Decision Vision Episode 46: Does My Corporate Culture Need More Humor? – Karyn Buxman, The HumorLab
Does my corporate culture need more humor? What are the benefits of humor in the workplace? What’s the best way to inject humor while avoiding the risks? Answers to these questions and much more come from neurohumorist Karyn Buxman on this edition of “Decision Vision.” Mike Blake is the host of “Decision Vision,” presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Karyn Buxman, The HumorLab
Karyn Buxman is Founder and President of The HumorLab. The HumorLab is dedicated to serving high performers who have gone from good to great and now want to go from great to world class through the use of strategic humor.
Karyn Buxman is a research-based thought leader on applied humor, whose latest undertakings are her TEDx talk—“How Humor Saved the World”—and her upcoming Forbes book, Funny Means Money. Strategic Humor for Influence & World Domination. As a neurohumorist Karyn’s career resides at the intersection of humor and the brain. She is as masterfully funny, but her passion and calling are sharing the practical benefits of humor.
Karyn is one of 194 professionals (and one of only 43 women) in the world to be inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame. Karyn speaks internationally to organizations that grasp the important role humor plays in business, health and life. Among her 800+ clients over 25 years are Genentech, State Farm, USDA, Cigna and the Million Dollar Roundtable.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast. Past episodes of “Decision Vision” can be found here. “Decision Vision” is produced and broadcast by the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX®.
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Intro: [00:00:02] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional full-service accounting and advisory that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Mike Blake: [00:00:20] And welcome back to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owners or executives’ perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what decision to make, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: [00:00:41] My name is Mike Blake and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton, Columbus, Ohio, Richmond, Indiana, and Alpharetta, Georgia, which is where we’re recording today. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: [00:01:05] So, today, we’re going to discuss humor in the workplace and injecting humor into a workplace culture. And I’m sure everybody who is listening to this podcast is thinking, “Well, you work for a CPA firm. That’s a perfect place to start talking about humor in the workplace”, because obviously, we sort of yak it up all day long. We’re just known for that. Although in our defense, I will point out that probably—certainly, the top three comedians, Bob Newhart actually started his career as a CPA.
Mike Blake: [00:01:38] Obviously, the entertainment gig did very well by him, but accountants do produce funny people at least once in a generation, so it can happen. But, you know, I think this topic is so important and so interesting. We’re learning more about the state of mental health in the workplace and we’re learning more about—and this is related to so-called work-life balance and we’re learning about the pressure that we’re under, as we’re always under increasing pressure to kind of do more with less.
Mike Blake: [00:02:15] And, you know, we’re hearing more about people, frankly, kind of struggle to adapt to that. And we struggle to adapt to that. Whether you’re a line worker, whether you’re a cashier, whether you’re middle management, whether you’re executive management, whether you are the owner of the business, there is always something out there that is going to challenge you mentally. And most of us, myself included, feel like there’s something out there, every hour, to challenge us mentally.
Mike Blake: [00:02:46] And it can lead to places, you know, that are humorless places to work. And places that are humorless places to work, as our guest is going to discuss, are neither pleasant nor very effective workplaces. And there’s a fine line, and maybe not so fine line, we’re going to find out that, you know, just because you have a sense of humor and there’s a sense of humor and humoring in the business culture, that does not mean that you don’t take your job seriously.
Mike Blake: [00:03:21] You know, for example, Southwest Airlines is known for encouraging their employees, you go in a Southwest flight, right? Some of those flight attendants could easily be stand-up comedians and maybe they are when they’re not actually on a flight. But I’m also confident that they take flight safety very seriously because they all want to make it home. But I think there’s a misperception. And in my industry, I think particularly if you’re old school, you want to create this image of being sort of the buttoned down, very serious person, because you’re talking about finance, you’re talking about money, you’re talking about financial stability and solvency.
Mike Blake: [00:04:01] And, you know, for some clients, maybe that’s right. For others, maybe it’s not. So, I think we’re going to have a lot of fun. I think there’s a lot to learn from this topic today. And joining us today is an expert on this topic from beautiful San Diego. So, in contrast to Atlanta, where it’s currently 38 and raining and overcast, about three layers of clouds, let me just take a guess, well, it’s 9:00 a.m. there, so it’s probably about 72 and sunny there?
Karyn Buxman: [00:04:34] Well, it’s not quite that warm. I mean, it’s chilly here, it’s probably 64.
