Episode 9: The Power of Laughter in Leadership

Updated: May 14, 2019

June Cline shares with Dr. Sarah Andreas the value of Laughter in leadership. You can find June at http://junecline.com

You will learn:




Dr. Sarah Andreas: Hey, there. Welcome to The Leadership Snapshot podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Sarah Andreas. Each episode, we interview leaders who share their biggest leadership challenge or the best advice that they have for growing as a leader. Stick around, we have plenty of people to talk to. All right. Hi, everyone. This is Dr. Sarah Andreas, and my guest today is June Cline. June is the owner of the Center for Laughing and Learning. How fun is that? June, tell us a little bit more about yourself.

June Cline: Thank you so much, Dr. Sarah. That has a good ring to it from me to you. Thank you for having me on your show. Yes, the Center for Laughing and Learning is a virtual center where my intention is to have a hub of information around the power of using laughter and the power of learning through laughter no matter what walk of life we're in, but specifically for leaders. I believe that we are woefully underskilled and underprepared for using humor appropriately in leadership.

Just a little bit more about me, I am the southern sassy and savvy Harley-riding humorist, and I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and learned the power of laughter initiating boundaries and just good feeling. That then, I took that into corporate where I figured out that if I could have my leaders laughing, then I could be promoted and asked to be on different boards and different positions. The ROI of LOL came out of that.

Dr. Sarah: Tell us what the ROI of LOL is.

June: Return on investment of laughing out loud. The power of initiating humor, that's one of the differences between me and what I bring to the table around laughter as opposed to some other speakers, that I really focus on the power of you initiating it. That said, then you need to be initiating it appropriately so that it is charming, not harming, and helping, not hurting the bottom line of the company or the organization, but also your reputation and how people view you.

Dr. Sarah: That makes total sense and I love that. You've had this journey of really mastering laughter and bringing laughter into leadership. I love that. Give us one really great tip about what you can do to initiate laughter.

June: Awareness is the first. We can talk about a three-step process today as far as awareness. I can give you a story of waiting in an office to be interviewed for a job position. The gentleman walked out and clicked his heels together, almost like a maitre d'Charles erudite-looking gentleman and said, "They're ready for you now," and motioned for me to follow him. I'm like, "They're ready for you now. Who are they? How many are they? Where did they come from?" I didn't understand that it was a committee and made a right into a big boardroom office, and there were like 20 people sitting around this table. It scared me to death.

My knees almost buckled as I was getting in the chair, which was the hot seat right there near the door. I just looked at all of them, and I said, "You know, if I'd known you all were coming, I'd have baked a cake." It just broke up the room. That was an old phrase my grandmother used to say all the time. It wasn't particularly funny, but because of the stress and the tension of the situation, it made them laugh. The back story is, I found out after I had the job, was they kept saying, "Go back to the funny one. Let's look at the resume of the funny one," because there were like 27 applicants, and I got the job.

Dr. Sarah: That is fantastic.

June: That's a prime example of awareness and giving yourself awareness. I have people go ape all the time when I'm in a corporate setting. One of the opening icebreakers I do is have people go ape, which makes some people very nervous and very unhappy, but the three points around this are awareness, permission, and fun. The fun is a surprise. People go, "What?" It's like, yes, it's the surprise that makes it funny. You have to be able to bring the surprise when you're trying to create laughter.

Dr. Sarah: I love that. Here's the question I ask everyone is, what is the biggest leadership lesson that you ever had to learn?

June: Wow. I would say the power of laughter, the power of bringing laughter to your leadership even in tensed or sometimes difficult situations. Laughter. Again, it is the power of initiating laughter.

Dr. Sarah: Cool. What advice would you give to a leader who is just starting to become a leader? They're not fully CEO, but they're entry level and they want to continue to grow and become a leader who makes an even bigger impact. What advice would you give that person?

June: The number one complaint that I hear, and specifically for women, and what I didn't say earlier is my focus is really on pre through postmenopausal women. The biggest complaint I hear when I'm in and out of corporations is that women take themselves too seriously. We need to lighten up. It's that good old boy syndrome of we're trying to fit into their mold still. Sometimes, I think it's much better today, especially with all the movements and the leadership that women are taking on and stepping into. Yet, we still need to bring ourselves to the table. It goes back to, again, giving yourself permission but to have courage to say what it is that could be funny.

It's a huge risk. I have 21 humor tips that people can go to my website and download for free there. One of them is risk and being willing to go for it even though it can be terrifying. Another story is a time that I was in a meeting with the vice president of the bank that I worked for and I was outpost one. I was their first remote employee and marketing to colleges all around the southeast. I had 191 campuses. One of the other lenders had gone out of business, was going to out of the student loan market, which is what I was in, a student financial aid, student loans.

