How to Incorporate Humor in the Workplace

March 24, 2010

Chapter 8 Lead With Love Pg’s 186-188 By Gerry Czarnecki

 There is no formula for incorporating humor into your business. You, your organization, and the individuals who work there are unique. Therefore, the First step is to make a personal assessment of your own humor quotient. Ask friends and family to give you an honest assessment of your “fun factor.” How and when do you most readily exhibit your humor? Use their feedback to determine ways in which you will feel at ease expressing your sense of fun and lightheartedness. If you are truly “humor-impaired,” seek a mentor to help uncover your sense of humor. Look for humor in everyday situations, as well as in reading material and interactions with others. Compile a humor library of jokes, quotes, cartoons, bumper stickers, articles, and stories that make you laugh. In moments of stress, take time to read one of the items again and share it with your staff. The result of your humor will not only be a pleasure for your associates, it will help you to release tension and maintain a positive attitude.

 The next step is to assess your associates’ personalities and the level of humor they currently display in the workplace. Consider what type of humor will be well-received within the organization. Wearing a clown nose to a staff meeting might not garner laughs; but breaking the ice by telling a joke on yourself could set the group at ease. Gentle, self deprecating humor is a way to demonstrate to others you are human.

 By showing you don’t take yourself too seriously, others will feel more relaxed and comfortable expressing themselves in your presence. Establishing your own precedent for humor is essential, as you must lead by example. You can’t expect your associates to embrace humor if you don’t exhibit that behavior yourself. The individual personalities of your associates will be affected by your attitude as a leader, and their attitudes are likely to mirror your own. A funny, quick-witted associate will eventually save the jokes for after hours if you frown or fail to laugh along with the others. A shy, quiet associate is likely to lighten up and become more spirited if you display a sense of humor and participate in the fun. Fun doesn’t function if it is not shared. This means that your personal commitment to the benefits of humor, and your own pleasure in sharing it, must be genuine. If you connect with your associates on a human level (and love them), you will instinctively want to celebrate their successes, share kind words, and alleviate tension. You will enjoy your role as a leader, and it will be evident in your attitude. As a result, you will elicit great attitudes and loyalty from your associates. If you feel isolated and lonely at the top, then your abilities as a leader will be severely compromised. #e fun factor is not just for your team’s benefit; it is for yours as well.

 The attitudes and environment in your organization cannot be changed in a day. It takes time and should be approached in increments. Consider your typical routine as well as your staff’s. In what ways can you introduce a surprise to break up the routine and make it a more pleasant place to work for everyone involved? If you have a weekly staff meeting in the conference room, consider holding it in a variety of different places. Invite the staff to meet at a local restaurant; when the weather is nice, set up chairs or blankets and sit outside. You can bring bagels to a morning meeting, or choose a different associate each week to order in a surprise snack for the team. If the group has to work especially late one evening to meet a deadline, send them all home with gift certificates for pizza delivery as a way to show your appreciation.

 Demonstrating your appreciation can take many forms, and the more creative you are, the more fun it will be. At Playfair, Weinstein likes to express his thanks by having flowers delivered anonymously to an associate. The accompanying note tells the recipient he or she is appreciated and should pass the flowers on in a half hour to a coworker he or she appreciates in kind. Such gestures are not expensive or grandiose, but they promote positive feelings and attitudes.


Why Don’t We Use More Humor?

March 19, 2010

Chapter 8 Pg’s 183-184 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 If Southwest and other big-name organizations are using humor and succeeding, why are so many leaders reluctant to do the same? The first reason is perception. They mistakenly believe that humor and laughter in the workplace means associates are not doing their jobs. They may also feel it is inappropriate and unprofessional. The second reason is personal. Many leaders don’t consider themselves funny, don’t understand the value of humor, and don’t know how to incorporate fun into work.

