238: Andrew Tarvin: Embrace a culture of humor at work
Andrew “Drew” was born in raised in the suburbs of Cincinnati, OH. He is the youngest of three boys and the nerdiest of the bunch. Always the academic, Drew cried when he got an A- in the fourth grade and was voted “teacher’s pet” for his senior superlative.
After his parents’ divorce at the age of 15, Drew and his mom moved out while he finished high school. He graduated fourth in his class of 400+ students and then went on to The Ohio State University to earn a degree in Computer Science & Engineering. It was there that he also discovered a passion for improv and stand-up comedy.
After graduating, Drew started working as an IT project manager at Procter & Gamble, first in Cincinnati and then in New York City. All the while, he continued studying, practicing, and performing comedy. While at P&G, he realized that a big reason for his success was not just what he learned in computer science class, but also what he learned on the comedy stage. He started incorporating humor into his work, eventually proclaiming himself the corporate humorist of P&G.
His passion for teaching others how to get better results while having more fun continued to grow, so he built a company and authored a book called Humor That Works to share the message with the broader world. He left P&G to focus on the company full-time in 2012, and has since delivered more than 500 events in front of 40,000+ people for more than 250 organizations, all around the world.
Drew currently lives in New York City, where he runs Humor That Works, continues to perform comedy, and enjoys walking the streets with a milkshake in hand.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“As an individual there’s 30-plus benefits to using humor in the workplace.” – Click to Tweet
“When an organization starts to embrace a culture of humor, you see an increase in employee engagement.” – Click to Tweet
“You can’t be efficient with humans, instead you have to be effective.” – Click to Tweet
“Humor is one of the most effective tools we have for human beings.” – Click to Tweet
“It is very difficult to be productive if you are dead.” – Click to Tweet
“Chronic stress leads to an increase in blood pressure and decrease in the immune system and humor and laughter can counteract those effects.” – Click to Tweet
“The number one reason people don’t use humor in the workplace is because they think their boss or co-workers would approve.” – Click to Tweet
“If you’re a leader on a team and you don’t see your team laughing or joking with each other, you might be part of the reason why.” – Click to Tweet
“98% of CEOs prefer job candidates with a sense of humor.” – Click to Tweet
“81% of employees say a fun workplace would make them more productive.” – Click to Tweet
“That missing skill isn’t just what you do, but how you do it, and how you actually enjoy your work more.” – Click to Tweet
“When we talk about humor in the workplace, were not talking about making it funny so much as making it a little bit more fun.” – Click to Tweet
“Humor is a skill, which means it can be learned.” – Click to Tweet
“You don’t have to be the creator of humor to use it.” – Click to Tweet
“Your medium impacts your message.” – Click to Tweet
“Find ways to make the work you have to do a little more fun.” – Click to Tweet
“Humor is one of these things that helps to humanize us.” – Click to Tweet
“If you’re unsure how to use humor in the workplace, start with a smile.” – Click to Tweet
“One of the easiest ways to encourage more humor is to laugh and smile a little bit more.” – Click to Tweet
“What is one thing you could do each hour of the day that brings a smile to your face or the face of someone else?” – Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Andrew Tarvin tries to look at any situation differently. From being the teacher’s pet to becoming the corporate humorist at Proctor & Gamble, Drew has worked to continually hone his skill of bringing humor to work and helping others to make the workplace more engaging, one smile at a time.
Advice for others
Become a better speaker and better articulate your ideas and influence people.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Best Leadership Advice
It is better to beg for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.
Secret to Success
A love for data. A reflection of the past leads to action of in the future.
Best tools in business or life
Humor is one. If we go straight practice, Evernote.
Contacting Andrew Tarvin
Resources and Show Mentions
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Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader podcast where we uncover the leadership life hacks that help you to experience breakout performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host customer and employee engagement expert & certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
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Okay, Fast Leader legion, today I’m excited because we’re going to have somebody on the show today who’s going to help us with something that I would dare to say you’ve been wanting to do but have been quite hesitant because you’re not sure of why and whether or not it will be accepted. Andrew Tarvin was born and raised in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s the youngest of three boys and the nerdiest of the bunch. Always the academic, Drew cried when he got an A minus in the fourth grade and was voted the teacher’s pet for his senior superlative/ After his parents divorced at the age of 15, Drew and his mom moved out while he finished high school. He graduated fourth in his class of 400 plus students and then went on to the Ohio State
University to earn a degree in Computer Science and Engineering. It was there that he also discovered a passion for improv and stand-up comedy.
