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May 30, 201911:05 AMOpen Mic

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5 things leaders can learn from stand-up comedians

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4. Give credit where credit is do

The cardinal sin of stand-up comedy (just after murder) is stealing material. Taking someone else’s jokes and pretending they are your own is like buying a Coke, putting your own label on it, and selling it as Joe’s Soda. After all, jokes are the primary product that comedians “sell.”

In management, to take credit for what other people have done is not only dishonest, it’s limiting for both you and your team. Your team doesn’t get the proper recognition they deserve, and you don’t showcase your ability to inspire your team to great results.

Taking credit and stealing material may help you get ahead in the short-term, but in today’s world, the frauds and the thieves tend to get found out and left behind.

5. Respect people’s time

The second biggest sin in comedy is going over your allotted time (called “blowing the light”). Nearly every comedian imagines they could entertain the crowd for hours upon hours, but (thankfully) shows typically limit the amount of time each comic has, often based on their skill-level or connection to the show. To go over the amount of time given is to tell the show producer and all of the other comedians, “I think I’m more important than you” and “I don’t respect you.”

When you, as a leader, hold people longer than the scheduled time, or consistently show up late to meetings, you’re saying the same thing: “I think I’m more important than you” and “I don’t respect you.”

Respect people’s time and they’ll respect yours (and you) for it. If you need help keeping meetings on track, you can always do what comedians do: give people a notification when their time is almost up and then cut the mic if they go on for too long.

Stand-up leadership

Becoming a stand-up leader isn’t easy, but following some of these principles from stand-up comedians can certainly help. Plus this is the perfect excuse to finally give stand-up comedy a try, or at least watch some of your favorite comedians online. You won’t just be having a laugh, you’ll be on your way to becoming a better leader, as well.

Andrew Tarvin is the author of Humor That Works: The Missing Skill for Success and Happiness at Work and CEO of Humor That Works, a consultancy for human effectiveness.

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