 The first reason is simply a misconception. Humor does not undermine work. To the contrary, it enhances an associate’s ability to perform. Humor provides a physical and emotional release, a distraction from negative emotions, such as anger or stress, and it enables us to see challenges from a different perspective. Laughter is contagious: it elevates the mood of those around us and creates a positive social interaction. Whether one associate is having a bad day or a team of associates is facing a difficult situation at work, laughter will temporarily divert attention away from the problem. The diversion will likely improve their ability to cope with the challenge. According to Weinstein, the positive effects of fun can penetrate into the “heart and soul” of an organization: For too many companies, building a team means creating a high-powered, smoothly functioning

organization that has plenty of muscle, but not much heart. It is the absence of the human side of business that depletes employee morale, and contributes to job dissatisfaction and burnout. By adding an element of fun and celebration to a team-building program, you can take an important step toward humanizing your workplace and creating a sense of heart and soul in your organization.

 Humor in the workplace involves some risk. By incorporating humor, you lighten the tone of the work environment. If this is taken too far, it can spin out of control and result in reduced focus and productivity.

 Humor also has the risk of falling $at or being offensive. Humor in the workplace is not about practical jokes and should absolutely not involve off-color or politically incorrect statements or behavior. As described by Warren Shepell, an HR consultant, “Humor has nothing to do with taking your job lightly, joking about your company not being a good place to work or joking about its products and services… Humor that works in the workplace has to do with attitudes.”


The Benefits of Humor

March 18, 2010

Chapter 8 Pg’s 182-183 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 To fully appreciate the many and varied benefits of adding humor into the work environment, one can start with the research that has demonstrated that humor has a significant impact on our health. Studies in publications including the Journal of Behavioral Medicine and the American Journal of Medical Science support the health benefits of humor. Laughter releases hormones that reduce stress and enhance the immune system; it oxygenates the blood, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes muscles. We all encounter stress on some level in our professional lives, and often this is compounded by stress in our personal lives. Employers who incorporate humor into the workplace will likely have healthier, happier employees. According to Linda Melone  hD, a clinical psychologist and Pepperdine University professor, humor creates positive responses in three ways: “Laughter triggers an emotional uplift. In the work environment, it also triggers our cognitive process and gives us added perspective. physiologically, laughter counteracts negative thinking and other emotions: chronic anger, anxiety and guilt feelings associated with an increase in the incidence of health problems.”

 The additional benefits of humor are more abstract but equally appealing for the results it produces. Humor stimulates creativity, positive attitudes, and morale, as well as lessens anger, absenteeism, and turnover. According to humor coach Ann Frey, author of Laughing Matters, “A willingness to laugh, plus a sense of lightheartedness, equals a fun, productive workplace. If your employees are happy, they will bring greater energy and enthusiasm to their jobs and your company will function at peak performance. It’s not rocket science.”

 Indeed, humor is not “rocket science,” but it is a fundamental joy that is often absent at work. The absence of humor results in employees who are unhappy and inevitably look elsewhere for a job. Employee turnover is expensive to an organization as it takes time and money to interview, train, and integrate each new employee. The current generation of employees expects to work longer hours than were typical for previous generations, but they’re also looking for a fun, supportive environment that is more relaxed than the formal, buttoned-up office culture of the past. Studies have also shown that organizations with a fun-at-work ethic are extraordinarily successful. Among the standouts are Southwest Airlines, General Electric, Kodak, AT&T, Money Mailer, Quaker Oats, and Playfair, a company founded by Matt Weinstein, author of Managing to Have Fun.

 Herb Keller, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, said, “If work is more fun, it feels less like work.”Southwest is often used as a case study for a company that encourages humor and fun and can demonstrate that it has a positive effect on the bottom-line results:

* the fewest customer complaints eighteen years in a row, according to the Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report

* profitable for thirty-one consecutive years

* the “Second Most Admired Company,” according to Fortune magazine * less than 10 percent employee turnover rate * a $10,000 investment in the airline in 1972 would be worth more than $10 million today


