First a shout out to a bunch of rising star managers and leaders I met yesterday from Boeing, State Farm, Northrup Grumman and other leading companies. I was leading a private workshop on what else, mentoring and networking for LEAP.
I am frequently asked when I will do a public workshop--I rarely do. When I speak it is usually at the request of a company or an organization (like LEAP--been working with them over 15 years) for a closed group of employees or leaders. However, UCLA's Anderson School of Management has invited me to present for their Career Series on August 19, 2009. Here is the Download Executives_Brochure_pages for their program if you are interested. I asked them for a discount for my readers and they agreed! Here's the deal, enroll before August 1 and you will get $200 (an extra $100) off the full day --you will see me for a half day session then the well-known Bill Arruda on personal branding. (be sure to note that you are entitled to the John Kobara discount per Keith Groya--shhhhhh!)Okay back to our regularly scheduled programming......
A sense of humor is part of the art of leadershsip, of getting along with people, and getting things done.
For those that know me and those that have read a few posts, you know I try to inject humor into my messages. Not claiming to be funny but I do try and lighten the delivery with some levity and a bit of sarcasm. I have found that humor is a powerful weapon to disarm others and reduce some of the tension in the environment. In the context of networking, humor can be the difference maker.
First you do not need to be a comedian/comedienne. You are not trying to be the class clown or the local jokester. Frankly, these types are not taken seriously. We are talking about the use of relevant stories or observations that provide a humorous perspective.
Before I briefly discuss networking, let me touch on the extraordinary benefits of laughing and making others laugh:
Laughter is the best medicine. Laughing and having an attitude of fun and playfulness makes us live longer. There is great evidence that there are biological changes when we engage in these activities.
Never laugh at others, but always start by laughing at yourself. We take ourselves so seriously and when we think about it, we do some pretty funny things. Rodney Dangerfield became famous for making fun of himself.
Again, you do not need to be a stand-up comic. Many people say to me, I am just not funny, I am not a funny person, I can not tell a joke etc etc. If this was true, which is rarely the case, this makes you a great candidate to use humor. One of the most powerful forms of humor is the element of surprise. This can be done through a dead pan delivery or just saying something out of character.
Especially these days, we have to see the humor in things. Laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Try to see the positive if not the sheer absurdity.
Ways to help yourself see the lighter side of life: (from Helpguide.com)
Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take ourselves less seriously is talk about times when we took ourselves too seriously.
Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you.
Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screen-saver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.
Deal with your stress. Stress is a major impediment to humor and laughter.
Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing.
How do you integrate humor into your conversations with friends, colleagues and new acquaintances? First, shift your perspective to see more fun and humor around you.
Keep track of little incidents that happen to you. Something your kids did. Something you did to yourself that was slightly embarrassing. Maybe a funny thing you heard or saw on tv. You are not trying to get people to roll around on the ground, you are seeking that little smile, a gleam in the eye and for them to open up.
When someone says, "What did you do this weekend?" You won't just give the same auto-pilot answer, "Just relaxed." "Not much."
Instead you say, "You won't believe what my kid did, or what I did to myself, or........" You'll get a smile and then you will usually trigger stories from other people. They have funny things to say too. Now you are sharing stories instead of robotic answers.
I have gotten great mileage out of stories that happened to me. True life is so much more interesting than any movie or tv show.
The other day, I was having an allergic reaction and my face started swelling up. I became self-conscious and asked if it was noticeable to the person I was meeting with. She told me it was and asked me what happened. I told her I had a collagen accident.Then I told her the truth and we laughed.
I was meeting a very important person and I blurted out my name unintelligibly. So I asked if i could do it over again. He agreed, and I did a second take beautifully! He smiled.
I reconnected with an old friend the other day and we compared notes on our kids and I asked, "What are you doing to be a "cool" Dad?" Knowing that is is an impossible question, we laughed and told a bunch of stories about how uncool we are.
An appointment came into my office last week with a new Kindle under his notepad. I said, "Are you going to make me buy one of those things?!" He laughed and proceeded to show it off to me.
These are merely examples where I try to find the thing to bring a bit of humor to the conversation, usually at my expense. These are not long stories that I memorized, but I try to pay attention and use the element of surprise.
I am resisting with all my might to provide a list of "lines" or jokes that will get you a quick laugh. Those don't work because you have to follow it up with something real that is you.
The first and most important step to using humor in networking is to make sure we appreciate the humor we experience everyday and especially the funny things we do to ourselves and other people. Your attitude and then your observations and stories will add some fun and spice to your connections.