Lead by Example – Humor

Lead by Example – Humor

Recently a client of mine came to me with a problem I hadn’t heard about in a long time.

He had the funny feeling that his boss didn’t actually like him as much as he kept saying. It was a series of little things.

When he told me what his boss had said, I told him that he wasn’t wrong – but that he also might not necessarily be correct.

His boss was notorious for having a laugh at someone else’s expense and then protesting ‘What’s wrong? Can’t you take a joke?’.

That isn’t a joke. It’s passive aggressive bullying.

In her recent article https://tinyurl.com/y2ljvhrs , Rebecca Morgan, an international coach on growth and leadership, takes this subject on with clarity and courage. I say courage because she lays bare her own struggle with this type of humor. In childhood she had been taught that it was a form of affection – even as it subtly and insidiously chipped at self-worth and self-confidence.

Rabbi Edwin Friedman wrote ‘A Failure of Nerve’, https://tinyurl.com/y39baeoa  addressing some key points where he believes we, as a society and as individuals, fail ourselves and our organizations. In it he suggests if you truly want to understand a person’s leadership you must understand the organizational culture of the first organization they were a part of – their family.

The culture of your team will evolve whether you guide it or not. In leadership-centric project management we believe every aspect is one that you positively affect. How you encourage or discourage the use of humor and language is a big part of it – and it’s accomplished by leading by example.

So when you start to make a ‘funny’ ask yourself: Would this comment invite a defense of ‘Where’s your sense of humor?’ or ‘Gee, I was just kidding!’?

If it would prompt that kind of defense, then just don’t say it. Build your team members up – be the project or team leader that helps people grow and progress, not question and hold back.


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