Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise Humor is Irreplaceable and the more serious the subject the more important the introspection. The purpose is not to elicit laughter but to undermine fear and disengage egos. Laughter gets us out of our heads an into our hearts and that is where our real power lies. “We are not thinking beings that have feelings. We are feeling beings that have thoughts.” This is absolutely undeniably true yet when in our workplace do we allow, encourage even admire those who can laugh at themselves.
My evaluations consistently include comments about humor, but I am not hired because I am a comedian. Humor is simply a tool and more than all other elements of a perfect presentation humor is the hardest. Significant learning requires change and people abhor change. The most effective way to teach life-changing lessons is by wrapping them in a package of side-splitting laughter. Teaching the intrapersonal and interpersonal skills necessary for exceptional performance involves a great deal of fear. Cutting edge content brings out strongly held objections. The key to breaking down the barriers of conformity and complacency is not lecture but laughter.
“Most people prefer the predictability of pain to the pain of unpredicatability.”
In the Harvard Business Review article titled “Overloaded Circuits, Why Smart People Under Perform”. The author describes an alarming increase in what they have defined as Attention Deficit Trait(downloadable document), which is “turning steady executives into frenzied under-achievers.” The article recommends leaders that the most important step in combating this trend is in “building a positive, fear-free emotional atmosphere, because emotion is the on/off switch for executive functioning.” This is never so true as in a teaching situation. To earn trust a speaker must be authentic not polished. A perfectly poised speaker may earn standing ovations but never encourage revealing conversations. To encourage the vulnerability inherent in any change an exceptional speaker must demonstrate vulnerability on the platform. Some in my profession live by the adage “practice till you’re perfect”. I think you are better off selecting a speaker who boldly embodies imperfection. Only when we can embrace the unexpected can we inspire the unimaginable.
There is little value in helping people feel better if I don’t help them get better. Motivation alone is not only ineffective but often counter productive. Current statistics of job satisfaction, loyalty, empowerment, engagement tell a frightening tale of disconnect. Recent studies by the Gallup organization indicate, “only 15% of people feel empowered and only one in five are enthusiastic”. Training must be supported by the latest research if it is going to alleviate the weight of worry. People may admire simplistic solutions but when it comes to applying new ideas they want well researched facts not fanciful fiction. When looking for an effective teacher first find an exceptional student. There is no past precedent for the future we’re facing. Quality content is not a laundry list of what to learn but the inspiration and direction to want to learn. Memorizing is easy. Teaching people to think is hard.
The challenge of effective training is not in the sharing of information, but in making that information IRRESISTIBLE. We are drowning in ”the smog” of too much information and too little meaning. When Robert Redford was interviewed about the success and philosophy of Sundance, he talked about the power of story. He said, “Stories are as important now as they once were for the Ute tribes that once inhabited this land”. The power of a great story is that it does not describe. Story invites people in.
My educational background is biology, my first career managing athletic clubs was a laboratory for change, and seven years training with the World Class Coeur d’Alene Resort provided a perfect practice ground for honing my skills. I teach the science of why things work the way they do allowing leaders to find their own individual how. We are all hard wired to be different. There are no universal magic leadership “techniques”; each of us must discover our own unique path. Follow a path forged by science, in the foundry of facts.
There are people who are masters in business, others skilled in psychology, and those whose talent for teaching is unrivaled; but few who combine all three. To leave out any one of the three is to waste the other two. It is not difficult to impart new information the challenge is creating an experience that encourages people to let go of outdated beliefs. As my friend Jim Sproat puts it so well; “There’s nothing quite so exquisitely useless as doing well that which should not be done at all.”
The cost of turning over a middle level manager earning $39,000 a year exceeds $58,000,
and a $15,000 clerk will cost an organization $18,000 or more.
(“The Price Tag on Turnover”, Personnel Journal, based on J.D. Phillips)
There is no substitute for experience, unless each year is merely a repeat of the one before. A single success is no substitute for a flock a failures for it is ONLY in failing that we truly learn. I have managed teams of thirty to three-hundred since I was twenty-five. I have made every mistake possible and most more than once. I have fortunately been able to, as Winston Churchill said, “go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” A great speaker needs more than an intellectual awareness they need a visceral understanding of each of the challenges your team is experiencing. Great leadership is not just about being effective it is also about being affective. According to Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership, “The fundamental task of leaders is to prime good feeling in those they lead.”
“The reality of a thing is not the think of a thing,
the reality of a thing is the feel of a thing.”
None of us can predict or control what life will bring. Waiting for the right (fill in the blank), is a waste of now. Of all the lessons I have learned the most powerful by far (and the most difficult to transfer to others) is the understanding that stress and unhappiness don’t come at us they come from within us. We are all a function of our stories. Every change whether it is trying to improve our health, increase our sales, empower our teams all start FIRST with changing our stories. Most change efforts are ineffectual because we begin in the wrong place. If we are to change what we do, we must first change how we see.
“He who is master of others is powerful.
But he who is master of himself is more powerful still.” Lao Tzu