After graduating Drew started working as an IT manager at Procter and Gamble, first in Cincinnati and then in New York City. All the while he continued studying, practicing and performing comedy. While at P&G, he realized that a big reason for success was not just what he earned or learned in computer science class but also what he learned on the comedy stage. He started incorporating humor into his work eventually proclaiming himself as the corporate humorist of P&G. His passion for teaching others how to get better results while having more fun continue to grow so he built a company called Humor that Works to Share the Message with the Broader World. He left P&G to focus on the company full time in 2012 and has since delivered more than 500 events in front of 40,000 plus people from more than 250 organizations all around the world.
Drew currently lives in New York City where he runs Humor that Works, and continues to perform comedy and enjoys walking the streets with a milkshake in hand. Drew Tarvin, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Andrew Tarvin: I am so ready. That was a fantastic intro, thanks so much for having me.
Jim Rembach: Well, it should be great you wrote it.
Andrew Tarvin: Yeah, I know. You so often give the standard like—runs this company does these things that’s it, I love the requests when it came through it’s like let’s learn a little bit about you as a human, so I appreciate it’s always nice.
Jim Rembach: You’re welcome. One of the things that I definitely try to differentiate what we do here at the Fast Leader show is knowing and learning about the people behind the insights that they’re going to share. One of the things I always say is that it’s not what you do that makes you great it’s who you are that makes what you do great. And that’s one of the reason why I think it was so important to have your message and have you on the show. I think a lot of us want to be funny, a lot of us want to make people find joy in the things that we do and say but oftentimes we just kind of stumble and we don’t do a good job of it. But there’s also a very important financial impact associated with this and I think it’s important that we start out with.
Andrew Tarvin: Yeah, for sure. As an engineer to me that’s why it’s so valuable and why I was interested and it. It was not just because it was fun but because it worked because it was effective. When I started to research this and started to realize that I wasn’t the only one getting these benefits I wanted to capture what are all of the benefits. And so as an individual there’s 30-plus benefits to using humor on the workplace ranging from getting people to pay attention to your message to increasing your kind of like leadership influence skills up to you burning calories, 10 to 15 seconds of laughter burns as many calories as five minutes of aerobic exercise, 10 minutes of dancing or 15 minutes of milking a cow. So I don’t know how some people or some of your listeners are exercising but if they’re milking cows then they can—just stop and laugh instead. You can then also see that how if there’s all these benefits for individuals when an organization starts to do it when they embrace a culture of humor you see an increase in employee engagement, a decrease in employee turnover, you see an increase in employee productivity and ultimately an increase in profit. Because you’re managing the human side of things and I think that’s where we’ve kind of lost our way a little bit with work. In the industrial revolution we focus so much on efficiency. How do we produce as much as possible with the least amount of work? The problem is you can’t be efficient with humans instead you have to be effective. So humor turns out to be one of the most effective tools we have for the names (5:13 inaudible)
Jim Rembach: I think for me sometimes it helps bust the over focus and release some of the stress that we often find when we’re trying to be more efficient.
Andrew Tarvin: Yeah, for sure. Its simplest level I guess, as an engineer I’m obsessed with productivity I’ve done a ton of research on it and I have found that it is very difficult to be productive if you are dead and/or if you feel like dead. If you’re sick if you’re tired if you’re burned-out stressed out worn out very difficult to be productive and so humor can be a very strategic way to recharge to relieve that stress. We know stress by itself isn’t a bad thing stress is how we increase our capacity it can be good. But chronic stress leads to an increase in blood pressure, a decrease in the immune system an increase in muscle tension all these negative physiological effects of stress, humor and laughter can counteract those effects. It’s very much about how do we strategically use it for better results.
