May 24

The best team-building exercise known to man

I've
been through all the typical team-building exercises on the market, dating back
to the prototypical Stephen Covey stuff of the early 1990s. Some of it works.
Some is a mere band-aid (think: Kaisan).


May 24
Believe
it or not, stand-up comedy is the real deal. I saw its potent, team-building
effect once again this weekend at the PRSA Counselors Academy's Spring
Conference
.

Stand-up
comedian
Clayton Fletcher, led the workshop and had
his work cut out. His session was scheduled for 8am on Sunday morning (and,
counselors, if nothing else, love to party). So, the group was subdued,
skeptical and, in some cases, a tad out of sorts from the previous night's
extra-curricular activities. 

A
group of 100 or so PR executives shuffled into Asheville's Grove Park Inn's
main banquet room, stuffed their mouths with breakfast and listened as Clayton
explained why comedy is a powerful tool that dramatically enriches a PR firm's workplace culture
and how it makes all the difference in the world in prospect and client
meetings. The silence was deafening
.

After
laying the groundwork, Clayton then asked for a few volunteers to 'perform' a
few minutes of their own material. I held my breath. Then, Janet Tyler of
Airfoil raised her hand, strode to the stage and absolutely killed (as we
comedians like to say). With the ice having been broken, one after another senior
executive dashed to the front of the room to perform. And the audience just
loved it. They pulled really hard for one another, loved 'learning' new things
about the their peers and finally 'got' the connection between comedy and
establishing rapport with an audience and fostering team building within a
group. It was a true Anne Sullivan/Helen Keller 'ah ha' moment.

When
the hour-long session concluded, the crowd roared its approval, rushed the
podium to ask Clayton if he could run a similar session for their firms and
congratulated one another for their hysterical bits.

I
was beyond happy. I know the power of comedy in business and have made sure
most Peppercom employees have not only been trained, but that some have
actually performed professionally on stage. And, I know it's helped our
workplace culture.

Despite
my proselytizing, however, I've been met with blank stares when I speak about
comedy to other agency owners. Big firms won't do it, believing their in-house
'camps' or 'universities' provide all the presentation skills and team building
necessary. And, smaller firms see it as a cost item they simply can't afford in
this economy.

The
truth is, stand-up comedy training is a highly-effective, seldom-used training
tool that will pay dividends for years to come. But, I'm fine with other firms
not embracing it. Because, all things being equal, when a prospective client or
employee has to decide a firm with whom to partner, she'll choose the group
that made her smile. And, I'll be laughing all the way to the bank.