An Often Overlooked Ingredient Of Leadership.

Too often, organizations take themselves too seriously. Leaders can too.

It’s why, in challenging times like these, humor is a gift for the teams and customers you serve. For example, recently when I was driving to Nashville, I passed by this sign.

Well played, Tire Discounters.

When I coach communicators, I often tell them that if you can get the audience laughing early it’s a big step toward winning that presentation.

Granted, not all of us are naturally funny. My mother-in-law once told me, “Jeff, you’re funny on stage.”

Thanks, I think 🤷🏻‍♂️

(Shout-out to my mother-in-law who faithfully reads these emails each week. I hope she thinks this is funny even though I’m currently not on stage.)

There’s certainly a fine line with organizational humor. You don’t want to undermine the credibility of the organization. Still, incorporating laughter and humor into your leadership is a smart idea.

Incorporating humor into your work life, like anything, takes thought, discipline and strategy. Sure, some of us are naturally funny. Apparently, some of us are just funny on stage. Either way, I want to point out three strategies to help incorporate humor into your leadership. It’s often the missing ingredient few talk about.

1. The Rule of Three
This strategy has the punch line at the end of a row of three. For example: “Can I get you anything? Coffee? Doughnut? A better attitude?”

The first two, coffee and doughnut, set up the punch line. It would not be as effective if it was like this: “Can I get you anything? Coffee? A better attitude?

The Rule of Three creates a great set-up.

2. Exaggerated Contrast.
The humor in this example also comes from the contrast of coffee/doughtnut and attitude. The contrast catches the audience by surprise. These two, the Rule of Three and Exaggerated Contrast, are two of the most frequently used by comedians. In fact, watch an episode of a stand-up comedian on Netflix and look for it.

3. Personal Stories.
With all due respect to the first two, this one is more powerful because it includes you. The key here is to become a collector of funny, personal stories.

For example, when my son Cole was a little guy – maybe 5 years old, my Dad gave him a $1 bill. Cole looked at my Dad, at the dollar bill and then back to my Dad and said, “Can you make it a $5?”

My Dad, a preacher, used that story numerous times in a sermon he called, “Can you make it a $5?”

These stories happen all the time. The mistake is that we assume we won’t forget them. We’re wrong, especially the older we get.

When a story like this happens, capture it. Write it down. Put it in Evernote — whatever you use to take down notes. Create a Funny Story file and return to it when you need a story for a leadership moment or talk. It will go a long way toward connecting with your team and those you serve.

This week, show the people you serve you’re FOR them by bringing some much needed laughter and humor to work. It humanizes the business. It puts a smile on their faces. And it certainly won’t be a misteak.

FOR You,
Jeff Henderson

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