The Benefits of Humor

March 16, 2010

Chaper 8 Pg’s 182-183  Lead With Love By Gerry Czarnecki

 To fully appreciate the many and varied benefits of adding humor into the work environment, one can start with the research that has demonstrated that humor has a significant impact on our health. Studies in publications including the Journal of behavioral Medicine and the American Journal of Medical Science support the health

benefits of humor. Laughter releases hormones that reduce stress and enhance the immune system; it oxygenates the blood, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes muscles. We all encounter stress on some level in our professional lives, and often this is compounded by stress in our personal lives. Employers who incorporate humor into the workplace will likely have healthier, happier employees. According to Linda Melone PhD, a clinical psychologist and Pepperdine University professor, humor creates positive responses in three ways: “Laughter triggers an emotional uplift. In the work environment, it also triggers our cognitive process and gives us added perspective. Physiologically, laughter counteracts negative thinking and other emotions: chronicanger, anxiety and guilt feelings associated with an increase in the incidence of health problems.”

 The additional benefits of humor are more abstract but equally appealing for the results it produces. Humor stimulates creativity, positive attitudes, and morale, as well as lessens anger, absenteeism, and turnover. According to humor coach Ann Frey, author of Laughing Matters, “A willingness to laugh, plus a sense of lightheartedness, equals a fun, productive workplace. If your employees are happy, they will  bring greater energy and enthusiasm to their jobs and your company will function at peak performance. It’s not rocket science.”

 Indeed, humor is not “rocket science,” but it is a fundamental joy that is often absent at work. The absence of humor results in employees who are unhappy and inevitably look elsewhere for a job. Employee turnover is expensive to an organization as it takes time and money to interview, train, and integrate each new employee. The current  generation of employees expects to work longer hours than were typical for previous generations, but they’re also looking for a fun, supportive environment that is more relaxed than the formal, buttoned-up office culture of the past. Studies have also shown that organizations with a fun-at-work ethic are extraordinarily successful. Among the standouts are Southwest Airlines, General Electric, Kodak, AT&T, Money Mailer,  uaker Oats, and Playfair, a company founded by Matt Weinstein, author of Managing to Have Fun.

 Herb Keller, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, said, “If work is more fun, it feels less like work.”Southwest is often used as a case study for a company that encourages humor and fun and can demonstrate that it has a positive effect on the bottom-line results:

 * the fewest customer complaints eighteen years in a row, according to the Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report *profitable for thirty-one consecutive ears

*the “Second Most Admired Company,” according to Fortune

Magazine  less than 10 percent employee turnover rate  a $10,000 investment in the airline in 1972 would be worth more than $10 million today


HUMOR—Lead with Humble Humor not Hubris

March 12, 2010

Chapter 8 Pg’s 181-182 Lead With Love By; Gerry Czarnecki

Go ahead and laugh at the irony: humor is a topic that should be taken seriously. Leaders who want the best from their associates must incorporate humor into the workplace. Not to be mistaken for “goofing off” or slapstick jokes, humor is about attitudes and actions that promote health, happiness, teamwork, creativity, and job satisfaction. Organizations that embrace humor employ associates who love coming to work. As a leader, it is your responsibility to lighten up and laugh, and encourage your associates to do the same.

 Incorporating humor in the workplace does not mean you should suddenly become a comedian. It is about lightening up the tone, mood, and atmosphere. Diligent, disciplined work is required to achieve the high expectations you set for yourself and your associates. That diligence and discipline needs a counterbalance to promote well-being and alleviate stress. We’ve all experienced stress and its uncomfortable symptoms such as headache and nausea; however, stress that continues without relief leads to distress, a condition that causes serious adverse health effects. According to a report published by the Cleveland Clinic, “Stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.”

 Studies also indicate stress has a negative impact on the immune system, making those who suffer from stress more prone to illness. The extremely competitive work environment that dominates our society has also increased the level of stress among workers. Furthermore, the need to constantly learn and improve in order to advance is stressful, as is the fear that comes with the potential of losing a job. If too much stress leads to distress and disease, then it is incumbent upon leaders to reduce the stress for themselves and their associates. How? Humor.

