FISH! Philosophy

In Seattle, Pike Place Fish Market is nearly synonymous with the Pike Place Market. Tourists and locals stand and watch the fish mongers fill orders by throwing fish around the stand.  Everyone, including the employees, laughs and enjoys the atmosphere. This is where the FISH! Philosophy was born. FISH! is a leadership training method that focuses on four concepts to increase collaboration and excitement about work:

  • Choose your attitude
  • Be present
  • Play
  • Make someone else’s day

These concepts are not mind-blowing, and this is exactly why they’re effective. They are easy to remember and easily integrated into daily practice, whether you are a teacher,a an office worker,  or a laboratory professional. Becoming an effective and productive employee starts with choosing your own attitude. For example, when you choose the attitude of empowerment, support, and kindness, you start enacting them. In other words, you become kinder and you support and empower others more easily. As an experiment, I recently said to myself “I am energized and excited” when I was feeling the complete opposite. I started it as more of a joke, to be honest, but the interesting thing is that within twenty minutes, I actually became energized and excited. The power of our attitude is immense and we can all use it to our own and others’ benefit.

To be present is not an easy task. We are often pulled in many different directions, whether professionally or personally. Sometimes we can only think about work when we are at home, or we want to be at home when we are at work. The power of being present comes from acceptance; accepting that we are at work frees us from the resistance that is sapping our energy if we are mentally at home. We have all had conversations where someone wasn’t quite present and we can all remember how frustrating that was. On the other hand, having a conversation with someone who is present makes us feel important, appreciated, and empowered.

Work can be a serious place, especially when lives are at stake. However, there are always moments of play possible, even if it is during breaks or at lunch. If we focus on making someone else’s day, not only do we create a happier work force, we become happier ourselves. We all know how good it feels to make someone laugh, to make someone feel cared for. Perhaps it is something small, like asking if you can bring someone a coffee when you are running out to get one. Or perhaps you leave them a nice note or do a small task for them to make their day easier. I have a notepad with “Awesome Citations.” It is a simple note that I fill out and I hand to someone each week. Making someone’s day does not have to be big or extravagant. It is often the small gestures that people remember.

So go out and be present, while choosing your attitude. Play a little at work to make someone’s day. The simple acts we take every day can transform an entire department and organization. So why not throw some fish and have some fun?



-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


My story begins many decades ago when I was working in the laboratory at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. While my favorite departments were Blood Bank and Hematology, I had the honor of working with Joie Vine and Dr. Hubbard, the supervisor and chief pathologist, respectively, of the microbiology department. Microbiology was my least favorite department, but luckily for me, Dr. Hubbard discovered early on that I loved to learn. Dr. Hubbard was small in stature, yet large in leadership skills.  He knew when to be serious and when to be light-hearted.  That attitude permeated the lab. Dr. Hubbard made it possible for me to go to the AABB conferences and U-Hospital (University of Michigan) for specialized training. As a lab professional, I was living the dream!

It was spring when Joie told me she was going on vacation and was short-staffed.  She asked me to fill in for her during the lunch hour for one week, which would allow her staff to go to lunch.  I said yes.  Everyday Dr. Hubbard would check in with me on his way to and from lunch.  By Thursday, I was really missing Blood Band so I decided to have some fun.  When Dr. Hubbard stopped by microbiology,  I opened a  feces container.  I look at him and said, “hmmm, looks like feces,” held it to my nose, “smells like feces,” and with my finger, I scooped a little and placed it in my mouth. I proclaimed, “it tastes like feces!” He was in total shock.  After a brief moment I burst into laughter and so did he!  I had placed peanut butter in the feces container!

So if you’re thinking you can’t apply the Fish Philosophy to the clinical laboratory environment, remember, we “Choose our Attitude every day.” It feels good to “Be There” when a friend needs us.  I’ll always remember when Dr. Hubbard said that “I Made His Day!” because we took a break from our serious work and played!

Catch the Energy — Lab Professionals are Fun People!



-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

One thought on “FISH! Philosophy”

  1. Lotte and Catherine ,Great article ,FISH Philosophy will enhance leadership skills and improve interpersonal communication in organizations that has formal communication .
    Different timings and scenarios at work needs different behavior and attitude .
    FISH philosophy will give a chance to pick up the right behavior that add efficiency and happiness to the environment in Pathology laboratory .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: