Our guest this week on Leadership Development News is Mike Fritz. Mike has a book called Making Leadership F.U.N. He has a very interesting background with a Masters degree in leadership. For many years he has been a stand-up comedian and someone who has inspired over 100,000 people a year. He is a very well sought after as a speaker on the speaking circuit. Mike’s knowledge of leadership and the ability to make people laugh until it hurts is unmatched. His program, Making Leadership F.U.N. is not only booked all over the country but maintains a 92% re-booking rate. He has delivered over 1,500 paid talks. He is the author of some best-selling books including Great Leaders Aren’t Born They are Made and Making Leadership F.U.N. He has shared the stage with many celebrities, NFL quarterbacks, Super Bowl Champion Joe Theisman, Glenn Morshower who is on the TV show 24, and Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Kevin Eastman.
Mike’s mission is to make leadership fun for every leader. Cathy and I are in organizations all of the time and often its not so much fun; it’s a lot of hard work. He believes that for far too long we have had to endure boring leadership seminars while staring at graphs and stiff speakers sweating through their suits.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Today is going to be a lot of fun. I met Mike about a year or so ago at a program that a buddy of ours, Gary Barnes runs for his traction coach business. He was one of our Miraval Mindfulness coaches. Mike was not only one of the most engaging speakers at that program, Mike has a way of engaging your heart and your mind which of course stimulates, as we know, the positive psychology aspects of optimism and the science of happiness. We know that when people’s minds are activated with joy and all those great endorphins start running through the body, we are able to sustain ourselves longer, avoid stress and do a lot of great things for our mind and body that stimulates our best performance. I’m so excited today to have Mike on the show.
I think one of the things that our audience will learn about Mike in the next 45 minutes or so is that his website: MakingLeadershipFun.com is a really fantastic resource for people. When I say he has a heart of gold it is in part because one of the things that Mike does in an effort to bring joy globally is he has a program, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it, that provides opportunities for children around the world who don’t have what we have. Hopefully those who are listening today will be inspired to get on board to help us continue to help children laugh around the world.
Dr. Relly Nadler: So, Mike, welcome!
Mike Fritz: Thank you guys so much, Cathy and Relly, it is such a blessing to be here and I’m honored to be on this show. I always love getting around leaders that have a passion to help people and want to see leaders take the next step. So, this radio show has been one that – when I found out about it I started listening to it, and to realize some of the amazing minds that have been on this show – it’s and honor to be one of those. So, thank you so much for inviting me, and I can’t wait to dig in to some of this stuff.
Dr. Relly Nadler: We are really glad you are here because I think you have a little different twist on things, which is very refreshing and can be very helpful to our audience. We always start off with the question: who have been the people who have influenced you the most to be the leader you are today? Who are some of the key people who you have followed or have helped you?
Mike Fritz: That’s a great question. You know I’m going to break my mentors up into different segments. There are mentors that I call audio and literary mentors that I have never met; and we all have those right? The ones that we have read about, we read their stuff, we listen to their stuff, but we maybe never got the chance to meet them. One of the biggest audio mentors that I listened to everything he ever put out was Zig Zigler. I remember as a teenager hearing one of his tapes at first and then I got everything I could from him later on in life. He really was a major impact – his ability to speak and communicate and even use humor in the corporate workplace. Also, his ability to engage an audience and hold them, so he’s impacted me both from a personal level and from a professional level. He was a massive, massive impact.
I also have a lot of personal impacts. One of the most impactful people was actually my dad. My dad and I are still great friends, but my dad is a different kind of leader, but much of my humor and much of the things that I have done I got from my dad. My dad was one of those people was a significant impact on me. In a day where we often point to celebrities, I’m going to flip that on its head and say, you know, I really was impacted at home. That was one of the big ones.
Dr. Relly Nadler: That’s great! You mentioned Zig Zigler. I know you are going to talk about the comedic skills and about how you really touch people’s heart and how you touch their humor and we hope that our leaders will hear this. Even Zig Zigler had, and I listen to a lot of his stuff too, such a flawless conversation that you actually wanted to hear him regardless of what the words were.