Jim Rembach: Well, and some of the irony of that is that stress actually could cause or the lack of humor could actually cause more stress. What I mean by that is you have a pie chart some statistics in here that talks about—what is preventing you from using humor at work? And there was really a staggering you know majority of people that feel that others won’t approve of it.
Andrew Tarvin: Yeah, and that I think was one of the big kind of aha moments for me as I was starting in this work. When I started to read all this research about the benefits of humor the question was becomes okay why don’t people use it more. And so we ran a study through our site and the number one reason why people don’t use humor in the workplace is they say that they don’t think that their boss or co-workers would approve. That’s just a cultural thing, and what that means is that if you’re a leader on a team and you don’t see your team laughing or you don’t see people joking with each other you might be part of the reason why. And it’s usually not an over kind of like I’m a very stern person and never laughs although that sometimes happens in some organizations but more often it’s people just don’t see it they don’t know that it’s welcome. But the reality is that ninety-eight percent of CEOs prefer job candidates with a sense of humor and eighty-one percent of employees say a fun workplace would make it more productive. And so I think it’s something that people are seeking it’s something that they want it just hasn’t been part of the norm it hasn’t been part of the culture before. And that’s part of what we’re trying to do is how do we change that? How do we recognize and elevate the status of humor? That’s why we call it the missing skill. Because we know the skills that we go through for work all the time, five core skills of work—executing, thinking, communicating, connecting and leading and so that missing skill isn’t just what you do but how you do it and how you actually enjoy your work more.
Jim Rembach: I think that’s a really important point in a lot of ways. But then it also goes into something that talking about one of the other statistics associated with that is that people just feel that they just don’t know how. And that’s where you talked about the help that you’re doing. Talking about the how component I think it probably starts with—let’s talk about the definition of humor that you have?
Andrew Tarvin: Yeah, for sure. To your point the how people are a little bit worried and nervous about it and it’s even connecting back to—the last statistic is that—in my program I will joke the people, and I’m sure this is true too of your listeners, is that I’m sure that many of your listeners are likable people at home. And then they go into the workplace and something changes they feel like they have to put on a work face. Like, at home they’re silly they already make jokes with their friends they already make them laugh maybe sing in the shower they dance in the kitchen whatever it is they’re more human and then they go into the workplace and they put on a work face. And so kind of catching on that idea of humor in the workplace we’re not talking about being funny. When we think of humor a lot of times we think of punchlines we think of stand-up comedians we think of jokes and so people are nervous. Humor in the work, does that mean I have to like learn jokes and start ripping them off in the workplace? The answer is no. When we’re talking about humor in the workplace we’re not talking about making it funny so much is making it a little bit more fun. Bringing a little bit more of your personality and kind of doing it in a good way keeping it positive, inclusive and finding more ways at a little bit more joy or levity or fun to the workplace.
Jim Rembach: With that you talked about the different styles of humor. So if you could
share with us what you see is those?
Andrew Tarvin: I think it’s a very helpful thing. When I first read it was like, oh, this helps me it makes a lot more sense. So psychologist Rod A. Martin defined four styles of humor. The first style is affiliative humor. This is positive-inclusive humor kind of like Ellen DeGeneres. It’s always fun, it’s playful everyone is included. This would be in the workplace something like a team building activity you’re even just going to happy hour. Simple, positive-inclusive humor. The second style is self-enhancing humor. And this is a positive form of humor where the target is yourself. So this I think is best expressed by the Kurt Vonnegut quote that says, Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration. I myself prefer to laugh because there’s less cleaning up to do afterwards. It’s that perception where whatever is going on in life you find ways to add a little bit more fun or find the humor in it rather than crying about something or being overly stressed about it. Like, okay, how do I find the fun or the humor in this this concept? And so that’s things like gamifying your work playing your work to make it a little bit more fun finding ways to make the test that you have to do a little bit more enjoyable. The third style of humor is
Self-defeating humor. So this is a negative form of humor where the target is yourself, this is kind of poking fun at yourself it’s a Rodney Dangerfield. Self-defeating humor can be great in a couple of situations. One it can be really good when you’re in a high status position because what it does is it helps to reduce status differentials. If you can poke fun at yourself then you’re saying to other people that you don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s also best used when sporadic you don’t want to use it all the time because if you use it too much then people start to think like, wait is this person throwing a pity party or they have low self-esteem? I feel like that laughing at them over and over again. And so you want to use it in moderation and in certain situations it can be good.
