How to Kick-Off Q4: Comedy as Change Agent
By Deborah Brown, Partner & Managing Director, Peppercomm
Comedy is a change agent for the C-suite in any organization–ranging from a public relations or advertising agency to a major corporation or nonprofit association. Seriously. First, let me explain the difference between humor and comedy, and why comedy is more powerful. Humor makes you smile, which is nice. But, comedy makes you laugh. Laughter creates a physical change in how you feel which affects how you react to your peers, your employees, your workplace environment, etc. Laughter increases the endorphins in your brain that make you feel good. And, if you make someone else feel good through laughter, it can change the way he/she thinks about you or your company.
Following are four key ways comedy can be a change agent in the C-suite and give you and your company a competitive edge:
1) Be a Better Presenter: Are you a Powerpoint™ person when you present? Do you stand behind a podium, read 99 slides, and expect your audience to praise you afterwards?
If you’re giving a presentation – whether it’s to the board or employees – you need to engage the audience. So does a comedian. If he doesn’t, they’ll walk out. Well, so might your audience, or they may just fall asleep or text on their BlackBerry. Oh, right. You’re the CEO. They won’t walk out, but chances are they’re bored to death. The best way to engage an audience is through storytelling, which is a key comedy technique. Reading slides is deadly. But, telling your audience a story is the way to keep them engaged. And, please don’t start your presentation with a joke. Comedians today don’t tell jokes. They tell funny stories. Comedians also understand how to read audiences. If the audience looks bored, they’re certainly not going to continue down the same path. Neither should you. Comedy teaches you the skill set you need to become an outstanding presenter and motivate your employees.
2) Connect with Employees: It’s not enough to walk around and say “Hi, how are you?” to employees. If you’re not genuine, every employee will see right through you. A key learning from comedy is vulnerability. When comedians are on stage, they’re completely open, honest and vulnerable. If they’re not, you won’t connect with them. If you want your employees to connect with you, you also need to learn how to show vulnerability. Yes, I know, you’re thinking “Vulnerability is a weakness.” It’s not. It’s the first step in learning how to effectively connect with your employees as well as others in the C-suite, your board, investors, prospects and customers.
Another key learning from comedy is listening. You may think you listen well, but you probably don’t. Comedy teaches you how to really listen to employees and how to read and react to nonverbals.
3) Change Your Culture: Are you happy with your company’s workplace culture? How’s the morale? When comedy is embedded into a culture, organizations start to see an amazing change: silos are broken down, teams who wouldn’t share information now work together, employees are happier and laugh together and, as a result, are more productive. Many companies complain about the divide between management and staff. Comedy bridges that gap. As the CEO, you have the ability to change your company’s culture. However, it must start at the top, with you and others in the C-suite. If you don’t buy into it, neither will the rest of your organization. It needs to have a trickle-down effect. Yes, I know there’s a debate about whether or not it works in economics, but, trust me, it works in organizations when it comes to changing culture through comedy.
4) Wake Up Tired Brands: Comedy allows you to breathe new life into your organization and reposition it to be seen as much cooler and hipper. If you’re the CMO, comedy is an opportunity to change your brand and extend your tenure past the 18-month average. Embedding comedy in your organization is also a terrific way for Human Resources to recruit new talent who will think it’s much more exciting working for your company than a competitor.
We’ve seen comedy be a change agent in Fortune 500 corporations – from consumer products to pharmaceuticals. And, we’re not just talking the talk. We actually walk the walk at Peppercomm when it comes to our own culture and comedy.