of my best friends. We do some nature trips together, we go camping together, and she will all if I can't find her. I know that she's on a walk. picking up rocks.


Gary Ware  33:38

Yeah. And that is played for her and like she's engaged in it. You know, people that collect memorabilia for them, you know, it's play. I know, for my dad growing up, he was always into collecting baseball cards, football cards. You know that that was like his jam. I think a lot of it rubbed off on me. You know, we're I love you know, collecting like, so for this podcast, you you can't see what's going on. But behind me is a whole bunch of Star Wars stuff. And again, I love collecting it. My son doesn't realize that that it's a collection. Not necessarily a toy, but it's all good. But yeah, my dad will go to Comic Con. And then every, every day comes back with more stuff. And my mom's like, really, we're gonna put on this stuff. Anyways, but that is played for him like he loves like art, what is he missing in his collection? And, and so yeah, that is play, we have a few more. This next one is associated with play. And this is where people again get turned off because it's not necessarily their play personality. This is where the artist and creator is the play personality. So you'd love to make things. So it can be things that are functional, like pottery or whatnot, or, you know, things with 3d printers, or even things that are silly. It could be gardening, cooking. You know anything Where you are sort of being an artist, you know, and expressing your creativity that is play for you. Now, the interesting thing about this, where it goes from play to not play for some people is once you're forced to have to sell this, because again, this was something that you want to just did for fun for you. And then someone's like, oh, wow, you're so good at making those purchases, you should set up an Etsy shop and just sell them. Now it's a job and not play. Yes. And then the next one is the storyteller. So your play focus around fantasy and imagination. So the storyteller could be something like theater where you're acting it out or improv, but it could be you immerse yourself in movies, or books. And so I was working with someone who she grew up in, in England, around like the 50s. And it wasn't necessarily a happy place to be there. And she was saying, you know, she didn't play and based on the old rules of play, you would be right, she, she didn't go out and, and play with balls or sports. But she did love to read. And after sort of working together, she realized, like, Oh, that was her play. Matter of fact, she's written poems and stuff like that, again, not for anyone else's ears or eyes, but for herself. But she loves a good book. Matter of fact, in her office, she has the most amazing bookshelf full of like books and stuff. So actually, she's probably a bit of collector, and a bit of storyteller as her play personality. And then the last play personalities, the connector, and for this person play is most forms of social play, you know, good party or networking event for them. You don't have to be in charge. But if you around connecting with other people, it's enjoyment. And it's play. So those are the play personalities. And hopefully, by me going through them, you, you know, start to realize like, oh, yeah, some of these I can resonate with. And you know, like you said, did like you immediately saw someone else, you know, that you do. And that was their dominant play personality.


Dia Bondi  37:10

Yeah. And it seems like you can find, you know, some of these are ones that it would be easy for us to reject in ourselves. Yes. You know, to that, because somebody else can understand our what collecting is for us, it's easy to say, Oh, this is I'm a packrat. Or it's easy for someone to say, you know, you're bossy when really directing is your play personality. Yeah. So there's something very interesting about embracing and naming and claiming these, and in and engaging with them intentionally, you know, for 15 minutes at a time, if it's a walk around the block looking for rocks, or if it's spending 15 minutes asking one of your colleagues to tell you about something, you know, asking a powerful question that turns into a story and engaging your own storyteller, play type in connection with someone else, you know, there are opportunities for us to use this and not try to twist it into something that's not great. Or to deny this play type for us, when it is a way that we can tap back into who we are, and reconnect and create, and allow us to tap some of those hormones and chemicals in our bodies that make us more resourceful.


Gary Ware  38:24

Yes, exactly. And can I tell a quick story about someone that rediscovered their play during the pandemic? Because of this? Yes, please. So this person was having, you know, a decent amount of anxiety, as we all were, you know, between 2020 and 2021. But for them, their main form of play was the Explore, you know, they love travel. And again, if that is your main form of play, and it's cut out because of the pandemic, because we can't travel, yes, it makes sense why you're going to feel just not hold. And you're, again, if you didn't know about this, and you sort of did it unconsciously. And now, part of you is missing. So nonetheless, we did with Dr. storebrand, recommends in situations like this, to do a play history. And that just means look back in your past. How did you used to play? And can you find clues that can give you a new path to play? And so for, for this individual, she used to collect dolls, and she loved playing with dolls growing up, and she was like, Look, I'm not gonna go buy a Barbie. And I was like, no, no, no, no, that is not the point. What else can What else can you do with that? You know, why did you like collecting dolls? What did you do with it? And she found out she loved like, nurturing them too. So it was like, Yes, I collected all of them. But like, yeah, I played dolls. And I was the mom and the stepmother and I said, is there something else that you can collect and nurture? And she thought and then she He like, Well, I always wanted to, you know, jump into gardening or plants, but I never really thought I had a green thumb. And I was like, well, we have a lot of time on our hands, since you really can't go anywhere, is there's something that you can sort of play with. And again, this the thing with play, you know, in saying that word is you make it an experiment, you make it very low stakes. And so she decided she would take up, you know, succulents. And so she, you know, got one succulent and she, you know, did some research into, like, how to take care of it, which turned into five succulents, and then she started learning how to propagate them. And now, you know, years later, she has over 250 succulents in her home that she happily takes care of. And again, for her, it's played, and it's that thing that she can go off to, that gives her a reason to step out of the work. Because she didn't have that. And now she has something to look forward to. So now she's, you know, feeling better about herself. Again, the stress and stuff is still there. But she has something that, again, has always been there, since she was a child that she can tap into now, as an adult.