They were stopping their program, so there were four amazing women that I knew, and we were trying to expand ours and I was trying to get the senior VP to understand that this is a good time to bring on someone. He let me know very quickly that we wouldn't be doing that. I argued for it a little bit. The next morning came in, he came in and he said, "Well, I've decided. Today, I wore my asbestos underwear." Standing in a group of people and he's looking at me, and I said, "That's great because today, I'm wearing the pins." It just cracked up.

Do you see the risk that I had to take there? I just had to go for it. Not everybody will, especially starting out. I would say, yes, you have to tread-- It's really interesting. I think it comes from your gut when you know to go for it. Sometimes it can fail and that's where appropriate or inappropriate, but I think if you say it with conviction and-- Oh, the other point I want to make is, did you see how it was pointed in? He started it. He's the one that said something. For me, the pointing in, it made it okay because I wasn't pointing out my humor, which can be very, very damaging and harmful to relationships.

Dr. Sarah: Right. That makes perfect, perfect sense. What exciting things are you working on for the remainder of 2019? We've got nine months left.

June: Giving birth. It's like giving birth, isn't it, in that nine months? I am so excited about all the things that I have going on. Number one is I just launched an initiative online that is, I mentioned earlier, pre through postmenopausal women. That's the group. I'm being even a little bit more specific, but it's not closed to other women, and that's motorcycle-riding women. I know you know that that is near and dear to my heart.

A couple of years ago, I started doing a program at the Steel Horse Sisterhood Motorcycle Riding Summits. It was called Brass Bra Woman. Brass stands for these five actions to take no matter what. Whatever the situation is, if you will just remember brass and do accordingly, you can pull yourself out of pretty much any overwhelm or over-stressed situation. The brass stands for, the first b is for breathe. It's amazing how shallow our breathing gets when we're afraid or concerned or in a tensed situation. Just remember for in, hold for four, release for eight. If you'll do that four times-- [coughs] Goodness, we're both-

Dr. Sarah: Coughing today, yes.

June: Yes. We're not even in the same area of the world. The breathing is extremely important that you breathe, it turns out. Then, the r, brass, brass, B-R, I have to spell it every time, is to relax and just notice where your attention is. Sometimes we're wearing our shoulders up on our ear lobes. Just by knowing to relax into the situation, whatever it is. Relax a little more. Specific like in traffic. If you're going to be late and you're going crazy, I've just gotten to where I can say, "Breathe and relax," and I'll slow down. Slow down my thoughts, slow down driving. I'm not as anxious to get wherever. I'm going to get there in the perfect and right time.

Then, allow is just to allow whatever the situation is. Maybe can't change it. By allowing it is that-- Oh, shoot, what's the name of the aikido or kido? Where you go with the energy instead of away from it. I've totally forgotten the term. It's a martial art move where you don't resist, you go with. That's the kind of allowing. Some people think allowing is giving up. It's certainly not. It's just being present with what is. Then the twist there is the first s, which is to see it the way you wanted to see it.

In your brain, in your mind, vision board it, whatever it takes. I'm a tactical person, so I do love the vision boards, but it goes a step beyond that. It's feeling what it would be like, what it will be like when that process, when you do get to see it, you get to step into that as it is, as it already is. Then, the last s is for say it, because you have to claim it, and you have to claim it verbally. Now, the caution and caveat to that is you'll need to be a little careful who you share it with because not all family and friends are excited about your growth and your success. Have you noticed that?

Dr. Sarah: Yes. Isn't that a shame?

June: Yes. That is real.

Dr. Sarah: It is. It's so sad because, at least for me, you know that when people are coming from there and they're not happy for you and they're not excited for you, the truth is, is they're probably not very happy and excited for themselves, which is the piece that I think is super sad.

June: Exactly. They don't know how to do it. So many times when I'm working with women and it's like, "What do you want?" They don't know. We've had the want beat out of us or scared out of us or just shut down. That's one of my reasons I love to focus on women because we're the caretakers, the caregivers, and we lose ourselves so often in that process. We have to stick a claim in the ground that "I'm taking me back." Learning to ride was one of those moments for me. Learning to ride a motorcycle was one of the biggest, most selfish, I think, gifts that I gave myself. The confidence that has come from that is priceless.

Dr. Sarah: I love it. June, thank you so much for being a part of my podcast today and coming on and talking to us about laughter and leadership and just speaking your truth to us. I loved it.

June: Thank you so much. Will we tell people how-?

Dr. Sarah: If you enjoyed this podcast, make sure you subscribe so that way you can hear new podcasts that come out every week. Embrace your journey and we'll talk to you next week.

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