“Hi Trina, I hope you are enjoying your week! My name is Steve and I will be happy to review the charges on your bill with you….
“Trina, it was a pleasure sharing this information with you today. We appreciate you as our customer and look forward to resolving all of your concerns in the future. I hope you enjoy the rest of your week!”
I got this email today from my contact Q about an international text and the charges for it. I was expecting a long-delayed response. An auto-generated response saying something like, “Why didn’t you review our FAQ’s first?”
After all, that’s the usual way customer service situations are solved today–in the technological age. In the efficient, quick, and automated age.
But notice I didn’t say, “effective.”
The pared-down, ripped, washboard-abs business model we are encouraged to create actually isn’t very inviting. It becomes so perfect that it’s impersonal. Then when we need to make that rare personal contact with a company….
We brace ourselves for the worst.
Just think how much more progress you’d make if your response is one of levity. Immediately you burst the bracing. You allow both parties to breathe. To resolve the issue and get on with their day.
No drama, no gnashing of teeth.
Humor’s strength is its switch in perspective. They expect the worst—give them the best. They are prepared for a sermon—give them a joke.
You want your organization to perform better, your employees to be satisfied and productive. You know there are certain changes that are needed before this can happen. You’ve tried the usual methods to make change happen and you’ve seen these efforts go down in flames. But rather than fling yourself out of the cycle altogether, you just try harder. And fail more. Here are some ideas why your past efforts at change may have bitten the dust.
Bureaucracy vs. create-cracy. A business plan is wise. Following it to the letter, despite outside envinronmnetal factors is deadly. Sure it’s good to have a plan of action, a template to follow. But too often companies get stuck in worship of the model. That chokes off creative channels.
Distrust of authority vs. trust in one’s own voice. Your employees have probably seen company changes crash and burn. Can you blame them for secretly rolling their eyes at your next change venture? Even worse, expecting them to blindly comply only teaches them to conceal and then snuff out their individual voice. Theirs is the voice that may have the clue to solving your next change situation.
Being jaded vs. feeling joyed. Your people may follow along without complaint: Having a job is wise today. But inside, they are jaded. The more they see the pattern of change-failures erupting in their midst, the more their joy is sucked from their lives. The worst part is that their work-styles will reflect their lack of joy. And so will the company’s bottom line.
Taking the company and its goals too seriously vs. admitting mistakes and accepting defeat. A tough recipe, especially since businesses are not supposed to fail—or at least not admit they’ve failed. But your employees know each of your failures; they probably suffered, too. Maybe they even have a clue as to what you could have done better. Perfectionism is at the opposite pendulum swing from laughter. No humor, no more breadcrumbs along your path toward successful change.
What can you do to help your people and your organization to deal with change? Only one thing: Give them back their sense of humor. You do this by taking the following steps:
1. Give them a sense of belonging TO the change that’s occurring. Rather than merely allowing them to be onlookers.
2. Give them a chance to sense change, contribute to it, and yes even reject it. Hear them out, and let them in.
3. Give up the out-dated model of “leader” because your employees, vendors, and staff are savvy. Their individual lives are progressing, but your model of leading them isn’t.
4. Give in to a sense of joy. Allow yourself to know on a visceral level that change is required. Bracing yourself for change invites fear and poor outcomes.
Accept change and trust it. When you let down your guard, you are in fact letting in those resources that are exactly what you need to move through difficult change.
Dr. Trina Hess’ Humor Academy shows you how to LAUGH through difficult change.
In my humor programs, people have asked me, “What if I work with a boss who has no sense of humor, who
expect me to understand technology, and to do things perfectly?”
I’ve come to the conclusion that when we’re not living our purpose, we’re going to feel out of
Only you know how badly you need that job.
Only you know whether or not it’s your true calling.
Only you know how much you can take, and/or how far you can take any of my humor strategies there in your workplace.
Your boss isn’t here at my programs, but you are. And the strategies I’m giving you are so that you can protect yourself. But if your situation is so far gone that even humor won’t work—even you lightening
up and getting rid of your own stress–that’s the turning point.