Mike Blake: [00:04:39] Oh, okay. Well, hopefully you can throw a sweater on, you’ll be able to pull through it. So, Karyn is founder of the Humor Lab. And the Humor Lab is dedicated to serving high performers who have gone from good to great and now want to go from great to world class with the use of strategic humor. Karyn Buxman is a research-based thought leader in applied humor whose latest undertakings are her TEDx talk, How Humor Saved the World and her upcoming ForbesBook, Funny Makes Money, Strategic Humor for Influence and World Domination.
Mike Blake: [00:05:10] As a neurohumorist, Karyn’s career resides at the intersection of humor and the brain. She is as masterfully funny, but her passion and calling are sharing the practical benefits of humor. Karyn is one of 194 professionals and one of only 43 women in the world to be inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame. Karyn speaks internationally to organizations that grasp the important role that humor plays in business, health, and life. Among her over 800 clients over 25 years are Genentech, State Farm, now an Atlanta-based company, the US Department of Agriculture, Cigna, and the Million Dollar Roundtable. Karyn, thanks so much for coming on the program.
Karyn Buxman: [00:05:52] Mike, I’m so excited to be here with you.
Mike Blake: [00:05:55] So, Karyn, I’ve got to ask one question right off the bat. I’m tearing up the script, but I know you can handle it. What are the speeches like at the International Speaker Hall of Fame? When somebody gives an induction speech at the Speaker Hall of Fame, what are they like?
Karyn Buxman: [00:06:10] You know, I have to say, it’s really kind of a weird situation because let me put it this way, how many speakers does it take to change a light bulb? Yeah, 100. One can change a light bulb and 99 to sit in the audience going, “That should be me up there on the stage.” And that’s kind of how it is, you know, with the Hall of Fame. But it’s wonderful. I think that’s one of the accomplishments that I most treasure because, you know, it’s one thing when your mom or your spouse says, “Oh, my God, you’re the best thing since Velcro.” But when your peers say that, that’s very, very rewarding. So, I feel very honored to have received that award, that I can have-
Mike Blake: [00:07:01] Yeah. I can imagine.
Karyn Buxman: [00:07:01] … that recognition.
Mike Blake: [00:07:02] Where are they located?
Karyn Buxman: [00:07:06] The National Speakers Association is actually a global organization and their headquarters are located in Tempe, part of Phoenix, in Arizona.
Mike Blake: [00:07:19] Okay. Very good. Because the next time I go to Phoenix, I can visit and see your plaque and your induction speech and all that, I guess.
Karyn Buxman: [00:07:26] Yeah, you know. And I have this little statue, it’s kind of like the Oscars.
Mike Blake: [00:07:30] Sweet.
Karyn Buxman: [00:07:31] And so, that’s sitting on one of my shelves. And so, yeah. But not to take it too seriously, like don’t tell the headquarters I did this because they would probably be agog. But I found online these little outfits that you could get for wine bottles to dress them up, you know, kind of like, I guess, there was one for weddings and there was one for various kinds of holidays, a Santa outfit or a 4th of July outfit that you could put on a wine bottle to gift it. And it fits my statue perfectly. So, periodically, we dress it up.
Mike Blake: [00:08:10] Well, good. And we both know how hard it can be to find something that sits off the rack so that works out well.
Karyn Buxman: [00:08:16] Exactly.
Mike Blake: [00:08:19] So, you categorize yourself as a neurohumorist. What is that?
Karyn Buxman: [00:08:25] Yes. A neurohumorist is one who lives at the intersection of humor and the brain. I have been researching the field of humor within the field of psychoneuroimmunology and positive psychology for thirty years. And over the last decade, I’ve really delved deep into humor and the effects on the brain and vice versa. And it’s just amazing. It really was. It was like the missing piece. And so much of what I have discovered in the last couple of years is what I think makes this so pertinent for you and for your listeners. Because really, so much of the interactions with your listeners and your executive, these are the things that our brain-based.
Karyn Buxman: [00:09:22] And it really helps us get a better understanding of why we behave like we do and why others respond to us like they do and how can we influence that. And so, the brain piece is something that people, you know, up until now had not really looked at. What is the relationship between humor and the brain? But this is the sweet spot. This is really the sweet spot. And so, the people who are listening to us today, both of them, they’re going to be-
Mike Blake: [00:09:56] We had a spike.
Karyn Buxman: [00:09:57] … drawing information that is very cutting edge. This gives them a competitive edge even.
