Steve Cody, the co-founder and managing partner of Peppercomm, a communications agency based in New York, understands the power of humor and storytelling to help package his clients’ messages. But as a part time stand-up comedian, he’s also a huge believer in the power of humor to change the way people interact and communicate with one another, and in the process transform an entire workplace culture. I had a fascinating conversation with Cody last week, where he explained how humor has completely become embedded in Peppercomm’s DNA.
After taking a comedy course, Cody was such a comedy convert that he insisted the entire Peppercomm management team take the training as well. “At first everyone balked. They couldn’t see the connection to business, plus some managers were terrified! But after doing the workshop there was unanimous support to bring it to all the employees.” Now every new employee must take the training and all employees must take a refresher course so it’s not treated as a one-off experience. Here are five key benefits that came out of Peppercomm’s stand-up comedy training:
1. Everyone communicates better, particularly when it comes to listening skills. As Cody explained, “Doing stand-up teaches you to listen intently to audience feedback and to read body language cues.”
2. It improves everyone’s presentation skills. Cody stressed that the training isn’t about telling jokes, but about telling stories, so everyone becomes better storytellers, plus they are able to think on their feet faster, and they’re more confident because after doing stand-up, any business presentation seems like a breeze by comparison!
3. It’s a huge team building experience. It’s become a rite of passage for everyone at Peppercomm and everyone bonds due to the intensity of the experience. People are vulnerable when they are on stage and 100% supportive and loving when they are in the audience, and that vibe carries back to the office. They especially find a profound difference occurs in how younger employees relate to the older managers.
4. It’s helped Peppercomm attract and retain employees. “Word has spread about our unorthodox training,” Cody said. “Younger employees are drawn to us because they like the creative approach and positive culture, so it’s helped our recruiting practices immensely.”
5. The entire culture is strengthened. Every aspect of Peppercomm’s culture has improved. The key, Cody stressed, is to not treat it as a gimmick or a one-off flavor of the month phenomenon. Building the comedy into the culture requires that everyone stands up for an inspiring workplace.
2014. Michael Kerr is a very funny motivational speaker and international business speaker. He travels the world researching, writing and speaking about inspiring workplaces and how business tap into their humor advantage to laugh all the way to the bank. Sign up for Mike’s raved about e-zine Humor at Work for more great ideas and inspiration.
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