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Systems: Organize Your Self

March 11, 2010

Chapter 7  Pg’s 175-177 Lead With Love Gerry Czarnecki

Systems provide the structure that allows you to lead a more efficient and productive life. Complicated or complex technology is not required to create an effective system of managing your calendar, your contact file, and your task list. Systems are simply a method of organization that save time and aid productivity. In the era of information overload, we cannot rely on our memories or sticky notes as sufficient reminders to follow through on our tasks. Ironically, this is an age-old problem that was even described by Ben Franklin in his autobiography. Ben Franklin is typically associated with the Declaration of Independence, bifocals, and the spirit of invention. His name doesn’t generally bring to mind “management guru,” but an article by Justin Fox, an editor at Fortune magazine, offers insightful observations about how this historical figure’s life story is full of lessons for modern-day managers. As the owner of a printing shop and publisher of a newspaper, Franklin was a businessman who, like most of us, struggled with time management and order.

  To combat this problem, he devised a plan to set a daily schedule with goals and tasks assigned in hourly segments of each day. At the end of the day, he asked himself, “What good have I done today?” As Fox astutely observes, Franklin’s approach is no different than the best practices that should guide modern management activities. “This emphasis on setting goals for the day ahead and taking stock afterward remains a staple of time-management advice. (At least, so I’m told.) There’s clearly something to it: I know that I’m far more likely to accomplish something when I have a well-defined to-do list for the day. But in a work world where conflicting, competing priorities are the norm, it’s really hard to stick to such a list… This is perhaps the most appealing aspect of Franklin’s time-management advice: He was an admitted failure at it, and yet that was… okay. Which is just about the most inspirational message conceivable.”

 Whether or not you succeed in checking each task off of your daily list, you will be more productive and more focused simply by having such a list. This may seem elementary, but it is a system that will help you to set goals and determine which assignments are necessary to achieve your goals. Each assignment should be given a deadline that is reasonable yet ambitious. A sense of urgency is better than the feeling that one has plenty of time to “slack off.” At the end of the day, you will have a great sense of satisfaction at how much you were able to accomplish, and be better able to assess what you need to do tomorrow.Professional and personal “to-do” lists are critical for us to accomplish our assignments and goals. Whether you need to remind yourself to follow up on a list of client prospects or to pick up the dry cleaning and groceries after work, these are activities that need to be scheduled in your daily

plans. In theory, we would all like to keep our professional and personal lives separate, but it is generally a good idea to use the same system for organizing both. It’s not practical or efficient to carry two date books or consult two calendars in order to determine your availability when scheduling appointments. Inevitably, that sort of system will result in errors. The most practical solution is to embrace the fabulous, and often free, technology that is available in the form of electronic and online calendars. The same is true for contact information and to-do lists. These systems will truly streamline and simplify your efforts to be organized.

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Summary

March 1, 2010

Chapter 7 Pg’s 173-174 Lead With Love By Gerry Czarnecki

 The role of the leader, at any level in an organization, is to energize and focus the staff toward achieving goals. Every leader must have the ability to connect with the staff and to lead them to results. The principles defined in the chapters on expectations, assignment, development, evaluation, and rewards all focus on the people who are being led.

In this chapter, we have focused on the systems that are required to support that leadership. Even the best “leader” in the world of work will not be successful in achieving peak performance if he or she does not have the systems in place to assure the success. Leadership is a necessary condition for success; it is not a sufficient condition.

Many leaders of large organizations, including political entities, even countries, frequently forget this and find themselves energizing and developing great strategies, only to find they fail because the energized cannot execute. Great leadership, combined with effective systems and process management principles, enables the leader to deliver on the vision. Without these, the vision, and the passion to achieve, will be an unfulfilled dream. Systems are intended to make work run more smoothly and efficiently, with less effort and less chance of error. They need to be constantly checked against actual work achievement, as well as updated and maintained to assure they are relevant and current. A calendar that isn’t updated with new appointments and deadlines is ineffective as a system of time management; likewise, a database of client and vendor contact information is ineffective if changes and additions are not entered on an ongoing basis. No matter how well an automated system functions, it does not allow an individual to function on autopilot. If autopilot were an option, then a human would not be required to do the job.

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