Mike Fritz: I know! You are absolutely right. Zig had a science to it. He actually would tell you: he gave a joke about every 7-9 minutes in his talk. You could actually schedule and prove it because every 7-9 minutes your retention decreases after that mark and he wanted to go with a joke because your attention spikes back up: so every 7-9 minutes. So, I’ve taken that pattern when I do my corporate and college speaking; every 7-9 minutes I make sure there’s a segment of humor to spike their retention back up and spike attention even back up.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Mike, I wanted to ask you: in a world of leadership authors, and speakers, and certainly expert authorities on lots of topics related to leadership and emotional intelligence and positive psychology where leadership is talked about so much, what do you think we are missing still?
Mike Fritz: I’ll tell you, that’s a great question because if you go to your local Barnes & Noble in the business and or leadership section, you find information about leaders from about 40 different angles or more and I think that’s great. I think they all bring something to the table, but one of the things I’ve never seen and what inspired me to bring this angle to the leadership community was, and I think this is why my program is titled Making Leadership F.U.N., I think we miss in all of our research of graphs and all of the things we study which we certainly should, the element and the benefit of laughing and having a blast while we impact people.
I can tell you personally the people who have impacted me the most are the people that cared about me for sure, but the people that made me laugh and the people that made me love being around them.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know I have to say that as all of us have learned over the course of our speaking career, and Relly I’m sure you as well, to always engage your audience. Start with something that is fun and humorous and always interject some humor along the way because people learn more when those great endorphins are circling around in their body.
Mike Fritz: Absolutely. There’s an old statement inside of speaking that we say which is: “laughing brains are learning brains.” What we have to understand is it’s as if when the brain laughs, those endorphins that are let off then act as almost like glue to information. So when they are laughing and man we’re lighted up, we remember more. In fact, there have been studies done when people walk out of a comedic show, they can remember way more jokes than if they walk out of a content driven seminar. I thought, why is that? It’s because the brain is very receptive to laughter. Laughter is a very powerful tool.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Well, say a little bit more about when you say, Make Leadership F.U.N. Is F.U.N. an acronym for something?
Mike Fritz: Absolutely, yes it is. What I have done with that program is breaking fun down into three categories. Fun we often think of as, fun, we are laughing, engaging people. We might be on a day out, you might be out on your bike, whatever fun is to you, but in this context I’ve taken three words that really make leadership a more fun experience for everybody. The first one in F.U.N. stands for “friend.” What I have realized is that every time, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, if I’m around people that I love to be around, no matter what I’m doing, I love doing it more.
Dr. Relly Nadler: I want to make sure I got these: so the “F” is for “friend?”
Mike Fritz: The “F” is for friend. I spoke at this conference one time and a guy walked up to me and said, this is so simple, you’re using words that we learned when we were three. I said, that’s why it works. Because often we get so caught up in the graphs—I think all the research is phenomenal and we need it, but we forget just how us people work and the fact that when we are around people we love to be around we have more fun and we are almost always more productive and produce greater results.
Dr. Relly Nadler: That idea of being friendly or someone that you can really relate to?
Mike Fritz: Absolutely. This goes from anywhere from an organization to a smaller business, a corporation with maybe more employees to a smaller business, even all the way through an entertainer or a band. They’ve proven bands that are closer together sell more albums, the book more shows and they have a more receptive group because when they are together their music turns out better and their writing sessions are better. It’s the same for businesses. When you are in a meeting and you love being around, you walk in the meeting and your are cracking jokes about the weekend and then you go in to some more serious stuff, the atmosphere is one of camaraderie for the common goal rather than I’m here for me.
Dr. Relly Nadler: One of the things and I know you probably know this research too, this is from the Gallop Journal when they were going through organizations. They asked the question, do you have a best friend at work. They have found that if you have a best friend at work, you are more productive. You can vent with them, you can clarify with them, you can ask the dumb questions with them. You can put things in perspective with your humor.
Mike Fritz: Absolutely, and you know what that is? That is a great proof to the point that friends create an atmosphere of success, they really do. I mean, you certainly cannot remove the skills of whatever you are doing. You can’t say friends can trump the knowledge of business and knowing what you are doing because that is not true. When building the culture of success at your workplace, you have to develop relationships, there has to be a horizontal business as well, meaning you are working well with the people around you and you are building relationships.