And then the fourth style of humor is aggressive humor. This is a negative form of humor where someone else or something else is the target. So this is sarcasm this is satire this is a pretty popular form that we see in pop culture and it’s great for making people laugh it can be very good for catharsis but it’s not good for creating positive change. And so when it comes to using like aggressive humor in the workplace it’s very, very difficult or challenging to do well so we tend to recommend to stay away from it. One caveat that I’ll give is that for me—none of your friends are like this but growing up in school there’s groups of friends that we would always banter back and forth and kind of rib each other a little bit and kind of poke fun at each other and when you have a solid relationship there’s a fine line between aggressive humor and affiliative humor and it’s sometimes based on your relationship with that person. So yeah, if you have a group of people that you work with that you’ve known for 10 years and it’s just part of the culture to kind of poke fun at each other but it’s all in playfulness and good spirits yeah that’s not necessarily aggressive humor it’s more of sarcasm, satire with someone that you haven’t met or know very well. Typically again, what we recommend is self-defeating every now and then but really stick on affiliative and self-enhancing humor and you’ll able to do really well.
Jim Rembach: I think what you just identified there is probably one of the major problems as far as the whole inappropriateness and not sure how to do it because of the most common. Especially when you start talking about in the past ten years the explosion of devices and social media and this that and the other is that people lean so heavily on sarcasm and picking on other people and now we have a whole slew of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousand dollars being spent on bullying and incivility at work.
Andrew Tarvin: Yeah, and I think you’re exactly right. And so it’s recognizing again—this is where it’s a helpful reminder that your job is not to become a funny stand-up comedian in the workplace it is to use a tool, humor, to get better results. And so, yeah, are people going to think that you’re the funniest person in the world and that you should get in that Netflix comedy special? Probably not, there’s ways. Ellen is one of my favorite comedians she’s always positive and inclusive with a lot of the jokes that she does. So it is possible but again that’s not the goal the goal is to get better results.
Andrew Tarvin: So with that we start talking about skill level so we may able to apply, okay we learn about it we kind of do some things that will help us to be able to apply it and so there’s different skill levels that you have in the book. And so you talk about three, what are those three skill levels?
Andrew Tarvin: There’s three kind of primary skills on how to use humor. I am a big believer that humor is a skill which means it can be learned. I believe that because I am someone who has had to learn how to use humor. As you mentioned in my bio I’m an engineer but as a comedian I’ve done over a thousand shows. As a stand-up comedian, improviser I’ve spoken and performed in all 50 states and 25 countries and one planet, earth. But when I went to my high school reunion and people found out that I did comedy there—but you’re not funny because in the in school I wasn’t the life of the party or the class clown type person. As you mentioned I was the I was voted teacher’s pet but I started learning it in college and I started taking classes and reading about it watching videos playing as much as I could to learn a little bit more.
So the skill of humor kind of breaks down to three things: the first starts with your sense of humor. This is simply like, what do you find interesting? What do you find funny? And everyone has a sense of humor everyone can start with that. And a comedian, their perspective becomes very important. It’s like, what makes you go huh that’s kind of interesting? That’s the starting point. Just being observant and noticing more and noticing what you kind of find enjoyable or makes you laugh or makes you smile. The second component of humor is the ability to humor. This is how you actually structure a joke. This is content and delivery. Can you deliver something in a way that people will laugh at? There’s helpful tips for that of things like put the funny at the end and make sure you have kind of a structure of setup and punchline if you’re doing a joke or delivering kind of content in a certain way. That’s all stuff that can kind of be learned and improved over time the content piece is really building off of what you find funny or interesting. And then the final piece is agency of humor or agency with humor. This is your ability to use (16:43 inaudible) specific result for a specific goal.