Mike Blake: [00:10:04] So, are you teaching leaders of the Genentechs and State Farms of the world then, you know, how to how to be funny? I don’t know who their CEOs are, but, you know, are they now qualified to do stand-up or what does that look like?
Karyn Buxman: [00:10:23] I’m so happy you asked that because this is the biggest misconception that when I’m teaching people or encouraging people to leverage the power of humor, that what I’m really talking about is entertainment. How do you get other people to laugh? And that is not the case. What I’ve identified are three purposes of humor. And the first purpose of humor is entertainment. And that’s the one that everybody knows and is familiar with.
Karyn Buxman: [00:11:03] And when our purpose is entertainment, we measure our success by laughter. But there’s two other purposes. One of the purposes is influence and the other is well-being. And just in your intro, when you were talking, I thought, “Oh, man. Boom, boom. Both of those are relevant to our listeners today.” And so, with influence, we don’t measure the success of humor and influence by laughter, we measure it by the quality of the relationships that we have.
Karyn Buxman: [00:11:41] And with well-being, we measure the success of applied humor by the levels of health and wellness within areas that are physical, psychological, social, and even spiritual. So, it’s this power of humor when you apply it. And when you apply humor to business, you can create success. When you apply it in profitability, when you apply to education, you can create more knowledge. When you apply it to health, we can create well-being. When you apply humor to an individual situation, we can create even intimacy. And when we apply it to a group, we can create community.
Karyn Buxman: [00:12:28] And so, it goes so far beyond being funny, which is great. Because when I’m talking to high performers, one of the top three push-backs I get is, “What if I’m not funny?” And I say, “Great because you don’t have to be funny”, which I know a bunch of accountants are going, “Oh, my God, thank God, you’re so right on.” I mean, oh, my gosh, Bob Newhart, he just makes me laugh so hard, I cry. And if there is anyone listening who has not ever listened to the piece on Bob Newhart as the psychologist, he’s trying to help a woman stop her OCD habits and phobias, it’s fall down, hysterical.
Karyn Buxman: [00:13:15] So, you know, here we go, we’re not trying to be funny, we’re trying to see funny. We’re trying to raise our awareness, raise our appreciation of humor so that we can experience it more. And in so doing, now, we recognize and can leverage opportunities of humor so that we can use those in our efforts to be more persuasive, be more informative, be more relatable, all of those kinds of things. And so, for everyone listening today, here’s a big takeaway, you don’t have to be the humor initiator, you can be the humor appreciator and you can still gain the benefit of humor in furthering your success.
Mike Blake: [00:14:10] Well, okay. And even if you think about entertainment, right? I mean, Dean Martin and Ed McMahon did pretty well being the straight guys, right?
Karyn Buxman: [00:14:18] Yes. Yes. And when you recognize the power of humor and to leverage humor, you can leverage other people’s humor. You don’t have to be the funny person. You can leverage your client’s humor. You can leverage humor that has to do with your environment. You can leverage humor that’s going on in the news. There’s all different ways that you can use that without ever having to say something funny yourself. Although I will say, if you practice appreciating humor on a regular basis, most people will get funnier. I mean, you can’t help it.
Karyn Buxman: [00:15:05] Here’s a quick little story, because I do entertain audiences, I mean, from 10 to 10,000-plus around the planet and I do make people laugh and I had a gentleman come up to me after one of my presentations and he said, “Oh, my gosh, were you always this funny?” And nobody has ever asked me that before. And I thought, “Yeah, I guess so.” But a couple of months later, I went back home. I met with my mom and I said, “Hey, mom, by the way, was I always funny?” And she looked at me and kind of kept her head thoughtfully and then, she said, “No.” And my mouth dropped up. And she said, “You were always the one with the sunny disposition.”
Karyn Buxman: [00:15:48] And at first, I was a little taken aback. But then, I got excited because what I realized was that because of my research and because I was so excited about the benefits, I was willing to practice more humor. I was willing to take a few more risks because the benefits outweighed the risks. And I became funnier in the process. And so, I think that others can also go down this path of appreciating humor, studying humor, experiencing humor. And eventually, they could be funny, too, if they desire. Not everybody wants to be funny.
Mike Blake: [00:16:30] So, let me share with you an experience we had in our firm. So, when I joined Brady Ware, because I’m a geek and I worked in the really quant jock area of our firm, I decided that we would celebrate Pi Day, which is, of course, March 14th. And we celebrate it promptly at 1:59 p.m. and 27 seconds, right?
Karyn Buxman: [00:16:52] I love it.
