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Archive for April 2015

Humor Is A Key To Success

Posted on: April 9th, 2015 by Pam Norton 2 Comments

If you work on a virtual team or do a lot of your work over the phone, it can be challenging to really connect with people, and a lack of connection will not only reduce your productivity, it can also make you feel isolated and not valued. Creating connections is critical for your success whether you need to build high-performing teams, cement customer relationships or interact with colleagues.

One of the best ways to build rapport and help people feel connected is through humor.

Funny business

Humor can be a double-edged sword, though. I had a boss once tell me that humor is an advanced skill as a way of discouraging my sense of humor. But I feel its definitely a skill worth cultivating. Done well by someone who naturally sees the funny side of life, it can portray an image of confidence and maturity. Done poorly it can make you look like clown – insecure and grasping for attention. If you’re not sure, go slowly.

We feel a fun atmosphere builds a strong sense of community.  It also counterbalances the stress of hard work and competition” Elizabeth Sartain, Southwest Airlines

A little humor can be a great way to kick off a conference call. Opening the call with a little humor can inspire people to stop their multi-tasking and tune into your call. If you’re consistent, over time people will even begin looking forward to your calls just to hear what you’ll say.

If you’re leading or participating in a problem-solving or brainstorming exercise, don’t be afraid of a little humor. Some of the best ideas and most creative solutions come from a joke or humorous comment. After all, the best comedy is based on truth.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this video about Conference Calls in real life from Tripp and Tyler. How many situations from your real life conference calls do you recognize?

Here are some general guidelines for using humor in professional situations:

Two common themes that work well are:

  • Self-deprecating humor. Making a joke about yourself can help people relax and connect with you. Just make sure you don’t make yourself sound incompetent or stupid.
  • Say what everyone is thinking. Scott Adams, Dilbert creator, says that this inspires many of his topics.

Never – never ever – use humor or make a joke about politics, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. It’s inappropriate and unprofessional. Did I really need to say that? Given some of the jokes I’ve heard over the years…yes.

Apply humor to situations, not people. Here are a couple of examples:

  • The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget cuts.
  • It feels like that light at the end of the tunnel is really a train.

Beware of mis-interpretations, especially if your team is made up of people from different cultures. Try to make your humor universal rather than regional or specific.

To develop your humor skills, take mental notes when you meet someone who is naturally funny, watch comedians and read comics like Dilbert. You’ll find great examples and inspiration for honing your own style.


About Pam: As a Career Success Coach, I help individuals and teams tap into their strengths and potential, eliminate self-sabotaging behaviors, think and execute strategically, and get more success and fulfillment from their careers. You can learn more about me at While you’re there, download my free e-book to help you identify and stop self-sabotaging behavior, Get Out of Your Own Way To Get What You Want. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook.