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Humor: What’s Holding You Back?

As I chatted with Brett in his office, several of his staff walked by the door and giggled. One of the young women leaned into the doorway and said, “Don’t be late for your appointment!” and winked.

He waved at her and laughed, saying, “Don’t worry. I’m not backing out!”

He looked at me and laughed. “It’s not what you’re probably thinking! A couple months ago I told my staff that if they could go an entire month without an injury or a safety violation, I’d shave my head! At first I was just joking around. I said it more out of exasperation than seriousness. But the staff pounced on the idea. Before you know it, for the first time in ages, they hit the target. As soon as that happened, they came to me and set up a date to ceremoniously shave my head! Between you and me, my first thought was ‘Oh crap! I’m going to look like a dork!’

“But then I realized I’d achieved two things: Most importantly, we met an important safety target. That’s huge. But the thing that I hadn’t expected was that this silly challenge brought my staff together in a way that I never could’ve anticipated. I may look like a goofball, but you know what? I’ll definitely do it again—once my hair grows back!”

As leaders, we’re not looking for opportunities to look foolish in front of those we lead. But as Einstein once said, to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results is insanity. We’re often called to step out of our comfort zone to achieve our desired outcomes.

When Brett took a risk and allowed himself to appear silly, he achieved his goal—and more! As a leader, it’s important to be able to stretch out of your comfort zone to achieve different and better results. Humor is a safe way to do just that. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

So stretch beyond your comfort zone today and try something a little silly. Maybe a little air guitar in the cafeteria? A rendition of Monty Python’s Silly Walk across the parking lot? Former President George Bush Sr. wears goofy socks. Sam Walton was willing to dance down Wall Street in a hula skirt. He and his company laughed all the way to the bank.

Leadership involves calculated risks. Humor, when practiced without purpose, can involve a degree of risk. But when used strategically, humor will help you achieve incredible results.

©2016, Karyn Buxman. All rights reserved. Reprints welcome so long as all links the byline are made live.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

She can also be reached via:

[email protected]
Twitter: @KarynBuxman
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