Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Using Humor In Business Is An Art

This CEO Blogger believes that humor and quick wit is a sign of intelligence.   As a result, I find humor in almost every situation, even cases that others might see as dire.  Humor can be used in business to build relationships.   In fact,  everyone knows that people buy from salesmen that they like.   This often involves using appropriate humor.   Story telling in particular is a real art to be admired.  This does not mean using off color humor, or humor that makes fun of others; but it can mean making fun of oneself. 

This Blogger has seen really good Account Managers use humor to defuse very difficult situations; but it must be done very carefully and it can be a little scary.   In one case, years ago, one of my colleagues was meeting with Rockwell International, maker of the Space Shuttle.  It was at a time when mortgage interest rates were at 18% and the real estate market was in a free fall collapse.   During the meeting, the Rockwell Senior VP was just brutal concerning our company's ability to sell the Rockwell employee's houses, we had in inventory.  

After listening to all the insults, my colleague, who was a masterful story teller, said "you know in business, there are some things we just can't control, like 18% mortgage interest rates that have seriously impacted our ability to sell houses, without huge losses."

At the time, Rockwell was having problems with tiles falling off the Space Shuttle.  This was long before the tragic accident that resulted in an explosion, the loss of a Space Shuttle and the death of all on board.   In any case, that accident had not yet happened, so the loss of these tiles had become a joke of sorts in the media.  My colleague went on to talk about things we can't control in business, kind of like the tiles falling off the Space Shuttle; again this was long before the tragic loss of life caused by the explosion of a Shuttle.  

There was a pregnant pause, a scary moment, after which time the Senior VP said "touche", a recognition that in fact, not everything in business is controllable.   From that point, the meeting turned into good business discussion.   Of course, this particular use of humor was very risky.   If my colleague had made this comment after the tragic Shuttle accident, it would have been totally inappropriate; but since it happened long before, he was able to use humor to make a point and get the meeting back on track.

Using Humor In Business is an art that can be very effective; but it must be done carefully when dealing with difficult situations.   In normal discourse, humor is a great way to build relationships.   Beside, making work fun, for all concerned, is a good thing. 

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