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.
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.
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.
- @bradellison – personal
- @luftigwarren – business