Mike Blake: [00:16:53] And so, the first thing we did, I ran out and I bought a bunch of pies. I had a bunch of pies and I was fine. This year, you know, I was told we have a fun committee. Okay. So, nothing says more fun than a committee. But anyway, I went to the committee and I said, “Hey, regarding this Pi Day, do you want to do anything different?” And they said, “You know, what we really like to do is we would like to throw pies at the partners.” And I said, “Okay, well, if you can convince the other partners and partners are in, I’m in.” And to the partners’ credit, they all readily said, “Yeah, I’m in.” Now, none of them, I think, are people that necessarily—I mean, some of them can crack a joke, others are more not the joke crackers. But, you know, everybody stood up there and took their pie lumps for about 15 minutes or so.
Karyn Buxman: [00:17:45] Oh, my God.
Mike Blake: [00:17:46] And I think you can predict what the morale impact on the company was on that exercise. We didn’t say a joke, we didn’t do anything that was funny, but we let ourselves be part of a gag. We let ourselves be the target of a gag.
Karyn Buxman: [00:18:03] Oh, my God, you’ve just opened the—number one, that is awesome. That is an incredible story. And two, let’s break this down. Can we unpack this for a minute?
Mike Blake: [00:18:16] That’s why I brought it up. We’re just going to tear out the script. This may be a three-parter.
Karyn Buxman: [00:18:20] Yes. So, here’s something, let’s unpack this a little bit, because one, you know, I think as we also celebrate Pi Day and then, there was Ultimate Pi Day, which was 3.14.15. And that was like, we’re kind of geeky around that as well. But in allowing your people to be the recipients of the humor, you allowed them to be the recipients of the humor, and in so doing, now, they have shown a little bit of vulnerability.
Karyn Buxman: [00:18:59] And in that vulnerability, this is where we create trust equity. Trust equity. Because earlier, we were talking about brains. And with brains, we have a state when we are leaning toward an individual, when we are connecting with an individual, when our brain chemicals are in a toward state of connection. This is something that facilitates relationship rapport, bonding. But when our brains are in an away state, when your epinephrine is going up and when our cortisol is going up and when our dopamine is going down and serotonin is going down and all these other connecting hormones and proteins, this is when we call this an away state.
Karyn Buxman: [00:19:57] And when we’re in an away state, it can be a low level stress, it can be a fear. The purpose of our brains are to protect us. And so, it’s always looking for threat. And you guys may not want to hear this, but, you know, as somebody who is in the field of managing people’s money, you automatically put someone’s brain in a threat state. I would say anybody who handles someone’s money or somebody’s body, you are working with a clientele whose brain is in an away state, a threat state.
Karyn Buxman: [00:20:37] How do you reverse that? Because if the brain is in an away state and the person’s amygdala is hijacked, you know, you’re not going to be able to inform them. You’re not going to be able to help them. You’re not going to be able to persuade them to the degree that you could if they were in a toward state. And humor creates that toward state. And so, what you did in so doing this exercise was the people who allowed someone to throw pies at them, they’re showing, in a humorous way, some vulnerability. And other people look at that and say, “Wow, that person is a little bit vulnerable. And that means I am safer.” And so, this isn’t even at a conscious level.
Karyn Buxman: [00:21:33] But anybody who would learn about this as a client or as a potential client or customer, that helps create that toward state. And in so doing, even among the team, now, we’ve created a toward state so that people are connecting more, the morale improves, the connectedness improves. And for so many reasons, you facilitated that and you probably didn’t even intentionally know that that was going to be the outcome. But here’s the great thing, now, you do. And with great power comes great responsibility, Mike. So, now, you want to look for other opportunities to create that toward state intentionally, because that’s what strategic humor is about. It’s humor by choice, not by chance.
Mike Blake: [00:22:30] Yeah. So-
Karyn Buxman: [00:22:32] Kudos to you.
Mike Blake: [00:22:32] Well, thank you. You know, it’s actually not that hard to have a pie thrown on your face, so if I can put that on my LinkedIn as a skill, I will. So, let me ask. So, the second part to this then is there is debate as to whether or not we’re going to post the pictures and videos on social media. We decided to do that. Did we do the right thing or wrong thing there?
Karyn Buxman: [00:22:59] It depends. I would say yes. I would say it’s the right thing to do. And I will say that there have been other professions who have posted similar kinds of situations. And occasionally, they get some push-back. But here’s what I would say, I’ve identified seven building blocks that are fundamental to successful humor in terms of influence. And those seven are bond, environments, authenticity, safety, distance and that’s both temporal and geographical content and delivery.