That is when you have to realize, “Hey maybe this isn’t ‘living my purpose.’” That’s where humor and laughter enter the picture. They are the keys to getting ‘on purpose’ and living within and maybe even surpassing your potential. The keys to finding out and doing what it is that you are meant to do in this lifetime. Because if you’re that stifled by a boss, if you’re that unfulfilled by a job task, if you’re that unfulfilled in your work, you are not giving the world your best.
The remedy starts with telling yourself the TRUTH.
And that truth is the hallmark of humor & laughter.
What are YOU working toward? How funny is THAT?
Q: Sometimes I’ll see someone giving a medical-information presentation and they’ll add a funny slide from time to time. Some kind of medical cartoon, something the people in the audience would get. Or I’ve seen some presenters joke about themselves: “Some people tell me I have an accent…” I think it makes people seem more interesting and human, and their presentation wasn’t all solely information-heavy.
A: Yes! That goes along with being comfortable with your character or style of humor. The more familiar you are with your skill in getting laughs, the better you’ll know how far to push the envelope. When you’re giving a speech anywhere, you can read the audience. In a professional setting, you can get a sense of your co-workers and audience members—how funny they are, or how far to push the humor.
The best way to improve your sensing is by doing these three steps, continually and consciously:
1. Record the things you say that make other people laugh. You may be surprised at all the funny things you say when you weren’t even trying to be funny!
2. Accept your humor style, even if it’s not what you think of as “comedic”. Other people have validated that it works, that you ARE funny!
3. Get comfortable with transitioning seamlessly into and out of humor usage within your presentations. This will keep your laugh lines more organic and less show-biz.
Q: I’m not a comedian, but I do talks for professional people, sharing medical information. I think humor keeps people’s interest and keeps them awake. Is it appropriate to add some humor from time to time in a professional medical setting, where you’re trying to share important medical information but you also want people to pay attention?
A: I used to say yes, you should use it all the time. But then I started thinking, “Wait a second, do I want my lawyer, do I want my accountant to be funny and joking?”
I can’t answer that question fully, because I usually only work in situations where people CAN laugh, where they’ve been given permission to lighten up, and where they expect me to make them laugh. I’m not a mathematician. You are the expert on your own work environment: the personalities, the level of joking that’s acceptable in your field, the level of lightness.
Just use your judgment. For example, you probably wouldn’t use, “I had this boil on my…” But you could use
1. Humor that is: subtle, fitting, congruent, integrated to your more serious topic
2. Humor that is within your personality style
3. Humor that you sense your audience will be receptive to
How human, entertaining, interesting was YOUR last presentation? How funny was THAT?
Share your humor needs and questions at www.HumorAcademy.com or be part of the entertaining conversations on Twitter & Facebook!
What does laughter have to do with good business?
Does humor really make a difference in how successful you are in business? I know it does!
That’s because humor offers us three keys that are indispensable to business:
1. the big picture view
2. a guard against perfectionism
3. connection with our customers
These keys were blatantly missing from a recent experience I had at a health food cafe. First tip-off was when the clerk informed me that the wrap I was about to order was low-calorie. Ok, nice to know, but not necessary. I am a vegetarian, involuntary non-dairy and I have braces. Isn’t that enough to naviate around? Calorie content usually isn’t even on my culinary radar. I have enough to worry about in the course of an average day.
Soon the owner came over and assured me that, “We make all our food ourselves, and so we control the calorie content.” Now this was getting personal. Did I look like I needed to start counting calories? Did my braces throw them off, and they thought I was an overweight 12 year old? Does this wrap make me look fat?
Here is where humor enters. I am always in the humor mode. Even–and sometimes especially–when I’m upset, irate, or offended. This milieu gives me a constant big-picture view. This humoradar means that I am always on the lookout for irony, potentially sarcastic comments, and opportunities to laugh. At:
1. The BIG picture. Not all women think alike or are focused on the same self-esteem-crushing issues.
1.a. The solution: I could either take offense or realize how little some people know of the big picture. And leave it at that.
