My friend, and erstwhile colleague, Valerie Di Maria, recently opined on the attributes necessary for a chief executive officer to truly be authentic.
Valerie's list includes the obvious:
- Admitting mistakes
- Emotional intelligence (which I'm pretty sure I've lacked since the age of 16)
- A willingness to engage in unscripted give-and-take.
Unfortunately, she missed the most important attribute: telling the truth.
And, that's why I believe EVERY CEO OF EVERY FORTUNE 500 corporation should be trained in stand-up comedy. That's not a typo, and it's not a joke.
We've been training senior executives at major companies for the past few years as part of our Comedy Experience. We partner with a professional comedian, Clayton Fletcher (www.claytonfletcher.com), to lead sessions that have nothing to do with joke-telling and everything to do with showing vulnerability, story-telling and, yes, telling the truth.
Clayton will tell you the very best comedians rely on truth to create their bits. And, that's what we insist upon in our training. After explaining the four different types of comedy, we demonstrate how we use a true, personal event to frame a two to three-minute routine.
The subsequent results are nothing short of amazing. By baring their souls in front of their peers and direct reports, senior executives immediately possess ALL of the subtle value-adds Val talks about in her authentic executive list:
- They become more likable
- They become more approachable
- They not only admit mistakes, they embrace them
And, here's the big one. Drum roll please:
- By allowing everyone else to laugh with them when they stutter or forget a line, authentic CEOs make the tension disappear and the humanity reappear. They also provide the glue necessary for a senior team to become a more tight-knit, all for one and one for all, unit.
I think most CEOs and CCOs will look at Valerie's list, shrug their shoulders and think to themselves, “We already do that.” As a result, they won't change.
I think many will also ignore stand-up comedy as a means to becoming a more authentic executive. Why? Not because the CEO or CCO doesn't think it'll work. On the contrary, it makes perfect sense. Rather, performing stand-up comedy requires one to show vulnerability, and to most CEOs, that's anathema.
Sadly, the authentic CEO remains more of an oxymoron than an aspiration. But, while I have your attention, have you heard the one about the CEO, CFO and CCO who walked into a bar?