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Humor as Wisdom October 21, 2011

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Humor can be a powerful – or devastating – force in any relationship.  Tell the wrong joke, misinterpret the context, execute a cultural faux pas, or generally offend the other party and you can doom a conversation – or a career.

How many politicians have recently been vilified for saying something they thought was witty, only to find out it was a racial slur or otherwise offensive comment?  Obviously, one could avoid the situation by never trying a joke or humor.

But that’s boring.  No one like a humorless speaker either.  Why?

A sense of humor, timing, context, and propriety all work together to make comedy what it is.  But these things also provide cues to the listener and even work to build trust.  In short, being effectively humorous and being able to tell a good joke mean that you have an understanding of the listeners and know where their boundaries lie.  It allows them to be more forthcoming with their own words and for you to therefore learn even more about them.

This isn’t about cynicism, harsh sarcasm, or spiteful speech.  It’s about connecting with others through a basic human need to laugh.

Plan, Do, Check, Act October 2, 2011

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Organizational change is always difficult.  The best laid plans will never be a match for individual human variability.  Change is messy and merely a series of compromises that gradually bring everyone along on generally the same path.

So when managing such change, it is vital to communicate early and often the plan and the next few critical steps, as well as a few distant milestones.  But also make it clear which targets are not set in stone and are subject to their own change as time goes on.  Otherwise, you are just another manager selling the “change du jour” with less and less credibility every time the plan is adjusted.

Everyone resists change.  Not only that, but those in the organization will seize any chance they can to discredit the agents of that change in order to preserve the status quo.  It may indeed be a case of shooting the messenger, but that’s not material to the case.  By consistently following the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle (and making it transparent) you can demonstrate that everyone is subject to the same rule of change – flexibility and compromise need not be synonymous with being wishy-washy or a flip-flopper.