Podcast #304

Tim Gard – Comedy in Crises Leadership

“It's interesting now that whether it's technology or if I've been on stage somewhere and had something happen, a lot of times, it's luck is preparation meeting opportunity. I fell off a stage several years ago, and had a very large stage in North Dakota and fell off and hit the floor. And the audience is actually laughing about it. And all of a sudden, they stopped laughing as if on cue. And in that silence, I said, “And now I'll take questions from the floor.” And they all burst out laughing again, as if I'd done it on purpose. (10:12)

Tim Gard

Tim Gard is a motivational, funny keynote speaker, corporate entertainer, and emcee. More than an insightful and funny guy, Tim teaches people to be more resilient and resourceful using their own comedic style. An internationally recognised authority on stress reduction and conflict resolution, Tim’s techniques demonstrate ways to diffuse, deal with, and ultimately avoid stressful encounters. Tim shines a light on previously unseen possibilities to overcome challenging situations.

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All in all, this episode of Exponential Leadership leaves us with a lot to ponder. From the fascinating facts about Botswana to the power of humour in leadership and the importance of work ethic and accountability, Tim Gard’s insights and storytelling skills keep us engaged from start to finish.

Podcast Notes

Tim Gard, is a funny, motivational, and entertaining keynote speaker, humourist and coach. Tim has played many leadership roles in his life, some of which include the military. As a leader, he has found that humour is a great way to approach and solve problems. To Tim, humour is simply the combining of ideas that don’t normally go together, it is an excellent problem solver and a way to see things differently

To Tim, humour is a way to cope, to come together, and even work through tough situations together. According to him, people also tend to follow leaders who can laugh at themselves or see the humour of a situation. As a humourist, he approaches every situation with the mindset that not every problem is quite so serious as it appears. Tim doesn’t make light of serious situations; he uses humour to help shine a light on previously unseen solutions

Be prepared as a leader

Tim has spoken at over 2500 main stage events worldwide as a keynote speaker. With the amount of talks that Tim does, he is always prepared for the worst. As a speaker, one should not rely on your aids to complete your talk. Instead, the aids (like your PowerPoint slide) are simply there to captivate your audience. You should be able to deliver your ideas without the help of your PowerPoint slideshow.

When presenting, it can happen sometimes that things start going wrong. For example, the clicker stops working, the audio sounds bad, or you could trip and take a time off the stage. Tim explains that it is best to prepare either lines or elements to fill those unforeseen gaps in silence.  Once he fell off a 1-meter-high stage at a conference and hit the floor quite hard, the audience laughed at first then went silent, in the silence he said: “Now I’ll take questions from the floor”.

Tim explains that humour is the best way to approach this. He compares it with leadership and says that a good leader knows how to manage a crowd and isn’t dependent on sources. He says that usually crowds are forgiving, so don’t stop, ever. Keep going and make your audience laugh instead of creating awkward silence.

Leadership and authority usually get mixed up. Tim explains that a good leader is capable of laughing at themselves and realising their mistakes. He relates this to stories in his past where he as a leader had to laugh at himself.

Don’t demoralise people with humour

When humour enters the sphere of leadership, it is important to keep in mind that demoralising people should never be part of the mix. Tim points out how easy it is to pass a joke that pokes fun at and demoralises people. However, as a leader, jokes at the expense of others is the last thing that you should be doing.

Tim quotes Harvey Mackay: “Leadership is not about getting people to do their job; it is getting them to do their best”. This cannot be accomplished if you demoralise those who look up to you. As a leader, you are the one they follow, people take example from you. Once you start demoralising others, they can either lose respect for you, or start acting like you.

Demoralising and hurtful jokes can sometimes happen whereby you unintentionally hurt others, and possibly do not even realise it. If you find yourself in a situation like this, it is always best to make a sincere apology. When you acknowledge your mistakes, you also regain the trust that has been broken.

As a leader it is important to always be aware of the jokes that you make whilst keeping in mind that jokes and humour can bring happiness and relief to a stressful situation. As a rule of thumb, leaders should try to use humour sparingly and always be respectful to others.

