Neil Howe: This is Neil Howe with Global Authority Agency and today I am talking with Shareen Richter from Laughter Coaching. How are you today, Shareen?
Shareen Richter: Hi, Neil. Very well, thank you.
Neil Howe: Excellent. Tell me a little bit about what you do at Laughter Coaching and who it is that you try and help?
Shareen Richter: Great, thank you. I’m a laughter and happiness professor and what we do at Laughter Coaching is build happier, stress-free organizations, companies and people.
Today, so many people are having to deal with so many pressures stress, responsibilities, financial pressures, illnesses, etc and what we are finding is that people just don’t have the capacity, the ability or the tools to cope, to make them happier, to help them release stress so that they can be more productive and more powerful in their own life and at what they do.
What we do is we go into organizations and companies. We do it via team-building exercises and also by integrated programs where we actually, in a very fun way, teach people very easy, simple, but effective tools that can help them shift away their feeling inside. Because when you feel happy inside, you have a greater ability to cope, to think out of the box, to be more aware and to make better decisions in life.
Neil Howe: When you’re dealing with a company, how do they get to that point and figure out that we need a laughter coach or somebody to relieve that stress management? What are those things that a company may be seeing that would make them need your help?
Shareen Richter: I think because what I do is very different and people haven’t heard about it, usually, people would tend to go to the normal channels of stress management and find that they don’t really work, or they haven’t really worked. I’ve been called in a lot in organizations where there’s been mergers within the organizations, retrenchment and maybe their targets and results haven’t been as they expected.
What’s going on is teams aren’t really working well together, people are operating in fear base, they’re really nervous about their positions and their job, are they still going to have jobs? When you’re in that kind of space, you can’t really operate as effectively as you would and productivity is affected.
What I’m seeing at the moment is I’m hearing the same stories from so many organizations that their staff are just so stressed and traditional stuff is just not working for them. They’re looking for another option of how they can give their staff tools to be more productive and work together better as a team and be more positive in a very scary environment.
Neil Howe: You said that most of these companies are searching at some kind of stress management first. Do you find that a lot of companies try and just implement things themselves, and if they do, what kind of things do they do?
Shareen Richter: I think that the problem is that companies do call in outside people, but I think that what happens is if you get an outside person and it’s the same with anything in that if you get an outside person to come in to just a single individual session with no takeaway value or tools that people can use afterwards which, what I’m finding is, don’t take up too much time.
Because time has become the most valuable commodity on earth and a lot of transformation programs or stress management programs take time to implement and we’re a society of instant gratification, we want to feel better immediately. What happens is that, unless you’ve got buy-in from management where they are constantly encouraging the things that has been learned to be carried over once the session has been done it’s usually fizzles out and is very ineffective.
What we do at Laughter Coaching try and do is teach people how to use this with carry over with takeaway value that is not just a one-off wonderful thing to do, but how to practically implement it into their life without taking up too much of their time.
Neil Howe: Talk to me a little bit about what a course looks like. If you go into a business, what do you do? How long does it take and what can they expect from that?
Shareen Richter: My sessions are anywhere from an hour to a full day. An hour session would look more like a team build which is fun, brings the team together. What we do is use de-stress techniques, something like [inaudible 05:35]. We go through the theory and cognitive process of understanding what laughter actually does, how it releases the feel-good chemicals into your brain like serotonin, endorphins, so what it does from a physiological and biochemical level so people understand that.
Then what they do is go into the practical implementation where we actually show them and teach them how to utilize, as an example in the one-hour laughter, as a de-stress coping mechanism and how to use it every single day in the same way that you would go to a gym for the exercise for your physical body, but this is for the emotional and mental.
We always give them tools to empower them that they can use as a team after the session is over so they practice how they would [inaudible 06:24] you do that as a team together when I’m there and then we give them a roll-out plan of how to actually use it the next day and the day after so that there is carry-over effect.
The longer sessions are more intense. Everything that I use is based on medical science, on things that are proven, to have a shift or effect on a person’s physiology and biochemistry. Because even though we teach things that are fun, people have to understand that they actually are shifting these internally and when people understand and know what the benefit will be to them directly, they then are more inclined to use it afterwards. I have a two-hour session, a three-hour session, and a full-day session and in those sessions, different modalities are taught.
I don’t know if you’ve asked me to give you examples of what because it’s not entirely laughter that is taught, but it’s around things that make you feel happier. I don’t know if you’d allow me to go into more detail about some of the other things that I use and teach and talk about and get people to understand how to use.
Neil Howe: Let me ask you this. When you’re doing these classes, what’s the two or three things, or questions that people ask you most often? What do you really see them having problems with and what is at the core of maybe the management versus the employees? Do they have differing things that they need accomplished as far as stress, or is it all the same kind of stuff?
