Laughter is the best medicine – and fastest way to workplace productivity

Jessica Hill

Anand Chulani has led a colourful career that includes being a stand-up comedian, a US sitcom writer, a creative consultant for the Walt Disney Company and a consultant for Nestlé, Turner Broadcasting and Toshiba. Last month, the 39-year-old leadership and peak performance coach, from India, brought his signature brand of humour to Dubai, where he ran a workshop for the entrepreneurs’ organisation called Never Settle.

Why do you advise entrepreneurs to “never settle”?

A lot of people today are conquering one area of their life – either their business, their relationships or their personal life. But how do you enter what I call the “zone of maximisation” for all three? You can be in the best relationship, but if your business is ageing, it’s going to impact on you. Or you can be in the best business but if you’ve got issues at home with your spouse, then that’s going to have an impact because you’re one person in these three worlds. Most of us are bored going to see a movie – we want to see it in 3D. Our life is a movie, but most of us experience our lives in a one-dimensional format. I believe for us to win both games in life – the external game which is success and the internal game which is our values of love, happiness, peace, whatever is important – we’ve got to be leaders in three dimensions.

How do you use humour in your motivational speaking?

I hate the term “motivator” and strongly believe that motivation does not get long-term results as it requires someone to do it for you. I believe in activation – activating what’s already inside of us already to fulfil our potential and get results. My presentations are not “death by PowerPoint” – they are more humorous and I do some funny relationship insights in there.

Can laughter be harnessed in the workplace as a stress reliever?

I believe in the power of laughter because when you’re laughing, or when you’re in a state of joy, you’re actually living one of your core values and you are present. When you are in a place of joy and in the zone when you’re at work, it’s a powerful place. The best people in life look at their work as a game, they don’t look at their life as stress. If they mess up, they find joy and laughter in it. Because they know that tomorrow they will wake up and it’s a new day.

What do happy employees mean for businesses?

I’m working with companies right now that want to become preferred employers. I teach them that they need to offer a workplace where employees can enjoy themselves – not laugh and goof around, but a place where they can be themselves, connect with others and build a team – that’s a place people want to work at. I believe that happiness is the new productivity. When your employees are joyful, passionate, alive, when they feel that camaraderie and connection, they want to be at work.

How can leaders benefit from humour?

The first thing you need as a leader is to be able to laugh at yourself. That means don’t take yourself so seriously, because one of the things with any great leader is a self-deprecating sense of humour, a person who shows that they are human. We don’t follow robots. There is no such thing as a perfect leader, there is a leader who gives their best. There are days you give your best and get results and there are days when you give your best and you don’t get those results. It’s your ability to dust yourself off, laugh at yourself, say its OK and move forward, that’s the joy.

How is your previous stand-up work similar to your role as an activational speaker?

Good comedy comes from truth. A lot of what stops people from getting the results they want is the story they keep telling themselves about why they can’t have something. I try to help people get to the truth of what’s really going on. A leader may blame his team. But the truth means taking full accountability for the issues in a company – he needs to really see that it’s actually it’s his nature that’s creating the issues. Success is 80 per cent psychology and 20 per cent mechanics. Back when I was doing stand-up comedy, I was using humour to connect people to the truth of their lives so they laugh. Now it’s about reminding people about the truth of their lives, and helping them find the joy. Before, they would believe what I said, laugh, and then go back to their lives. My work today is about helping them live joyful lives in the room when I’m with them, but also create those joyful lives in their businesses and personal lives when they leave.

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