Karyn Buxman: [00:23:44] But the very first one, bond, is one that is so important and one that people often misunderstand. And what you’re asking actually has to do with the first one, bond, and the second one, environment. So, let’s look at this. In terms of bond, the question is, did this move trust equity forward with the people that you were sharing it with? And my guess is, yes, with your target audience, with your avatar, with the people that you know and that know you.
Karyn Buxman: [00:24:23] The biggest mistake that people make when they share humor is to not understand the relationship between themselves and the person they’re sharing the humor with. And our brains are designed as such that at times, we misunderstand or we misperceive how alike we really are. Like, “Oh, well, you know, I’m in Atlanta, he’s in Atlanta, we both like the same sports team, so we probably vote for the same person.” Well, that’s not a good assumption.
Karyn Buxman: [00:25:00] And, you know, we probably like the same kind of humor. Same kind of thing, not necessarily safe to assume. But the more you know your audience and kind of the longer period of time, the more trust equity you’ve built up, the riskier humor can be. But I’m going to stay on bond, I’m going to say yes, with your avatar, that would be totally appropriate. In terms of environment, the question is, has your humor been shared with anybody who is outside of your circle, outside of your group of trust?
Karyn Buxman: [00:25:40] And with social media, that’s harder to control. Because not only can you share it with your group, but they can share it to others outside your group. I’m going to say still, this is benign enough because if we go to the building block of safety, could anybody have been physically or emotionally hurt? You know, there’s a small chance that somebody could have been hurt with a pie in the face. You know, it’s like, well, what if, you know, they left the aluminum part of it on and that hit somebody-
Mike Blake: [00:26:15] Right.
Karyn Buxman: [00:26:15] … on their skin or in their eyeball?
Mike Blake: [00:26:17] Somebody hit you a frozen chicken pot pie, that would not turn out as well.
Karyn Buxman: [00:26:20] Yeah. Yeah. But, you know, could anybody feel bullied or embarrassed? You know, well, there’s a there’s a possibility, but it still feels pretty low if they voluntarily stepped up, pardon the pun to the pie plate. So, with all of those things, I’m going to say that the benefits would outweigh the risks. You know, if somebody is offended, why would they be offended? Because, you know, there’s some kind of a secret organization that is anti pie in the face? I mean, I can’t really even think of it.
Karyn Buxman: [00:26:57] You know, there’s going to be some, they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, is that really professional?” And again, those people have the misunderstanding, somewhere along the way, we confuse professionalism with solemnness. I’m not sure where that happened because we have leaders who are tremendously influential, who are incredibly professional, who are looked upon in the highest regard. You look at, you know, Churchill, you look at Gandhi, you look at President Kennedy and Reagan, I mean, there’s Lincoln, all these people were recognized as influential leaders and professional and yet they had an amazing sense of humor. So, I think that what you did was awesome.
Mike Blake: [00:27:51] So, where is that line or is there a line between, you know, humor and crossing that line to undermining your credibility? Is there some meter or some scale where, you know, you’re trying to be too yak yak and therefore, it’s going to make a little bit—you know, as you’re being wheeled in for brain surgery, do you necessarily want a knock knock joke out of the people in the operating room or, you know,I mean, maybe you do because it’ll take some of the tension out before they drill in your head, I’m not sure. But can you go too far with it?
Karyn Buxman: [00:28:33] This is such a great question and this is why I’m guaranteed, you know, enough work for my lifetime. There is a line, but it’s not a stationary line. That line is moving and it is moving based on those seven building blocks. And I actually have devised a tool where when I’m working with groups or when I’m consulting with someone, we take these situations and we actually break them down. We quantify each of these seven steps so that people can begin to get a feel for, where is that line?
Karyn Buxman: [00:29:17] Because sometimes, we intuitively know it. Sometimes, we misjudge it. And when you do cross that line or fall over that line, you want to pick yourself back up and then, you want to examine what happens. If someone was offended, you want to address that with them. And then, you want to learn from it and do it again. You want to adjust. It’s a scientific process. You know, you create your hypothesis. You put into place an action. And then, you observe, you assess what was the result of that action. And then, you adjust and you repeat.
Karyn Buxman: [00:30:01] And so, these are the kinds of things in terms of that moving line. But I mean, we all know the person who recognized that, “Oh, humor is a good thing, so we’re going to use more humor.” And then, they just become obnoxious because they try to be humorous or funny all the time. You know, I had mentioned earlier that one of the push-backs I get is, “What if I’m not funny?” A second concern that I hear is, “Well, what if everybody’s goofing off? We’ll never get anything done around here.”.
