IPMA Lesson: The Lighter Side of Management
A pair of keynotes at last month's IPMA 2019 conference focusing on the mirthful side of management gave attendees some new perspectives to consider.
First, Scott Christopher brought some laughter and showed attendees of the Louisville, Ky., conference the importance of levity in the workplace — something managers often overlook, he said. Traditionally, managers believe their teams look to them to be technical experts, but in reality they are more interested in the manager’s accessibility and how they connect and interact. Employees are looking for a people culture and management that cares. They want to be happy, he stressed, and when they are, they are more productive. Levity increases happiness.
So how do you bring levity into your culture? Christopher presented his three keys to levity: latitude, attitude, and gratitude.
- Lattitude: Incorporate a sense of humor into the work environment instead of focusing only on the work itself. Allow some latitude. Don’t be so rigid and formal.
- Attitude: Be positive, and show respect to your team. Be your authentic self. Be fun but not necessarily funny. Discover your own sense of humor.
- Gratitude: Show you care about your team members. Be visible and open, and say “thank you” often.
Christopher challenged attendees to choose to be happy and build teams with happiness at the core. He encouraged attendees to discover their own sense of humor, even if it means “stealing” funny lines and filing them away for appropriate moments. Most of all, he encouraged everyone to lighten up.
This lighthearted management approach was reinforced in another keynote by Dr. Bowen White. IPMA attendees knew they were in for a wild ride when flamboyant clown Dr. Jerko (aka White) burst through the back doors of the ballroom. In a keynote like no other, he encouraged attendees to do mischief, feel better, and lighten up in problem solving. By doing this, he said, they will make better connections with people.
White reminded managers that they are all radiant beings, just as they were when they entered this world. We all come into this world with nothing, he said, and we learn by repetition — one mistake at a time. Failure is a part of learning, but we are shamed when we fail, leading to feelings of inadequacy.
These feelings of inadequacy never go away, he contended. We focus on flaws instead of accepting ourselves, complete with those flaws. And the way we treat others has more to do about how we feel about ourselves than them. We are scared and only show the world what we want them to see. We are resistant to change because we are afraid of making mistakes and the shaming that brings. And we keep people at a distance so they won’t discover who we really are. We become the “scared guy.”
Change requires self-acceptance, White said. It makes us vulnerable. But it opens us to relationships and builds trust. By changing, he said, we learn to accept others as they are.