Humour can bring unexpected solutions

Humour can bring about unexpected solutions to situations. Tim explains that this is because humour is formed through joining two ideas that would not necessarily be the first thought. He elaborates on what he means by relating to a past incident.

Tim explains that when they evacuated Vietnam many people needed to be rescued. There were helicopters and ships, and boats full of American soldiers. They started filling up the ships that would be taking the soldier’s home. Soon, they realised that the ships weren’t large enough and there wasn’t space for the helicopters and the people.

One sailor made a joke and said that the only way everyone would fit on the ship is if they pushed the helicopters off the side of the ship. Which made people laugh and subsequently resulted in creating the solution they needed.  On the USS Midway CV 41 (Tim’s ship) once the hangar deck was filled they then filled the flight deck up with the exception of landing areas and then as the helicopters landed the people were safely moved and the helicopter was pushed over the side. 

In this circumstance, a simple joke resulted in a solution that saved many lives. Humour has its place in the world and often leads to the creation of wonderful ideas and innovative solutions to problems. Tim highlights why leaders should use humour as just one more leadership skill.  You can’t change the things that happen to us or around us as leaders, but we can change our perception and, in many cases, create a different, more positive reality.  Instead of always solving problems with traditional methods, instead if we use humour, we look at the most bizarre solution and the most laughingly conservative option and then somewhere in between is the real answer.

When you are in a role of leadership, humour can be used as a helpful tool to lead your team and to solve complex problems. If you’re unsure where the boundaries should lie, then keep in mind that as a leader your role is to keep your team’s best interest at heart. When you do make use of humour, be sure to stay away from direct blows to character and flaw. Rather, use humour to keep everyone engaged, to fill awkward moments, or to come up with creative solutions.

Podcast Timed Index

00:00:00 Luck and preparation are important for success.
00:02:33 Humor and leadership: Letting people find their own way.
00:08:38 Evacuation chaos turned joke saves many lives.
00:13:49 Using humor to enhance, not diminish.
00:16:43 Fear, creativity, crisis, riots, intelligence, gadgets, perspective.
00:22:02 Mixing funny words for a humorous effect.
00:33:07 Making fun of what you don’t understand.
00:37:11 “The Gift of Fear” explores body language.
00:45:45 “Flawed people make interesting leaders, work ethic.”
00:52:15 Father’s time and motion farm technique, time perception.
00:57:23 Military rules don’t allow for much freedom.
01:01:26 Tribes in Botswana and Elders
01:09:31 Diamond discovery transforms Botswana’s economy.

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More quotes from Tim Gard
• “‘Leadership isn't about getting people to do their job, it's about getting people to do their best.’ Harvey Mackay said that. And to me, it's always been a way of learning to let people find their own way without necessarily ordering them and making them. When I was in the Navy, I was on the USS Midway, which if any of your watchers were ever in the San Diego harbour, it's sitting out there, the ships out there. I spent two years there, when we evacuated Vietnam several years ago, and I discovered this, probably so many others have. Leadership and authority are two very different things.” (16:20)

• “We used to call it whistling in the dark. People deal with terrible, terrible things in their own ways. And some people… there's so many sayings out there that, there's something so serious, we must laugh at it. There are so many things out there. But it's funny, the minute there's a disaster that jokes appear within seconds. The extremes on that a lot of the comedians, they don't really pull any punches, but the jokes pop out on that. I mean, there were COVID jokes. So almost immediately, when COVID hit. I think the first one I heard was “after COVID they have to get rid of a lot of sayings they are used to, like avoid it like the plague,”. A lot of jokes came about and I guess everybody has their thresholds about where they won't go. After 9/11 there were jokes. I don't think any of them had any depth, I'm just saying people dealt with that. And it was a terrible, terrible thing. And I would see those jokes and it actually made me pretty upset, they almost made me mad. And I realised that it's the same for everybody depending on who's involved, if you're involved or not.” (24:21)

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