Karyn Buxman: [00:30:33] And here’s the key to this, the key to this is you need to have intentionally your goal, your desired outcome, your standards. And then, you also set the tone for humor. And here’s why, because you pair the two. Because if you only set the tone for high performance and hard work and high aspirations and that’s all that you do, eventually, people assume that the philosophy at work is the firings will continue until morale improves. If you only set the tone for humor without having a high benchmark for performance, then it becomes Animal House. And if anybody here is listening to this and doesn’t know the reference to Animal House and John Belushi, go look that up on YouTube.
Karyn Buxman: [00:31:35] But when you pair the two, now, you have high expectations per performance and you have set the tone for humor. And now, people have a better guideline of where to go. But for leaders to actually mentor their followers, their colleagues, their co-workers, their clients, their students, their family, to mentor others on the appropriate use of humor so that you leverage it and get the most benefits from it, I think, is really to be in a sweet spot.
Mike Blake: [00:32:12] So, let’s dig into this. You know, we’ve talked around this a little bit, but I want to make sure that we hit this hard, because it really is the heart of the topic, which is, you know, what benefits can I expect by creating a—is it fair to call it a humor-centric, if you will, business culture? And I think that’s important, because one of the things about humor is that there is risk. There is risk to humor-
Karyn Buxman: [00:32:41] Yes. Yes.
Mike Blake: [00:32:41] … which is one of the things we admire people who do it well. And if there’s risk, there’s got to be some return on the other end. So, you know, for companies that you’ve helped or have tried to help, you know, what is the carrot that makes it worth the risk of adopting or integrating humor into the culture?
Karyn Buxman: [00:33:00] God, that’s a great question. And I have identified 10 habits of high-performance humor. And one of those habits is risk management. And quite frankly, most of the listeners are in some form of risk management. And, you know, you want to look at, particularly, the seven building blocks that I spoke of and understand how to really embrace those and practice those so that you lower your risk. I think that if you really understand those seven building blocks, you embrace them, you practice them. I think you reduce your risk down to as low as 1 percent.
Karyn Buxman: [00:33:44] You know, there’s always going to be the oddball who comes in with their own agenda and their own backpack filled with all of their complaints and concerns. And it doesn’t matter how carefully you tiptoe, it doesn’t matter even if you’re not using humor, they’re going to find something to be offended about. So, the risks, I think, are worthy of noting and you really do need to include risk management. But in terms of benefits, it’s physiological, psychological, social, all of these things.
Karyn Buxman: [00:34:20] In terms of executives who are listening, I think one of the most exciting benefits that we’ve identified now is the cognitive capacity. The fact is that cognitive capacity, which is more or less a snapshot of your cognitive ability at any given time, we can increase cognitive capacity. And here’s how that works, humor is the connecting of two ideas that are not alike, that are disconnected. And when we connect those two disconnected dots, we create neuroplasticity.
Karyn Buxman: [00:35:06] We’re creating new pathways in our brain. And this creates a cascade effect. Because when we connect the disconnected dots and we create this neuroplasticity, which creates a higher level of cognitive ability, this, in turn, results in a higher level of problem-solving, which, in effect, allows an executive, particularly, your CEO level. They’re the visionaries. They’re the ones that need to have that cognitive capacity that is so high that they can forecast into the future.
Karyn Buxman: [00:35:44] When we did brain studies on people who were experiencing humor, one of the things that my colleague, Dr. Lee Berk, who is a leading researcher up in Loma Linda, discovered was that the brain pattern that we see is inclusive of gamma waves and the gamma wave pattern, which we’ve only been able to measure with digital technology, which has been created in the last decade or so. This is the same gamma wave pattern that we see in people who practice deep meditation and deep mindfulness. And people may say, “Well, so what?” Well, you know, who here couldn’t use more focus? Who couldn’t use a little more productivity? Who couldn’t use a little more creativity? Now, I know for people in accounting, you don’t want to get too wild and crazy for the creativity.
Mike Blake: [00:36:45] We could use more, believe me.
Karyn Buxman: [00:36:49] But these are the benefits cognitively. One of the things that you mentioned in the intro was this can be wearing and tearing on somebody, this field that you’re in. In terms of the financial world, whether it’s in accounting or financial management or whatever area that someone may be in, if they experience any kind of stress, what we have found is that short-term humor is an amazing coping ability. It’s a healthy coping mechanism.
