What is the best team you ever worked on?
Who are the best people you worked with on that team?
Did you stop to think what made that team great?
In my experience, I’ve enjoyed working with and learned the most from people that I can laugh with. Some of my best team mates are people who have made me cry with laughter.
Now think about the bad teams you worked with…you probably didn’t have many cry-your-eyes-out-laughing memories.
These are my amateur observations but at SHRM National last week I discovered a company that understands and promotes humor in the workplace and takes it one step further by training their employees in standup comedy.
Last week I had the pleasure of watching the session “Comedy Training as a Culture Change Catalyst.” SHRM hosted a number of sessions on culture change but this one was particularly intriguing because of the standup comedy element. The session was very entertaining and was one of the few interactive sessions. After the session I also had the opportunity to meet in person with the speakers Clayton Fletcher, Chief Comedy Officer at Peppercomm and Deborah Brown, Partner and Managing Director, Strategic Development. Based on our conversation I’m happy to share some details on this great training:
How it started:
Steve Cody, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Peppercomm, initially started working with Clayton to learn standup comedy. As he learned more he noticed his presentation and speaking skills rapidly improved. Clayton soon became Chief Comedy Officer (awesome job title by the way) and is now in charge of training all new hires at Peppercomm as well as delivering the training to clients and speaking about it at conferences and other events.
How did Peppercomm get from standup comedy to culture change?
“Changing culture” was not a deliberate strategy. Instead as training rolled out across the company the culture inadvertently changed in a number of positive ways:
- People became more open and collaborative
- People became better communicators across all levels: presentations, verbal communication and writing improved.
Why did this work? There are many great quotes from my discussion I could use here but I think this is my favorite:
“If I can teach you how to do comedy I can teach you how to communicate better. Great comedians are great communicators.” – Clayton Fletcher
The greatest comedians are honest, genuine and make you care about their world. They are also short and snappy and to-the-point because their audience gets bored if they aren’t. Imagine those skills applied to meetings, emails and presentations. It’s almost like a dream isn’t it?
What did HR think? Was there pushback?
It was a non-issue. HR was fully supportive. Keep in mind the training includes determining what an appropriate joke is and is not. The other reinforcement is audience reaction. You know if you cross the line by looking at the audience (your coworker).
Can you take this to your workplace?
It depends…like anything else standup comedy training is not going to be a culture silver bullet for every organization. In some organizations, humor will not work or isn’t appropriate. Because of its unconventional nature, this training should be driven by top leadership.
Besides the potential to turn your employees into funny people who speak and write clearly and concisely you may even be able to banish the PowerPoint demon…
Imagine sitting through your next vendor presentation, team meeting, etc; and not having to stare at PowerPoint presentations. Yes, standup comedy training can even cure the modern evil known as a PowerPoint presentation!
Standup comedians don’t have time for PowerPoint (Chris Rock and PowerPoint…shudder) and neither does a good presentation. Clayton and Deborah feel so strongly about this that they do not submit any kind of PowerPoint when they speak. When you are trained to speak quickly and know your material the PowerPoint presentation is unnecessary.
Interested in learning more about Peppercomm?
Check out their blog on the intersection of comedy and work: The StandUp Executive