Karyn Buxman

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Posts Tagged 'Lead with Levity'

Leadership and Humor: Jolly Good!

As I began the interview for my podcast, I looked at his boyish grin and into his playful eyes. “My guest today is Chade-Meng Tan, and he’ll be sharing his insights on leading with levity.”

Meng got a puzzled look on his face and said, “Levity? Oh, I thought we’d be talking about levitation. I guess I’ll have to throw out my notes!”

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “This might be a disaster!”

Chade-Meng Tan then tipped back his head and laughed. Perhaps I should mention that Meng is known as Google’s Jolly Good Fellow. “Leaders need to establish trust—and humor is one way of establishing trust,” he said.

Recently retired from Google (at age 45), Meng is an award-winning engineer, bestselling author, TED talk presenter (check out his TED talk  where he shares his insight: “Compassion Is Fun”), and Co-chair of One Billion Acts of Peace, which has been nominated seven times for the Noble Peace Prize. As a leader, he demonstrates that you can use humor not only to lead in your workplace or organization, but on a global scale.

In your pursuit of better leadership skills you’ve collected an extensive set of tools: Focus. Vision. Values. Strategy. Tactics. Emotional intelligence. Goal-setting. Decision-making. Storytelling. Mentoring. Humor.


I’ve noticed that MBA programs rarely teach humor. And business books don’t extoll the benefits of humor in the corporate—or any organizational—setting. And that’s too bad, because humor is a tool that enhances many of the other leadership tools that you use. Humor enhances communication; bonds teams; improves retention; increases productivity; and improves profitability.

The effectiveness of humor used to be anecdotal. But now it’s a scientifically proven fact that humor has physiological, psychological, and social benefits. Over the past several decades neuroscientists, psychologists, social scientists, and integrative scientists have been ferreting out the secrets of humor.

Research from Wharton, MIT, and London Business School reveal the practical benefits of humor in the workplace. Even “The Harvard Business Review” acknowledges that humor is an important leadership skill.

As a leader, you need a variety of tools that will help you better guide, direct, and inspire others: Your overall temperament and personal style; the manner in which you give guidance, instructions and reprimands; your ability to adapt your techniques to each person and each team you’re addressing (“emotional intelligence,” anyone?!); the tone of your voice; the different styles of communications for one-on-one interactions, for small group meetings, and for large audience situations; your flexibility, your writing style; your confidence; your level of expertise, and—your use of humor.

A good leader knows that when humor happens by chance, positive things can happen. But a great leader knows that humor applied with purpose, intention and mindfulness can change the world.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

She can also be reached via:

[email protected]
Twitter: @KarynBuxman
Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman
Candy-grams: 1465 C St. #3318 SD, CA 92101
Smoke signals: avoid when prohibited by fire season!

Posted in: Business, Humor, Leadership

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Lead with Levity: An Interview with Dr. Bob Dent, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, FACHE

Bob Dent ScreenshotDr. Bob Dent is the Dean of Health Services for Midland College, as well as the VP of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer for Midland Memorial Hospital, which is located in Midland, Texas. He’s one of those impressive individuals who has more characters in the abbreviations of his professional accomplishments than most of us have in our actual name!

But his accomplishments aren’t just a result of his education, or his certifications. Dr. Dent’s caring, compassion, and charisma exude through his easy-going style and sense of humor. I’ve had the privilege of watching Dr. Dent during a visit to Midland Memorial and seen first-hand his mastery of leading with levity: setting the tone for fun while at the same time setting high expectations of his staff.

The result? They’ve achieved ANCC’s Pathway to Excellence—twice! They are enthusiastic about their path on the ANCC Magnet Journey. Patient satisfaction scores are high and continue to climb, and employee satisfaction scores reflect how much they enjoy their work: a lot!

For an example of Dr. Dent’s leadership style, and how much it impacts the engagement of Midland Hospital employees, check out this video his team created to celebrate Nurse’s Week. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB7vx8LzQuQ When was the last time you saw a top executive lip-sync Pharrell Williams?

As you might imagine, Dr. Dent has some great insights for those of us who want to lead with levity. You’ll find highlights of our conversation below, or watch the whole thing for yourself on Google Hangouts.

Humor has a positive impact on all the indicators we track.

“When we look at engagement levels, patient satisfaction scores, and NDNQI numbers, we see that the use of humor has a positive impact. Humor breaks the monotony of what we do, and it’s incredibly important during the onboarding process, when we bring a new staff member on. We are always striving for balance: there’s a time to be serious and a time to have fun with each other. The result in an environment where there’s both fun and productivity.”

Look for opportunities to celebrate!

“Keep your eyes open for those moments that could be fun, where humor could be introduced. Our leadership team participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – and we made sure we did it out in the courtyard, where everyone could see us through the windows. This gave them a chance to be part of the fun, as we got soaked and then challenged our colleagues in a neighboring town.

“You want to celebrate the small things, and the big things as well. When our nurses are honored with a DAISY award, we show up with the cinnamon rolls and balloons and have a good time with that. And we’re really proud of the fact that we’ve just been awarded a Pathway to Excellence award for the 2nd time– something we’re definitely going to celebrate!”

Be the example.

“If I want my team to use humor, I can’t be stressed all the time. To stay calm and collected, use humor to break through the day to day stuff that happens. It’s important to be visible. Be punctual and spend time with your staff. You can get caught up in things and just disappear into your office, but we can control that. Schedule time to be visible. Schedule time to have fun.”

Be Yourself – Unless You’re a Jerk!

“The best advice I can give someone who wants to add more humor to their leadership style is to just try it—as long as you know it won’t hurt or kill somebody. If your humor is inappropriate, someone will let you know.”

Lead with Levity Summary

karyn coffeeTwo things really jump out at me after my conversation with Dr. Dent. First: the use of humor has a proven positive impact on every aspect of Midland Memorial’s operations. Laughter improves the lives of patients, nurses, physicians, staff, and administration alike! Second: Adding humor to your organizational culture is an ongoing, deliberate practice—Dr. Dent looks for reasons to celebrate. How could you do this in your workplace? Humor is power. Find mentors and masters like Dr. Dent to help you on your journey to lead with levity!


Karyn Buxman is a neurohumorist and thought leader in applied humor. For free tips on how to make levity work for YOU, sign up here. Additional interviews can be found http://karynbuxman.com/blog/

Posted in: Leadership

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