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Put yourself on the line

Put yourself on the line
Football Field

“Why don’t you join me on the line?” Do you think I’m inviting you to get on a conference call? Is the football player in you visualizing the scrimmage line? Does ‘on the line’ mean anything in particular to you?

The line that we’re going to look at today is the line that separates risk from safety. It separates the unpredictable from the predictable. It divides security from opportunity. The line also separates variety from sameness; possibility from lack; and adventure from monotony.

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As we’ve grown most of us have created a line that we don’t cross. The side we’re on is comfortable, familiar, and secure. We have developed a great life on our side of the line. It includes a good circle of friends, colleagues we trust and enjoy, a lifestyle that fulfills, and work that sustains. An example of this is living in an area where we know our neighbors, working at one company for an extended period of time, and engaging in a regular activity such as the tennis league. It is illustrated in driving the same route to the office day after day, stopping at the same convenience store for coffee every day, and reading the same author over and over. Any risk on our side tends to be minimized and controlled. For example, a person might play as a guest on your hockey team. As a guest he’s been invited and approved by someone you trust. Little risk that he’s going to be a mismatch for the personality of the team or an outright jerk.

The other side of the line can also be comfortable and even better than where we are now. If we don’t cross the line by a distance, we might simply move our line out farther and add something to the mix we have now. Benefits of experiencing the other side can range from a new job opportunity, a new locale with more like minded people, or expanded prospects. The other side might simply include things that make our life better. That might mean new conveniences, fewer stresses, welcome cross pollination of ideas. It might expand our capacity to try more because we’ve gone to a place we’re frightened of and succeeded. The benefits are probably unseen because we’ve been comfortable on our side of the line.

Let’s cross the line and do something over there. This does include taking a risk and probably getting out of our comfort zone. It is also likely to build our bravery, increase our inventory of good stories to share with others, and bring us new friends and opportunities. Think of the kid who always asked the pretty girls for dates. He was turned down many more times than accepted. Yet, by simply asking there was the chance that she might say, “Yes.” And some girls did say yes. This guy probably had the ability to bounce back from rejecting, creative ways to approach the girls, and a lot of fun. He likely didn’t take the rejection as a blow to his ego but looked at rejection as simply the need to redirection his attention and try again. Resilience describes that guy!

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So let’s get ready and cross the line with something small like driving a different route to work or big like replacing the usual vacation location for somewhere new. The whole idea is to grow, have fun, and experience something fresh.

Let’s list a few possibilities to serve as triggers for you to decide what to try.

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  • Eat lunch with someone different once a week for the rest of the year so that you meet someone interesting and increase your business network.
  • Get a recommendation for a new author in your favorite genre. Amazon’s suggestions is a place for ideas. Enter you favorite author and Amazon will say, “People who buy this also like….”
  • Try instant messaging if you’ve been technology challenged.
  • Dress in a style that someone else identifies for you. Invite someone with a look you like or whose taste you appreciate to help you select the top, bottom & accessories and give it try.

Let us know what you try and how it goes. The alternative is to stay in same old same old ~ hope you love it there if you do.

Susan Sabo is the creative mind at ProductivityCafe.com. She works with clients to help them get the right things done and to get home at a reasonable time. Her biggest step over the line was into the mountains of Nepal – Torang Pass at 18,000+ feet. Her toes got nipped with frost bite while her limits were reset beyond all previous boundaries.

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Last Updated on June 12, 2019

Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

Humor and laughter provide so many rewards. Studies have shown 20 seconds of laughter yield the same benefits as 3 minutes of hard rowing. A Robert Half International study reported 84% of executives believe a worker with a good sense of humor does a better job. Incorporating humor more effectively in the workplace allows you to defuse difficult situations, reduce stress, create attention for new ideas, build rapport, and be a more approachable and memorable leader.

With those benefits, it behooves you to hone your workplace comedic skills. So in the tradition of David Letterman, here are the top 10 ways to more effectively lead with humor!

#10. Look for Joy in Life

An important step is continually looking for joy throughout your life. This happens in a variety of ways:

  • Focus less on yourself and more on helping others. Need help? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the classic by Dale Carnegie.
  • Laugh more – kids reportedly laugh 400 times per day vs. 15 times for adults. Aim for laughing 40 times daily to be at least 10% of your former self!
  • Regularly read humorous comic strips and look for quips and funny comments in your reading.
  • Even in challenging situations, hunt for something funny or humorous you can take away.

#9. Learn What Makes You Laugh

If you’re trying to laugh 40 times daily, it’s important to know what makes you laugh and have ready access to laugh-provokers. Figure out 107 things which make you laugh. Unrealistic? Hardly! Why 107? Because 107 is funnier than 100! Here’s a recipe for listing what makes you laugh by simply identifying:

  • 13 Movies
  • 11 TV Shows
  • 5 Words or Phrases
  • 19 Personal Stories
  • 5 Cartoons
  • 7 Audio or Video Pieces
  • 11 Comedians
  • 7 TV Personalities
  • 7 Funny Photos
  • 7 People You Know
  • 15 of Anything Else
  • TOTAL = 107 Funny Things

Collect & save these humor starters in a “Smile File” when you quickly need a laugh or comedic inspiration.