Can you use people to get people to pay attention? Can you use a story to build rapport? And the interesting thing about using humor in the workplace is you don’t actually have to be the creator of humor to use it you can use your sense of humor to find something that you find interesting and then you can think about its application and share that out. There’s a funny video that makes a point for you can share the funny video and kind of say, hey, I thought about this because it relates to kind of what we’re talking about in the team building earlier. One of the things that I used to do is I used to include, and I still do for a lot of my emails, is a PS at the bottom that’s just a joke. I love coming up with puns so a lot of times I created them myself but you very easily could find a resource of jokes related to customer service or client management or leadership on the Internet and then just include those as various PSs or emails or newsletters or things that you’re sending. You don’t always have to be the creator of it but you can be the shepherd of it you can be the proponent the one sharing those ideas in the workplace.
Jim Rembach: That’s a really good point. With that you also have something to help people with the application component you have something called the humor map. Tell us little bit about the humor map.
Andrew Tarvin: The humor map was a way for me to show that I was effectively using humor to achieve specific result. So the map stands for your medium, your audience, and your purpose. Your medium is how you’re going to execute that humor. Is it in an email? Is it in a phone call? Is it in a one-on-one meeting? Because we know that a medium impacts our message. The thinking of something like sarcasm. You can kind of get away with some sarcasm in person because you kind of smile about it or you kind of make sure that person knows that you’re joking much harder to do it in an email where the person reads it and they’re like, why is this person so angry or why is this person yelling at me or upset that kind of things. So your medium impacts your message so you want to understand how you’re going to execute the humor. The second piece is your audience. Who is going to receive that humor? One, what is your relationship to them? As we talked about before a joke that you would make with a friend that you’ve known for 15 years is very different than a joke you would make with someone calling in to a customer service line or to an area for the very first time. And you also want to know what does that audience you’re speaking to need and what do they expect. Because you want to deliver on what they need in a way that they don’t expect. Like using humor it’s not replacing the work that is not being like, ahh, I’m just going to be funny in that way I don’t actually have to do any work and I don’t have to create a presentation or answer this question. No, it’s about how you do it. So you still need to deliver against kind of what’s needed it’s just changing it so that you’re doing in a way that’s maybe slightly unexpected that’s a little bit more playful a little bit more fun. And then the final piece is your purpose. This is the most important one. This is why do want to use humor. Humor for the sake of hey, let’s just have some fun is okay but it’s such a powerful tool that you use it for specific results. You might say, oh, I want to use humor in an email to get people to actually pay attention to it and read it. Or I want to use humor at the start of a meetings but I can build some rapport with people and set the stage for what I’m going to talk about that day. Or maybe I want to use humor in this meetings I build relationships of the people in the room. Or maybe I want to use humor so that I can like I said reduce status differential so that people connect with me a little bit more and they’re more likely to be influenced by what I say. Whatever your specific reason that’s like becomes important for the purpose piece of it. Because that’s going to dictate what humor you might use. Incongruity humor just a simple surprise using a little bit of different language. For example, I call myself a humor engineer. That’s an example of incongruity because people haven’t heard it before. Like what? Wait, what does that mean? And that gives me a chance to talk about—oh well, I help organizations solve problems like most engineers do but my method is using humor. So simple incongruity gets people to pay attention a little bit more or association helps people remember things longer.
There’s a show here in New York City not too long ago and they had a woman who is an astrophysicist explaining astrophysics using sci-fi movies or rather, she was ruining sci-fi movies. Because she is like talking about Star Wars and how like hey, there are no explosions in space because there is no oxygen or light sabers aren’t physically possible like the force isn’t real. These were all explanations that maybe would be a little bit dry to begin with but because they’re now connected to something that’s more interesting, one, more likely to stay engage and two, easy to remember.
Jim Rembach: So as you’re talking I started thinking too—in the book you talk about many different strategies and so for me if I’m talking about somebody who, I’m not sure it’s going to be accepted but I’m willing to give it a go I don’t necessarily know how to do it unfortunately I’ve probably lean too heavily on the sarcasm component. Or I’m too self-deprecating so I need to learn a different method—what strategy should they use in order to kind of get themselves going?
