Guest Post: Creativity vs. Humor

by Brad Ellison

Brandon asked me to write a guest post for his Proverbs and Business blog.  I was racking my brain trying to come up with a topic that would be suitable to his blog, but also something I would feel equipped to write with some sort of authority.  After days of no topic coming to mind, (and after Brandon, very politely, asking a few times if I would still be able to contribute something) he texted me earlier this week with a question.  “Which sounds like a better leadership quality to write on…creativity or humor?”

Brandon and I have known each other for a number of years, so he has had some time to observe me and maybe (hopefully) he was able to identify the two leadership values that I find the most important.  This makes his question pretty tough to answer.  If he had asked “which sounds like a better leadership quality to write on…creativity or being good at Scrabble?” the answer would be pretty clear (Scrabble, obviously).  The two qualities he asked about, though, are a little closer in importance to me, so let’s dig in and see what we can discover.

Background

Before I had my current position as social media manager at Luftig Warren, I worked for about 5 ½ years in the life insurance industry.  I started as a salesman, but after only a few months, I was promoted to a sales manager position, which I occupied for most of the last 5 years of my insurance career.  At any time, I had anywhere between 10-20 salespeople working directly for me.  I had many opportunities to create, experiment with and develop a leadership style that was uniquely mine and as effective as possible.  The goal was to motivate my team to sell as much product as possible while keeping them motivated during the good weeks and the bad weeks.

The Trophy

One of my favorite things I came up with during my time in that job was my reward trophy.  Each Monday and Thursday, our team would gather to turn in paperwork and make phone calls to set up appointments for the coming days.  As a “reward” for the top sales in the previous two days, I went to a local trophy shop and bought the tallest, gaudiest trophy I could find and had “Ellison Agency #1!” inscribed on the front.  The winner from the previous days would set the trophy right in front of him while at the office, leaving no question who was the top earner that week.  It was amazing to see that an atrocious trophy would motivate my team to make an extra phone call, set an extra appointment or make that extra sale, just to have that trophy in their position for one day at the office.  But it was hilarious to all of us and the team loved it.

Humor just keeps everyone in a good mood, right?  During appointment setting hours, if I found a hilarious YouTube video, I’d tell everyone to take a break and come check it out.  We’d get a good laugh, the stress of making countless phone calls would dissolve and our productivity would rise.  Keeping the office light-hearted contributed to our team consistently being number 1, week in and week out.

I know it could be argued that part of being humorous is being creative, but in a business sense, they are two very different things.  Being humorous is sharing a funny joke or video with your team to help them lighten up.  Being creative is finding new ways to solve an old problem.  Is declaring a “Jeans Short Day” at the office more valuable to your business’ bottom line than a new sales script that helps close more deals?  Probably not.  But it might be more valuable to the morale of your workers to get a good laugh at the idea.  And in my experience, the employees that laughed more, not only stayed around longer, but also worked a lot harder.

Humor is more important then?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer.  Maybe if Brandon let’s me write another guest post I can talk a bit about the benefits of creativity in the workplace.

RESPOND: What are some of the humorous ways you have led your team?  Does a good laugh keep you pumped about your job?

Brad Ellison is the Social Media Manager for Luftig Warren, a marketing research and advisory services firm in Michigan.  He is passionate about Jesus, music and winning at board games.  He has successfully failed 4 times at auditioning for American Idol, America’s Got Talent and The Voice.  He’s that one guy you know from that one thing you did that one time.  You know…that guy?  Yeah, that’s him.

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6 thoughts on “Guest Post: Creativity vs. Humor

  1. Kevin Winningham

    HAHA … thank you for your seriously humorous insight Brad – really good stuff that ALL leaders/managers/directors/coordinators/etc. need to consider and implement!

    The ‘fun factor’ should be a Core Value of ALL organizations!

    Thank you for reminding us of Proverbs 17:22 (The Message), “A cheerful disposition (NIV = ‘heart’) is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.”

    I wish you God’s best in all you do!

    Kevin

  2. When I first saw the title of the blog, I wondered, why not both instead of either or?
    The book of Proverbs has a couple of thoughts on laughter or joy to the heart.Proverbs 17:22
    A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 15:30
    Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

    Both comments are good for us

    I actually love the ugly trophy award. It’s awesome! I always find it amazing what small, insignificant rewards can motivate people. As a coach it can be something as simple as couple of tootsie rolls, or first person in line at the drinking fountain.

    It takes some creativity to come up with trophies, such as that. More creativity abounds when you have a short jeans day. The motivation as I see it to gather the troops and make them feel relaxed. A relaxed and focused businessmen is much like the athlete, they perform at a much higher level.
    In business. The messenger that brings the good news of the good sale, becomes an encouragement to others. There does have to be a balance between humorous and the day-to-day “grind”.

    I just have one question for you: who’s the radical that didn’t wear short jeans in the picture? Is he the outside the box thinker? Or just likes to wear jeans?Or did not read the memo? =)

    • I WISH I had a picture of our Jean Shorts Day…alas, we had to settle for a photo Google had to offer.

      I definitely agree that you shouldn’t settle for one or the other. I have a follow post just about ready where I go into some detail about creativity as well. In my opinion, both are necessary to truly get the most out of your business and your employees/co-workers.

  3. One of the advantages of having a guest blogger is that I get to comment too!

    Brad– Thanks for the great insight and humorous stories you shared. I really believe the ideas of jeans’ shorts day and “the trophy” are affective because it helps everyone alleviate the front that we put on in “Corporate America”. I wish more people would learn to chill out and have fun with their co-workers instead of treating them like they are their competition.

    Also, to take this post one step further, this also applies to ourselves personally. It’s easy to get uptight about making sure we are perfect about every little detail. Well it’s impossible to be 100% perfect. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. As the Chinese Proverb says: “Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves. They shall never cease to be entertained.”

    Brandon

    • If I took myself too seriously, I would be a depressed man, indeed. All of us fall short of what we truly would like to be, right? None of us are as smart, good-looking, talented or faithful in our walk as we would like to be. But, if we continually strive to better ourselves while keeping a light hearted view of our personal reality, the journey of betterment can actually be enjoyable.

      Thanks again for the opportunity, Brandon!

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