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#8. Use Your Own Comedic Material

Personal experiences are the most genuine humor sources for effective leadership. Look for humor in situations from your own life:

  • Funny things you have said or others have said to you
  • Pratfalls, be they mental, interpersonal, & physical
  • Embarrassing moments or unexpected happenings
  • Times of change or learning
  • Difficult life events (yes, even these can be humor sources)

When turning personal situations into comedic material, remember lessons learned from a childhood humor staple: Knock-Knock Jokes. These simple jokes work because the knock-knock structure highlights familiar situations, uses only essential words and phrases, and clearly signals a laughing opportunity. They also demonstrate how humor springs from surprise. The laughs come from not knowing who or what exactly is behind the door based on the initial response to “Who’s there?”

#7. Adapt Somebody Else’s Material

Beyond your own experiences, there’s a tradition of “borrowing & adapting” (I didn’t say stealing) funny stuff from others. That’s why old-time comedian Milton Berle was called the “Thief of Bad Gags.”

Part of borrowing successfully is using easily accessible humor sources in ways many don’t consider. Beyond simply Googling “funny” in front of quotes, one-liners, definitions, pictures, or videos, here are two other common sources you can adapt:

  • Cartoons – You can use cartoons in various ways by showing one in a presentation, telling the cartoon’s story (potentially making yourself a character) without any images, or using its punch line as a starting point for new humor.
  • Comedians – Mainstream comedians’ jokes or catch phrases are another source to modify and adapt to your personality or work situation. Watch lots of comedians and learn how professionals do it so well.

#6. Understand Your Audience

Using humor in a leadership position requires understanding boundaries on its proper use. It all starts with really understanding your audience by:

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  • Paying attention to top management’s attitudes toward humor.
  • Knowing the audience’s composition – this directly affects which humor types are appropriate.
  • Loving your audience as much or more than you poke fun at them.
  • Inviting others into humor since you can’t assume they share your same humor sensibilities.

In case you’re contemplating using ad lib humor, completely knowing your audience is even more vital. Ad-libs have the potential for going horribly wrong because audience sensibilities have been misjudged. It’s very beneficial to actually plan and rehearse ad libs. It may sound odd, but identify common work situations you encounter and think through what usually goes wrong or provides a source for potential humor. Work out some “safe” funny comebacks to use as “planned” ad libs.

#5. Know the Rules and Boundaries

There are blatant humor no-no’s in the workplace which are quite acceptable for an onstage comedian. At work, avoid harmful practical jokes or pranks, heavily sarcastic comments, and humor rooted in religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial themes. Think you know your work setting well enough to tread on this dangerous ground? Here’s some advice: DON’T. The way questionable humor will be perceived by a workplace audience is too much of an unknown to take big risks when your career is at stake.

Use this checkpoint to actually see if your intended workplace humor is SAFE. To pass the SAFE test, all of these statements need to be true regarding your joke, comment, or image:

  • I can Say/Show this to my mother.
  • It wouldn’t Anger me if I were the butt of the joke.
  • This wouldn’t trigger an FCC violation
  • Everyone in the audience will be able to get it.

With even a hint of one false answer, dramatically modify your idea or better yet, abandon it and start over.

#4. Get over Yourself

Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re comfortable laughing at themselves and letting others be funny as well. Leaders should become adept at appropriately using self-deprecating humor, i.e., self-directed humor downplaying your own talents, stature, or accomplishments

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You don’t want to use self-deprecating humor on simply any topic, however. It’s most effectively & appropriately used in:

  • Situations where you’re comfortable & self-confident
  • Areas where your credibility & competence are clearly established
  • Ways that fit your known personality & sensibilities

Remember – when trying to borrow someone else’s self-deprecating humor, you need to share that person’s perspective & situation. If not, it’s simply deprecating! I once heard a decidedly non-technical Marketing VP call out “data geeks” in the audience. While that’s what they called themselves, she wasn’t a part of their group, and her comment, intended to build affiliation, fell completely flat.

#3. Need Humor Ideas? Just Look Around

The workplace is filled with situations lending themselves to comedy. Humor springs from exaggeration, wordplay, misunderstandings, ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes, pain, and inconsistencies. If you work in any type of business or organizational setting, there are plenty of these situations to go around!

As a leader, it’s your role to use the proper opptunities to encourage and employ humor successfully by ensuring that:

  • Your humor makes others feel good about themselves.
  • Hurtful fun isn’t made of those less tenured than you in the organization.
  • You don’t use humor when agitated since it can lead to apparent meanness.

#2. Surround Yourself with Joy

If you’re looking for more joy and levity in leadership, surround yourself with joyful people. These are people who are funny, easily spur laughter, and routinely cheer people up through their presence.

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Cultivate relationships with these types of people. Spend time with them, learn from their successful uses of humor, and emulate elements of their approaches that work for you.

Beyond basking in the joy these people create, select 3 or 4 of them to be an informal comedy team. As your comedy team, solicit their opinions to help you generate and refine humor ideas. They can also provide perspectives on potentially questionable humor material that makes it through the SAFE test, but still feels like it might not be right for a workplace audience.

#1. Dive into the Fun

Ultimately, the most important part of successfully using humor as a leader is actually sharing it in the workplace. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind:

  • Practice your humor in appropriate, low-risk settings to find out what works before trying it out with a bigger audience.
  • Signal a laughing opportunity through your words, actions, and tone. It’s also a good practice to give people “permission” to laugh in the workplace.
  • Finally, be earnest in using humor; don’t focus on laughs so much as lightening and adding fun into work settings.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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