Andrew Tarvin: I think there’s a couple of things to start with. As I mentioned there’s kind of five core skills of work. You have to be able to execute complete a task. You have to be able to think, write critically, creatively and create a project plan all that. You have to be able to communicate get people to understand what you’re saying articulate the intelligence that you have. You have to be able to connect emotional intelligence, empathy and then you have to be able to lead. And so the second half of the book is all about different strategies for each one of those skills. A great starting point is using humor for execution. Because that’s something that no one else can control. No one can prevent you from doing some of these things. For example, one of the things that I like to do is I like to read emails in a different accent in my head. If I’m bored when I’m batch processing email I’ll just start to read each of the emails in a different accent in my head as a way to stay engage. No one can stop me from doing that.
My manager can’t be like come up to me and be like, hey, you’re reading emails in an accent in your head, stop it. No one can do that. No one can prevent you from listening to a comedy podcast on your way home from work so that you relieve some stress and show up more present for your family. So I think the execution kind of category is a very easy place to start because it’s kind of self-contained. Finding ways to as we call the first strategy is to play your work finding ways just to make the work that you have to do a little bit more fun. Whether that is turning it into a game like adding some gaming components to it what they call gamification. Or maybe just doing it with someone that you enjoy doing it with and kind of having a friendly competition or conversation around it connecting it with something you already like to do. There’s these simple strategies that you can use to play your work. And again what we talked about before of for relieving stress, how can you strategically plan throughout the day what we call strategic (23:55 inaudible) strategic disengagement, how can you plan to take a break? Like I’m an introvert I speak for a living I do a bunch of trainings but I have to recharge and so I’m very deliberate that after I have even a great podcast like this I have scheduled time after this to recharge on my own. I watch couple of videos on YouTube or hop on Reddit for a few minutes or just something to recharge my batteries so that the next podcast that I go into or the next email that I need to write I’m more kind of engaged.
Jim Rembach: Okay, so as you were thinking I started looking at the industries that oftentimes I find myself working in and that’s contact centers, customer experience, and in that world we talk a lot about employee engagement and people who are disengaged maybe you can flip that around and say we’re going to have a disengagement moment and load it with humor, right?
Andrew Tarvin: Yeah, exactly. That’s the strategic part. I think the terminology comes from Jim Schwartz and he wrote a great book basically the idea of the corporate athlete. But the Human Performance Institute they look at world-class athletes and said, okay, what are they doing that maybe people can learn from? And when you think about athletes they’re very deliberate about training very, very hard but they’re even more deliberate about resting and recharging and fueling the body. And so they came up with this idea of strategic disengagement but then over time they’ve turned it into strategic renewal probably because disengagement has this negative connotation. But it’s just this idea it’s all just fancy corporate words for take a break. The analogy that I think of it is, if I need to drive from New York to California as fast as possible that means I’m not going to stop for gas. In a car that would make zero sense you know you’d run out of fuel and you’ll be left stranded on the side of the highway. The same thing is true for our own productivity just like a phone just like a car we need to recharge we need to refuel and humor can be a way to do that. And that’s I think what’s new to people it’s like, yeah I get it, that’s why we have week or that’s why I take that one vacation once a year but I’ve skipped the past couple of years because works been busy or whatever. No, no, we’re talking about on a daily basis almost hourly basis. Some people use the Pomodoro Technique where they work for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break and they’ve done studies with that that for hands-on tasks people were productive working in increments of 25 five than they are if they’d like spend four hours straight on it. Because we get into one of the things that we talk about in the book is the decision fatigue. We just get tired we aren’t as creative. This goes back to the managing human things. One of the things that I find interesting and I do this all the time as a project manager we label people as resources. Just as computers are a resource or money as a resource we say humans are resource. And over time we start to forget that the other person on the other side of an email or the other side of a phone call or the other side of a conference desk is a fellow human being. With human lives human emotions and maybe just maybe the reason why the email is late to you isn’t because they secretly hate you but because they have a sick kid at home. And humor is one of these things that helps to humanize us. What we say is to humor to human, it’s a very human trait. And so we don’t want to shut that down we don’t want to close it off in terms of our work because it’s no longer effective.
