Staff Writer

Rob McCasker is a former radio programmer and now freelance writer.

It’s good to laugh. Many of mine have come from radio station general managers. Like the one who tried to negotiate weather into my salary; “Mate this sunshine is worth 20 grand a year”. He was serious, and so was I when I said I’d rather be paid in real dollars than solar energy. 

There was the one who always had the carpets steamed-cleaned before a visit from the CEO, the boss that often discussed money while chewing on a cherry-ripe (always a cherry-ripe) and the general manager’s office which, after a re-build, sat over an old sewer maintenance-hole. Alanis Morissette would see the irony; Fung Shui experts would be horrified.

But it’s the real laughter, you know the bona fide funny, which is crucial and why killer cultures create space for it.

Today successful leaders know the link between laughing at themselves and the creation of truly great teams. They’re acutely aware that having fun at work is a core value and a huge asset to any business. When senior leaders poke fun at themselves it sends the message throughout the organisation there is no class system, that everyone is approachable, and everyone is “in it” together. Managers that encourage everyone to show off their fun side make everyone breathe easier.

I remember the sales support staffer who would always welcome new reps with 30 seconds of karaoke over the PA complete with music bed and lyrics which told us a little about the new staffer. All done with the greatest sprit and always hilarious. I’ve seen complete sales teams do a chicken dance to celebrate a new client. It’s just brilliant when cultures are prepared to take risks and LOL at themselves.

I watched a GM tell our Friday meeting he needed desperate help bidding on eBay. Trying to buy something for his wife and being outbid every time he’d discovered he was actually bidding against himself! A great story, everyone laughed with him and a staff member offered help with some eBay basics. Humble leaders with this trait create cultures that don't take themselves too seriously.

On the other hand there was the time when we had a ‘bring your dog day’. It all went well until the next morning a senior executive found a ‘parcel of dogginess’ sitting at the door to his office. The dog wondered off from the night time jock for some relief and as it turned out right up the front of the building outside office 1A. Instead of laughing it off, the executive, fuming, released a blistering memo covering all things from hygiene to OHAS and fleas completely sucking the life out of what had been a fun day with the animals. There were very few ideas to theme the place up after that. It’s impossible for teams to innovate effectively while they are afraid. Impossible. Nothing kills great ideas like fear.

George Orwell once said; “A thing is funny when in some way, that is not offensive or frightening, it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution.” And Barack Obama wrapping up his recent speech in front of White House journalists said; "I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew."

Sometimes, we just need a reminder to take everything – including ourselves – less seriously.

Rob McCasker worked in radio and now writes for a living. His blog can be found at:

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