Karyn Buxman: [00:37:22] And when practiced consistently and over time, we find that we can build resilience. And so, who in this field wouldn’t want to benefit from that? Socially, we benefit from bonding, whether that’s with our customer and our client or whether it’s our colleagues, our families, our friends. We find that it also is raising levels of emotion so that for people who are experiencing depression, we can move them up the emotional scale so that eventually they could achieve happiness, you know, at least for periods of time. Well, I think that’s very exciting. Who wouldn’t like a little more happiness? And then, of course, there’s all of the financial benefits that we can recognize.
Karyn Buxman: [00:38:11] Because in a sales process, you know, when we get people in a toward brain state, people make their purchases based on emotions. Logic tells that emotion sells. You can give them all sorts of data. But unless there is some kind of an emotional hook, they’re probably going to continue to shop around and get more information until they find that emotional hook to buy. And so, I would ask who’s in sales and maybe one or two people raise their hands. No, we’re all in sales. Whether you’re trying to sell an idea or sell a concept, sell your services, you know, negotiate a bedtime with a five-year old. Oh, my gosh. Five-year olds are like the most intense negotiators on the planet.
Mike Blake: [00:39:02] I think negotiating the Vietnam peace accord was easier than negotiating the typical bedtime with a five-year old.
Karyn Buxman: [00:39:08] Isn’t that the truth?
Mike Blake: [00:39:09] Henry Kissinger probably had a very hard time getting his kids to bed and that literally prepared him for Vietnam.
Karyn Buxman: [00:39:17] Isn’t that so? Isn’t that so? So, we’re all in sales, which is most people don’t realize it. And so, humor helps with that. You know, it helps with that. For those in positions of leadership, you know, when you read Cialdini’s book on influence and persuasion, you know, the number one influencer that he enlisted is likability. All things being equal, people would rather do business with someone that they find fun, that they find likable, that they find enjoyable. And so, these are some of the few reasons that people would want to start incorporating more humor into their work environment, into their corporate culture, because they’re going to find so many of these benefits come their way when they practice it intentionally and consistently. Those are two key factors that are really, really important to get the benefits.
Mike Blake: [00:40:23] So, good. So, let’s then drill down to the next step. I’m listening to this podcast and I decide that my company would benefit from having more humor integrated into its culture. At a high level, what are the steps to that look like?
Karyn Buxman: [00:40:44] I would encourage people first just to really assess where they are on the scale of both humor appreciation and humor application. I developed an assessment called the Humor Quotient, or HQ. We’ve heard of IQ, EQ, this is HQ. And I’ll give you the thumbnail version of this. And then, for people who would like to learn more about it, there is a download we can tell them about at the end of this conversation that we’re having.
Karyn Buxman: [00:41:22] And the humor quotient measures, again, your appreciation on a scale of one to 10, how easily can you find amusement that results in a smile, a laugh, or feelings of enjoyment. And then, on a scale of one to 10, how readily and how frequently do you apply humor toward a desired outcome intentionally and consistently over time? And we have, you know, a questionnaire that goes into a little more detail than that.
Karyn Buxman: [00:42:07] But first, just get a picture where you are and understand a little bit about that and where there are areas for improvement. I have found that one of the most important steps is the appreciation, because what I started out doing in this process was teaching people how to apply humor, realizing that they didn’t have an appreciation of humor enough to even understand and recognize where those opportunities were for the application.
Karyn Buxman: [00:42:42] And so, you know, I have a process that I take people through. But first of all, I would say manipulate your mindset. Ask yourself, you know, are you finding and experiencing the humor that surrounds you? Now, I’ll tell you, some people are thinking to themselves, “Well, she doesn’t understand. There’s nothing funny. In my life, there’s nothing funny about my work. You know, my family’s not funny, my coworkers aren’t funny. There’s nothing funny.”.
Karyn Buxman: [00:43:13] And I will tell you right now, if that is your belief, that is your reality. Because I’m going to tell you, there’s humor abundant around you the majority of the time. And again, this goes back to our brain process of recognizing it, because there’s a brain formation that’s about the size of your finger and it’s called the reticular activating system. And when you tell your brain that you want to be aware of something, this part of your brain is activated and it will start showing you more of that.
