05 Dec Spread the Humor, not the Rumors
Humor is the Filipino’s way to get through the stresses and tensions of difficult times, may it be in business or matters of the heart.
It’s almost the end of the day, but our management meeting is still ongoing. I can’t help but notice how a number of our managers are already losing their focus and are already looking forward to going home. In the middle of my presentation, I paused and shared a personal story, cracked a quasi race-related joke, and got the whole room laughing about my mischief. In just a few minutes, the energy is back in the room.
My most often serious-looking partner and Chief Technology Officer, Mario Salazar, had given me a very brilliant quote the other day, “Good leaders spread humor, not rumors”. After working together for three years, aside from the fact that I can count with my fingers the few jokes he cracked during our meetings (I have to say are mostly good), it’s inevitable for us to be on opposing sides of the coin on certain decisions and direction for the business. Despite this fact, we’ve both learned to adjust and ease tensions with humor and respect the fact that we disagree on certain matters.
People are more open in a positive and light environment. The other day, I brought a gong to my office for display. One of our senior developers, Noel, played around with the idea of ringing the gong every time I go out of my office, or when I have visitors. This in turn always gives a good laugh to the employees and our visitors. If I embody a tense culture in the office, Noel would have most likely been hesitant to even bring this idea up to me. Creating a light and open culture starts with small things like this.
More often than not, great ideas remain unheard because people are afraid to share them in a tense and combative workplace. The next time you wonder why your team is not responsive and doesn’t share ideas during meetings, you may want to check your company culture and environment.
Leaders should understand that for the most part, the work itself, hitting targets (KPIs), is already stressful on its own and your role should be that fresh breeze of encouragement and guidance for them to keep going despite the difficulties and challenges. If you attack your people for their mistakes or penalize them in a draconian manner, not only will they lose the remaining motivation left in them, they would most likely even revolt against you.
“Joke joke joke” as Bayani Agbayani said. The good news is, we Filipinos are naturally good with injecting humor even in the most hopeless situations. We excel at this, keeping tensions down and the mood light and fun. The bad news, we are also very fond of intrigues, what we so call “chismis,” talking about the mischiefs and unverified stories about other people.
It’s all about people, stupid! When I was a student both in Founder Institute and at the E-Founders program in Alibaba Business School, despite the differences in their models considering one preaches western practices, while the other, eastern, both agree that people, human resource, is the most important aspect of a business. Bringing in even just one person who does not fit the company values and culture inside your organization can poison and destroy the dynamics of the whole group.
I am lucky to have partners like Mario, who see eye-to-eye with me with regard to respect for people and being against office politics. Two quarters ago, after realizing the differences in our leadership’s understanding of how to run and lead people, we decided to revamp our management team in our company. This time, more than just making sure we are aligned about our goals for the business, we also made sure our values are aligned.
We collectively understand that having an unhealthy tense environment within an organization is detrimental to the whole ecosystem we support. At the end of the day, if we can’t keep order among our ranks, we can’t serve our customers and stakeholders well.
It always feels good and exciting to go to work when the first thing that greets you are smiles and warm words from the people you work with, when the environment feels more like a family rather than a workspace, and when people are not fearful to crack a classy joke in front of their manager or leader. As the leader of an organization, you have the power to set the tone of the workplace, so if you want your staff to also ring a gong for you and your visitors, keep it light, keep it warm and spread the humor, not the rumors.