2. Anti-perfectionism. We can see instantly that our way isn’t the perfect, or only right way of seeing things or doing things.
2.a. The solution: Our business sense may not be common sense to our customers. Are we standing in anyone else’s shoes?
3. Connecting with comfort. Go beyond the obvious to achieve the universal. What we consider comfortable may prevent us from moving out of our comfort zone and into that of our customers.
3.a. The solution: Practice seeing more clearly, into our shared, universal problems, passions, and purpose.
It’s dangerous to have that much laser-focus on your business that you miss the big picture. Sure, I’m only one customer. But I bought lunch at that cafe and spent $20 on it. If something makes me mad, I write about it. If the emperor has no clothes, I’m going to be the first to post those pictures on Facebook. And (unfortunately or not) people like me are legion.
It’s wonderful to have a strong, excited belief in your products and their value. But without a humor focus, you are selling the wrong benefits to the wrong people. They suddenly stop seeing how great your product is, because their overall experience has chinks dented into it. All because you weren’t able to laugh……..
What’s for sale in your world? How funny is THAT?
Part of the conversation went something like this:
“Every time she buys plane tickets online, she panics. She’ll find a low price, and
then have second thoughts and the price will go up. And then when the price comes back down, she’ll panic again, and buy the ticket. After she hits “Send” she’ll panic again and have regrets.”
I nodded politely and then ducked out, because that friend’s process was also the same that I use when buying plane tickets online!
Why do we do this? I wondered. Why do we panic in the face of choice. The answer lies in the lack. The lack of a humorous perspective underlying the decision-making process.
Unfortunately some people live in this atmosphere at work, at home, in other situations in life. It’s not pleasant. We can’t relax. We can’t focus enough to KNOW for sure that we HAVE made a good decision.
This Week’s Comedy around the World is leaving. On a jet plane. You pick the destination.
What is happening here?
1. The stakes are high. Plane tickets aren’t usually a small purchase. We know we have to make a right decision.
2. We think that because these stakes are so high, our decision has to be the perfect one. Right isn’t good enough.
3. We are paralyzed by the fear of not making a right choice. This fear spills out into other areas that have nothing to DO with purchasing the plane ticket.
4. Your whole life now hinges on your decision. You’d better not have a medical emergency on the date you’re to fly. And no other types of unforeseen happenings had better happen either. There is no leeway for spontaneity.
And so in our workplace it looks like this:
1. The stakes are high. Your wrong choice could cost you your job, respect, working relationships, etc.
2. Naturally our thoughts turn to perfectionism and following its deadly dictate.
3. This path to perfection puts us in a scissor-hold and binds us into a paradox. We’re unable to make a perfect (or any) decision because we know in our hearts that perfection does not exist.
4. We may have experience in witnessing what happens when people mess up. Bosses aren’t tolerant. Co-workers aren’t amused.
5. Because you leapt into the vortex of perfectionism, all other parts of your life must revolve around this central point. Your mind is consumed with how to get things to perfect.
How much easier it is with a HUMOR outlook. Humor is the centripetal force that embraces, encourages, enlivens us to make decisions fearlessly. Humor evokes
* Connectivity to others
When we live with and in HUMOR, we are free to choose and we are free from the fear of being punished for wrong decisions. The HUMOR process unleashes our creative powers and lightens the teamwork load.
Humor keeps us on the edge. Attuned to the changes that happen around, with and to us. But best of all, humor keeps us comfortably OUT of our comfort zone!
I realized this phenomenon when I examined my exercise routine. After all, I’ve seen it all: I’ve run 11 marathons (run is the optimal word, the reality is “completed”). I’ve competed in various sports (I was one of two in our 4th grade who was able to do a cartwheel on the balance beam. Without falling off.). I’ve earned a brown belt in martial arts, and I’ve run every day since my teens.
But this “knowing it all” hasn’t made for success. It makes for boredom. Plateaus. Non-progress.
And so, I hired a trainer to determine my weaknesses and tell me what I SHOULD know!
Merely making the appointment: motivational.