Dia Bondi  41:13

So how I'm going to come back to this idea of play and leadership. So how do we, you just made a beautiful connection between, you know, a, an early life hobby, and, you know, collecting and curating caring for adult collection that I can see now a complete solid line to collecting, caring and nurturing for, you know, a collection of plants like, yeah, they seem disconnected until you actually look, you know. So that's a beautiful journey for us. Can you can you also connect then, for us one more time? What the, how we connect play, and our leadership?


Gary Ware  41:54

Yes. So I like to ask people, What is something that you'd like to do when you were young? And what superpowers Do you think you got from that? So I'll give you an example. One of the things that I really love doing as a child, in addition to playing pranks on my sisters, I loved just building with Legos. And it wasn't necessarily just getting, so I grew up in the 80s. So it was before all those really cool Lego kits that are out now. It was just like, here's a box of Legos.


Dia Bondi  42:25

Yeah, it was blocks. Let's be real. Yeah, were like, they were just five shapes. And that was it. Yeah, I


Gary Ware  42:30

guess, you know, and there was no internet where you could like, sort of look up stuff. And so I was essentially just forced to just like, be be curious and put things together. And so I would just love spending just time building, building the shapes. And I like to, you know, think that spending that much time with it helped me start to see things from a different perspective, I am really good at being able to hear different sides and seeing things from a different perspective, and seeing things that most people will just overlook. So that is a superpower that I feel like I got from playing with Legos. And then again, once you start to realize what your superpower is, and we're in the day and age where, you know, it's important to focus on our strengths rather than our shortcomings, then we can say, how can you continue to us that you know, and so as a leader, you know, if maybe one of your superpowers is, you know, the fact that, you know, you like, let's take the one gal, like, you know, nurturing and whatnot, you know, alright, as a leader, how can you, you know, be a nurturing leader without being over with, with what's the word, overbearing, overbearing? Yes, exactly. And then now you have a path to start to, like, realize, like, oh, yeah, you know, I can let people do this. And I can give them space for this. So now, like, again, we're using our creativity, which comes from play, to really look at our superpowers or strengths and start to hone in on them.


Dia Bondi  44:04

So I hear that as a prompt of like, what does our play and the way in which we play tell us about ourselves? Yes. And how can we use that in the way in which we lead with who we actually are? Yes. Gary, tell me if you were to answer this question, how might you do that? And just a few sentences, what is what does it mean for you to leave with who you are?


Gary Ware  44:31

Well, I feel like when you are leading with who you are, you are accessing all that you like everything about you. If you are sort of cutting part of yourself off for you know, because you don't think it's accept or whatnot. You know, it's almost like operating with with one arm, you're not gonna be as effective as you could be, you know, if you lead with who you are, and then on top of that, because As leading with who you are, is an act of vulnerability. It does. It does elicit more trust from the people in your care. And that is, that is very important. You know, and then on top of that it gives others permission to be who they are. And that is a ripple effect.


Dia Bondi  45:19

Beautiful, Gary, where can people find you? And what can they do with you?


Gary Ware  45:24

So if you listen to this, and you're like, Wow, this is really interesting. I'm curious, I'm intrigued, you can go to my website, you know, breakthrough, where you can learn about the various offerings that I have, all the musings that I have about play and the benefits of play. And if you are interested in you know, diving deeper, either for your team or individually, I have, you know, you know, we can have a chat. I also recently just released a book called playful rebellion, maximize workplace success through the power of play, where I, you know, go deeper into the things that we were talking about today. And the reason why it's called playful rebellion is just what we were talking about. We have this tendency to reject a play. And so in order to really reap the benefits, sometimes we have to rebel against our former selves, that are conditioned to think that plays just for kids. So that's available from my side as well.


Dia Bondi  46:20

Such a joy having you on leave with who you are. Gary, thanks so much for being with me.


Gary Ware  46:24

Thank you, DIA is such a pleasure. Thanks for having me.


Dia Bondi  46:29

Lead with who you are is a production of Dia Bondi communications, scored, mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams, the third and executive produced by Mandy Miranda, you can reach out to us at Hello at DIA Or leave us a voicemail at 341-333-2997 you can like rate, share and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite podcast. Go to for shownotes and to learn about all it is that we do to help you speak powerfully and lead with who you are

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