In fact, there have been some studies done: people that hang out outside of work, get more done inside of work. It’s an interesting study that I was reading. I thought, that’s interesting because the people that I have been involved with in my past—if I do things with them outside of work they become more of a friend than a colleague if you will.
Dr. Relly Nadler: So, what does the “U” stand for?
Mike Fritz: That’s great. Okay, so “U” stands for not only that we must build relationships with those around us, the “U” is “Unique Opportunity.” What that means is the organization needs to continually be asking how can we provide unique opportunities for the people who work here, whether it be because you work here you get to be on this trip with our group that has nothing to do with work, it’s just a weekend corporate retreat that we are sending everybody to, or a unique experience with the team because these words stick together. If we take a unique experience and we take our group away for the weekend and we are connecting, we are building relationships, then that helps the friend piece.
So Unique Opportunities. I told leaders always be asking yourself this question. What unique opportunities can I create that only my employees can be a part of that would make them love their job? Because the truth is, it’s call inclusion by exclusion. When people see the people inside having all the fun, they automatically want to be involved and you have more people pursuing your corporation on both an employee and a client side.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Mike, you worked with a lot of celebrities. I guess the big question is, have you learned something from working with hosts of Saturday Night Live, people like Ellen Degeneres, Amy Poehlerr, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey; what do you think it is that they do on a regular basis that we can actually apply to create higher performers in the workplace. I know it’s hard for people to make some of these connections and I just want to kind of drill down on that.
Mike Fritz: Yes, that’s a great question. One of the things that I have learned about every entertainer, and most of the people you mentioned are comedic entertainers and then they may have their own show or something like that. One of the things that I have realized about every single one of them is they were bold enough to use their uniqueness and kind of turn up the volume.
I’m going to use a quote from a professional wrestler, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Now don’t shut the phone off on mb, but he said, “successful speakers and entertainers simply take one characteristic and turn up the volume.” What happens is with all of those entertainers you mentioned, Ellen Degeneres, or Jimmy Fallon, or even like Gabriel Iglesias who is real hot on the market or a Jerry Seinfeld who took basically his comedic routine and built a show out of nothing—like their everyday life—and was so successful. One of the things that they were bold enough to say is this is who I am, and I’m just going to be who I am.
One of the things, as we just lost two amazing comedic pieces to the world is Joan Rivers and Robin Williams, that made those guys both so successful is that they were willing to just be who they were and not care what anyone else thought.
You look at Robin Williams; that guy was crazy, but he was so engaging with people and so funny; look at how much success he had just because he was willing to me who he was. I think as leaders, when we stop and we try to become something else we lose everything unique that we bring to the workplace.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Well I think that hits home for Cathy and I when we are in organizations. You know we do a lot of assessments around strengths; there are things called know your strengths, go with your strengths and sometimes it’s called unique capabilities. A lot of the coaching that we would do is help people identify that. What happens sometimes, and I love that idea of turn up the volume, because then you know we really talk about how you dial that up. They may be looking at other areas that they are not so good in and saying how do you really accentuate that? So another way of saying that is from Barbara Fredrickson is you build and broaden on your strengths. I think that kind of uniqueness is really critical.
One to know it, and then two, to turn up the volume.
Mike Fritz: You know the company that is bold enough to work hard enough to get people only doing what they are gifted in will be the company that is successful. In fact there is an old statement a leader Andy Stanley that I follow said, “as a leader you have to work hard at the 80-20 rule. 80% of your time only doing what ONLY YOU can do.” That phrase has literally changed the way I thought about my speaking because I’m the guy in the meeting that is going to be cracking jokes and lightening it up and bringing smiles to faces. So for me to walk in as the serious guy I completely relinquish the unique brilliance that I can bring to the world. Does that make sense?
Find out more about what Mike Fritz has to say from Making Leadership F.U.N. What does the “N” stand for? How can it help you be a better leader? Listen to the complete recording above, without commercials.