Jim Rembach: Most definitely and when I started thinking about humor at work when I start looking at the releasing of stress when I start thinking about all these things, there’s a lot of emotions I get tied up with it and humor is one of those that I think we need to definitely bring more into the workplace but is there a quote or two that you like that you can share with us?
Andrew Tarvin: Yeah. A couple of things that I think just kind of things to keep in mind for people, one is on the idea of humor and connection is Victor Borge said, the shortest distance between two people is a smile. If you’re unsure of how to use humor in the workplace everyone knows how to smile that can be a starting point. This is one of the things that we try to work on with leaders or people kind of managing others is that if the number one reason that people don’t use humor in the workplace is because they don’t think that their boss or coworkers would approve then encourage it more. And one of the easiest ways to encourage more humor is to laugh and smile a little bit more. It doesn’t have to be the funniest joke in the world. You don’t have any quota of laughter. It’s not like if you laugh at a joke that’s only moderately kind of okay funny in the workplace it’s not like you’re going to be watching a Netflix comedy a little bit later and then be unable to physically laugh because you used it up. So you can just laugh a little bit more you can smile a little more and so that quote always kind of sticks with me as a way to build connections with people. And then in terms of tips and maybe it’s uncouth to kind of quote yourself.
I think it has resonated with a lot of people least hearing about it after the book and everything is, to think one smile per hour as you’re starting to incorporate humor just think one smile per hour. Think what is one thing that you can do each hour of the day that brings either a smile to the face someone else? And that’s how you can start to develop this humor habit. If you’re going into a meeting that’s an hour long think what’s the one thing that I can do in this meeting? Maybe it’s starting with the story maybe it’s using a couple of images maybe it’s asking an interesting question of the people in the meeting. If you’re about to take a long commute home what’s one thing during this commute—oh, let me put on—I just recently saw Hamilton and it was amazing, so okay if I’m driving home let me put on Hamilton and rock out to the music of Hamilton as a way to again relieve some stress or enjoy the commute a little bit more. Just like take that ownership piece and find, okay, how do you actually incorporate and that? And that leads me to the last quote and it came originally from a woman who I worked with at P&G who will ultimately kind of had this revelation that you are responsible for your own happiness. It’s not up to your boss it’s not up to your coworkers it’s not up to your customers or your clients or patients or whatever to make sure that you enjoy what you do. Now hopefully they don’t detract from that hopefully they don’t take away but it’s not their responsibility. It’s up to you to make sure that you’re enjoying what it is that you do. And if you’re doing things that—if you have a project that you don’t like or a task you have to do that you don’t enjoy or you’re working in a job that you don’t love you’re responsible for and that’s not to say, oh, quit your job and move to a beach somewhere and hang out there all day but instead maybe change your perspective maybe be proactive about finding ways to have a little bit more fun.
Jim Rembach: Without a doubt. As you’re talking I’m starting to think about how you’ve come to this path? I mean, gosh, you’re talking about being the engineer talking about being at P&G you’re talking about the legacy of an organization like that and you don’t think a whole lot about humor for them but I mean all this transition to where you are today I have to think that you had a lot of humps that you’ve had to get over. Is there a time where you’ve gotten over the hump that you can share with us?
Andrew Tarvin: There’s been a lot of ups and downs but a lot more ups than downs. There’s always certainly challenge. When I first left P&G it was a bit intimidating because big change of going from getting a monthly salary and knowing that money was coming in to suddenly it’s now a business that I run myself and it’s like is it going to work? There were moments where it’s like, ahh, I don’t know. I would go to networking events for the food cause like I know this networking friend is going to have some food and as I’m starting this business out I need to save money. You have those moments of doubt and uncertainty but for me that’s where again humor—I think the reason why I’m passionate about this is because I very much live in it. I practiced it. Humor has always been a way to kind of get from it. That’s one advantage of being a speaker/storyteller/comedian is in the back of my head whenever something kind of like terrible is happening or things aren’t great I’m like this is at least going to make for a story later I’m going to at least be able to turn this into some content or something. Having that type of perspective back to that self-enhancing, humor, funny, any way to kind of look at the situation a little bit differently can definitely be helpful.