Meeting the trainer and taking that first physical step: magical.
To my surprise and delight, my trainer shared with me that she also gets bored when she “knows too much” about her program and gets too comfortable with the workout.
Working with an expert in the humor field (that would be me) can also motivate YOU to Live Life—Lite! How?
You’ll know the basics on a deeper level. That will—_>
make your understanding more precise, and that will—- >
increase your motivation to en-Lighten Up!
Experts know the intricacies of their art. But even better, they can propel us toward ever-widening goals…
What do YOU know? How funny is THAT? And— > what do you have yet to find out?
The radio ad said, “Come to the Cannes Film Festival!” But the announcer pronounced it as, “cans.”
I felt sorry for the station and the ad writer. Didn’t they know better? And I felt frustrated, like when I hear people pronounce Illinois with an “s” at the end. I tried to suppress my English major tendencies so I could listen to the rest of the ad.
And when I did, I felt sorry for myself.
Because it really WAS the “Cans” Film Festival. Every year, a local small town theater runs a Three Stooges marathon and everyone has to bring 3 cans as a donation to a local food bank! That ad was completely brilliant!
And I missed the point entirely.
What does this say about how we use humor? Sure, people need to be surprised and we need to be overly-clever in today’s savvy marketplace where everyone has seen it all.
But even I wasn’t ready for that play on words. And I do this for a living. Really, check out www.yourshiningexample.com
Made me think about how people CAN (no pun intended…) use humor, if they aren’t “known” as a humorist or comedian.
Here’s a quick checklist to use each time you encounter some humor hazards:
1. The humor that you’re incorporating—is it confusing to your listeners?
2. Does your humor make your listeners mad?
3. Is your humor causing listeners to pity you, thinking you don’t know what you’re talking about?
4. Are you subtle where you should be more blatant?
5. Is your style obnoxious and could be toned down?
Unfortunately I can’t answer any of those questions for you, because everything I do centers around humor. But maybe your situation doesn’t and so you have to bring it in from side door.
Once you’ve pared down your humor truth, you can go further. Examine your style and especially the reactions you get from your humor. The audience will always tell you whether you’re funny. And you will be if you follow these points:
1. Be truthful. The Cannes Film Festival is a real event. But the Cans Film Festival was too new to me, to process right away.
2. Be yourself. If you suddently change your style your message may get lost in the cognitive dissonance.
3. Be aware of connections. How does your humor highlight what you sell, what you say, what you are? Is it connecting people to you or frightening them away?
So think about you and your humor situation. Make sure that people readily “get” your humor, and not miss it like I did with the Cannes Film Festival commercial. Otherwise your wildly clever jokes may be wasted on some unsuspecting perfectionistic English teacher…
You know, I just may go to the Cans Film Festival this year. At the rate I’m going, it CAN’t hurt…
Please don’t read this blog and go away saying, “Trina Hess doesn’t like enthusiastic people. She only wants people to be quiet and read a lot of books.” Well, that second part is true, but it’s also true that I can stand a little enthusiasm now and then.
The problem is when that enthusiasm gets so great that those who are hyped-up lose touch with reality. I’ve been around this phenomenon in various settings. Instances where I felt like an outsider among pod people. I’ve seen and felt it in religious settings, among athletic aficionados, in the midst of political rallies, and of course at soccer games overseas.
”But,” you’re asking, “what’s so bad about being one of those pod people?” The same thing that’s bad about exclusion in general. It limits our influence.
Ironically enough, the solution to avoiding becoming a pod person is the same characteristic that makes humor so great.
When we can relate our enthusiasm to what people can understand, we connect.
When we connect our interest with ways that people can get involved, we inspire.
When we inspire others we convince them to join our pod people.
Enthusiasm is a wonderful quality. But only if we translate it into something that is productive on a larger level. No one wants only a few pod people at their political rally—they want everyone. We want entire stadiums of pod people, who understand our message, who can communicate with us about how to improve our pod ways, and who feel that our pod-ness is enriching their lives.
Who are the pod people in YOUR life?
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