Shareen Richter: I think that from a management perspective, the management is wanting the teams to be more cohesive, to be able to work together, and to probably get more productivity out of their people. Because a big factor is something called presenteeism, which means that the individual is there, but they’re not really present, that they’re in body, but their minds are in a hundred other places so they’re not really giving of themselves. That would be a management issue, is how do I get my team more cohesive? How do I make them more productive? How do I reduce their stress levels so that I get more out of the people?
On an individual level, what I’m seeing is people are having to cope with so much in their private life, which is very stressful, from illnesses to relationship issues to finance. Because it’s very difficult to separate home from work, they’re bringing their personal stuff to work. Then in many environments, because of the economic climate, is their fear of needing to perform, but not knowing where your job is going to be, how secure are you where you’re at.
That causes a level of stress, which affects definitely the productivity and the output of that individual person. They are kind of parallel, but the focus on what they want to gain as an individual would be different to the overall outcome that a company would want to achieve, but both actually want to learn the tools to create that positive shift.
Neil Howe: Great, Shareen. Now, why would working with a professional like yourself greatly improve the chances for success and increased productivity, rather than going with a stress management or trying to do it themselves?
Shareen Richter: I think trying to do it themselves, most people don’t have the expertise or knowledge and that’s why they look for outside help. Because I think initially many management or HR directors would try and implement some sort of training or knowledge that they had learned or have on-hand.
But in order to create real shift and change in anything or in order to do anything really effectively you’d have to train for it or get an expert in to do that. So whether you want a website developed or you want an advert made, the thing is that you can do it yourself, but isn’t really as good as somebody who has trained for them and have become an expert at it. I’ve trained over 50,000 people in South Africa and internationally, worked with government and actually see the sustained change and improvement in people.
I think that working with companies if they chose somebody who has a proven track record that could create a shift for their organization or improve their organization and their organization’s bottom line because, ultimately, that’s all companies really are concerned about, is they want to improve the environment for their people and their teams, but it’s ultimately to improve their bottom line, is that they would want those programs that have been proven to work and to be effective. I’ve been doing this since 2008 and have a proven track record.
I really think, Neil, that the success of what I teach is in the simplicity of the tools that are taught. We really take people back to basics, to allow people to have fun, to allow people to laugh, to be positive and go back to really basic things that people know how to use, but have simply forgotten. When you don’t have to teach people a completely new skill, but where you remind them of what they already know and give them an effective way of using it, I think it’s also easier to get people to remember it and do it more consistently.
That’s what you want, is you want people to buy into it and use it consistently because no program really will work if it’s only done for a short period of time.
Neil Howe: To wrap this up, what kind of things can companies or individuals even, expect to see as far as results when they hire you as their stress management and productivity answer?
Shareen Richter: I think what they’ll see immediately is a happier team. The energy that is infused into the teams immediately after the session is you have people smiling, laughing, giggling. They opened up, they talked to one another. I had people walking out of their training rooms or the conference rooms laughing and giggling in particular I did [inaudible] yesterday and I spoke at their global conference and some of their global team managers and walked out laughing, talking to one another, people who had never met one another.
Initially, the first thing people or employers will notice is a change in the energy of the workforce. People are happier, they’re more open, they talk to one another and what you see ongoing is this shift in thinking. I challenge the way people have been thinking. People are so focused on being stuck in being the victim, having the pity party, feeling sorry for themselves and focusing on the negative.
What these programs do is show people how with a start of shifting minds, you can choose to see something differently in a more positive way and usually you have a lot more laughter, a lot more openness and a lot more acknowledgment of other people within a team and within an organization. Ultimately, you’ll have happier and stress-free people …
Neil Howe: Yes, that’s all wonderful …
Shareen Richter: … or, as I say, less-stressed people.
Neil Howe: It sounds like a lot of people need your help or your services, Shareen. What is the best way for them to contact you and get in touch?
Shareen Richter: The best way for them would be to go into my website, which is www.laughtercoaching.com and on there are all my contact details. I’ve spoken on TED X and there’s information on that talk on how laughter works and how you can apply it in your own life as an individual.
There’s also videos that you can see, companies who have employed us and see sessions of people sharing laughter and what other general managers and CEOs have said about the impact on themselves and people when they implement laughter and happiness tools in their companies.
Neil Howe: Wonderful. Well, Shareen, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today and if …
Shareen Richter: Thank you, Neil.
Neil Howe: companies interested in having you as a laughter coach come to help de-stress and increase productivity, then I know where to find you.
Shareen Richter: Thank you so much. Thank you for the interview.
Neil Howe: All right. Thank you. Bye.
Shareen Richter: Thanks, Neil. Bye.