Jim Rembach: Most definitely. And the Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor:
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Jim Rembach: Alright, here we go Fast Leader legion it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Andrew, the Hump Day Hoedown is a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions but your job is to give us a fast and robust responses. Andrew Tarvin, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Andrew Tarvin: I’m ready to help you get over the hump.
Jim Rembach: Alright. What is holding you back from being a better leader today?
Andrew Tarvin: I would say delegation. I hold so much stuff close to me so I’m trying to get better at how do I delegate and leverage other people’s strengths and abilities to scale myself and the work that we’re doing.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Andrew Tarvin: Probably a quote from my manager. My first week on the job at Procter & Gamble which is, it is better to beg for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. And it’s cliché piece of advice but it gave me complete ownership of my job at the very beginning it’s what led me to incorporating humor in my work at P & G and let me do proclaiming myself the corporate humorist of P&G at one point and blogging about it and ultimately led me to starting humor that works.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Andrew Tarvin: Secrets—I think it’s the love for data. I love tracking things. I’m a big believer that reflection on the past leads to action in the future. And so it’s less about the fact that I collect data but that I look at it and say, okay, what am I learning from this? If a situation like this comes up in the future how would I react differently? And it’s basically a constant iteration. I think that combined with the idea that I want to be better today than I was yesterday leading to a lifelong learning focus of lifelong learning and always constantly improving. And that’s the goal, I want to be able to look back a year from now and be like, yeah, I’m much better than I was then.
Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of your best that helps you lead in business or a life?
Andrew Tarvin: Can I say humor? It’s almost cliché to say humor because I think humor is one tool. If we go straight practical, Evernote, a tool to be able to capture all of your thoughts and put those journal type entries to put those thoughts that you have all in one place. Actually, that’s one of the key tools that humourous have is a humor notebook. They have one place that they always go and put humor ideas and for me I use Evernote.
Jim Rembach: And what would be one book that you’d recommend to our legion it could be from any genre, of course, we’re going to put a link to Humor that Works on your show notes pages as well.
Andrew Tarvin: Certainly my book, I think you’ve already had him on the show, Raise your Game by Allen Stein is a current favorite. To go a little bit may be out there different is I would say, The Watchman the graphic novel from many years ago, there’s so many life lessons in that it’s a graphic novel, it’s fiction and it’s meant for entertainment but there’s a lot of value in it and it’s a very compelling book.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader Legion you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to fastleader.net/Andrew Tarvin, but he goes by Drew. Okay, Drew, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question. Imagine you’ve been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills you have now back with you to the age of 25. But you can’t take it all, so what one skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Andrew Tarvin: What would I take back? That’s a fantastic question. I would take back my current ability as a speaker. Because over the past 10 years, for me that would be 10 years ago I’ve gotten a lot better as a speaker and better able to articulate my ideas and influence people
in a way and lead them with—as a speaker as an idea haver the goal is to create change and so I’ve gotten much better in my ability to influence and create that kind of moment and environment for people to have those aha moments and do something differently. So I would take that back and just kind of build on that success.
Jim Rembach: Drew, thanks for being on the show. How can people get in touch with you?
Andrew Tarvin: First of all, thank you for having me, I had a great time. People who are interested just on kind of learning how to use humor then they can go to humorthatworks.com and we have plenty of free resources there in terms of blog posts and free newsletter and link to the book and online course and workshops and stuff. But if you’re more interested just in connecting with me whether you have questions or if you love puns I love tweeting out puns so you can follow me on social media at @drewtarvin and that’s on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram,
Twitter. I think I recently discovered I still have a MySpace page so if that’s your jam you can connect with me there but always more than happy to chat with people about humor.
Jim Rembach: Drew Tarvin, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!
Andrew Tarvin: Thank you for joining me on the fast leader show today. For recaps links from every show special offers and access to download and subscribe if you haven’t already head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
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