Karyn Buxman: [00:43:50] It’s like, you know, I bought a yellow car and then, you start looking out on the highway and all of a sudden, you see all these yellow cars and you think, “Oh, my gosh, where did these come from? I’ve never seen a yellow car out on the highway before.” But you’re your brain now is raising your awareness to be able to see those. So, start looking for the humor around you and you’re going to find it on a more regular basis. Manipulate your mindset.
Karyn Buxman: [00:44:15] Manipulate your environment is the second thing I would encourage people to do. And that is how can you increase the likelihood of experiencing more humor? What can you do to put in your environment so that you can have it readily available? Do you have humorous books or cues, that’s C-U-E-S, cues, which are a reminder of lightening up. My husband and I love Comic-Con. And anybody who’s ever watched Big Bang Theory would have heard of Comic-Con.
Karyn Buxman: [00:44:53] It’s this huge nerdy conference. 140,000 people over four days here in San Diego. And, you know, cosplay and all that other stuff. But we love that. It makes us smile. It makes us laugh. It makes us feel good. And so, around our house, we have little things from Comic-Con that when we see them, we feel better. How can you do that? You never have to be further than your phone to have humor at your disposal now, there’s apps, there’s websites, there’s social media.
Karyn Buxman: [00:45:24] I keep funny audio books. I bookmark funny videos. And as a last resort, here’s a humor hack. If you’re in a bad mood, you Google laughing babies. It’s like go to YouTube, laughing babies. If you can’t smile when you are watching laughing babies or at least internally have that feeling of amusement, then you need to call me. It’s like we need to work on this. This is an emergency situation. Because anybody with a healthy brain, because of your mirror neurons, you’re going to find some amusement in that and you’re going to feel better.
Karyn Buxman: [00:46:10] But manipulating your mindset and manipulating your environment, finding an accountability partner. I have a partner and every day, we have made a commitment to one another that we’re going to send something to one another. And here was the benefit that I didn’t anticipate, but now, I’m fully enjoying. Every morning, I spend 15 to 20 minutes looking for something that I know she will enjoy and that is appropriate for her.
Karyn Buxman: [00:46:40] But now, what I’m doing is I am starting my day framing it by looking for humor. Do you know how much that positively affects my mood and my outlook for the next part of my day? It’s been a wonderful benefit for me and I thought I was doing it for her. I still get the dopamine hit because I’m doing an act of kindness and paying it forward. But it’s really a double-benefit, I get to do something for her and for myself.
Karyn Buxman: [00:47:18] And I think the last thing that I would tell people, and there’s so much more but because of our time, I would tell them, become a student of humor. That’s another one of the humor habits, is become a student of humor. This is a new field. It’s an exploding field. Compared to other fields, it’s really still very young in its existence. And there are magazines. There are books. There are organizations.
Karyn Buxman: [00:47:46] There’s a nonprofit organization, I have no financial ties to this organization, but the organization is called the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, aath.org. They have all different kinds of articles and resources on their website. I have lots of articles and resources and books and things that I would love to share with people. But find a resource that works for you and study this and then, practice it on a consistent basis. How does that sound? Does that resonate with you?
Mike Blake: [00:48:21] Yeah. And I love the part about, you know, becoming a student of humor. I think if you observe and surround yourself with humor, that’s how you can get good at it. And if you don’t have humor in your life, you don’t know what it looks like. And so, that makes perfect sense.
Karyn Buxman: [00:48:42] Exactly.
Mike Blake: [00:48:42] So, I want to be respectful of your time because you’re just starting your day out there in beautiful San Diego. If somebody wants to learn more about neurohumor and how to integrate it into their business strategically, how can they contact you?
Karyn Buxman: [00:48:58] I love connecting with people on social media, reach out to me on LinkedIn. I think that in the show notes, you may be including some of this. I love connecting with professionals and high performers on LinkedIn and the other areas of social media. My website is karynbuxman.com. But for those who would like to see a sample, this is like, again, a sneak peek of the book that will be coming out with ForbesBooks Fall 2020, the book, Funny Means Money, Strategic Humor for Influence and World Domination.
Karyn Buxman: [00:49:33] We have a download of that available. And that also includes a further description of the humor quotient, along with a lot of the other tools and things that we slightly touched on or didn’t even begin to touch on. And that can be found at the web domain, humorforme, the word humor, H-U-M-O-R-F-O-R-M-E, humorforme.com. And I would love for them to download that sample book, get more information and then, take it from there.
Mike Blake: [00:50:07] Well, good. Thank you so much. That’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Karyn Buxman so much for joining us and sharing her expertise with us today. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week. So, please tune in so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy these podcasts, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision podcast.