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Laugh Track to the Fast Track

Posted on December 06, 2006

By Mary Feeley, CSP

A personal story illustrates the power of the laugh track to the fast track.  I was a new executive at a cosmetic company.  My responsibilities were to motivate a national sales force through training and special events.  I thought it would be a fun job.  After all, it was cosmetics and planning events is supposed to be fun.

Soon after I was hired I realized I was working in a humor impaired organization.  During one long meeting where no one was brave enough to suggest any more ideas that would be shot down by the quite imitating President, I desperately needed to use the ladies' room.  Thinking that it was time to adjourn, I closed my notebook and moved away from the table.

"What do you think you're doing?", screamed my furious boss.  "I'm in control here, and I'll let you know when this meeting is over.  Furthermore, because of your impudence, we will continue this meeting until I have answers."

I was humiliated.  My new colleagues were angry that my action had resulted in a longer meeting.  Having nothing to lose, I took a humor risk and said, "Sir, no disrespect was intended, but I have kidneys the size of lentil beans and I need to use the restroom now!"

Everyone roared with laughter, including the President and he excused me to go to the restroom.  As I got to the door, I took another humor risk and asked, "Can my colleagues come with me, you know we women never go to the bathroom alone."

My boss was laughing so hard, he excused us all to go empty our lentil beans and tabled the meeting for the next day.

The benefits of my use of humor were numerous.  The boss, myself and my colleagues were saved embarrassment.  It diffused the tension of the situation and the challenges we were working on as a team. It humanized my boss...so much so that he gave us "lentil bean" breaks in every meeting.  That phrase became a part of our humor culture.

It put me on the laugh track to the fast track.  I was transformed from the new kid on the team to a credible and intelligent source of creativity to help guide the company.  My career accelerated with promotions and perks.  I was personally and professionally fulfilled.  Sales agents attended our events in record numbers.  They knew they would have fun and learn valuable information.  Those events translated in record breaking sales for the company.

Are you on the Laugh Track to the Fast Track?


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