Brad Montgomery never planned to be a nationally recognized humorist motivational speaker, business comedian, publisher, and author; he planned to be a lawyer. After graduating with a political science degree from Brown University, he intended to be a magician for one year and then start the serious part of his life with the study of law. To date, he is still waiting for the serious part of his life to begin. After getting his start as a corporate entertainer (performing comedy and magic), Montgomery now speaks to corporations and associations who need a lift, combining laughter and magic with a simple yet powerful message about connecting a positive work culture and life to an excellent work product. For more information about Brad, go to BradMontgomery.com. During his seminar, “Presto Change-O: A Magician’s Guide to Laughing at Change,” at the 2012 Remodeling Leadership Conference, attendees heard about a variety of ways to approach change.
Remodeling: Change can be scary. How do you propose people laugh at it?
Brad Montgomery: The key with change is to understand the underlying emotions behind it. Often the emotion behind change is fear, but what I propose is to approach change — and this sounds like a crazy idea — with the attitude of happiness, which is way more fun and way more effective.
You have to acknowledge the fear, but as soon as you acknowledge it you need to leave it behind, which is not always easy but it’s very simple. The concept is simple even though the technique is hard. I turn it upside down. Instead of talking about how horrible change is, I’m going to talk about how to use happiness as a tool to deal with change.
RM: And not all change is bad either.
BM: And not all stress is bad, oddly. But if too much of it affects your quality of life then your performance drops. That’s why everything I do is approached from the opposite direction. My expertise is in happiness and how happiness affects business performance and in this case, how happiness affects our ability to deal with change management.
RM: What types of behaviors should we let go?
BM: This sounds stupid but one of the things I will talk about is that we need to tell ourselves to get a grip, move on, and start now. Change is here. Whining about it and hashing it over is not helpful. What’s helpful is finding positive ways to deal with it. What can you do to create levity and lightheartedness? How can we use our sense of humor? And how can we aspire to find happiness at work in spite of the fact it seems dead set against us? The world at work often seems completely contrary to what we want. But there are some techniques that work for everybody that are surprisingly easy and surprisingly simple and we can incorporate them surprisingly quickly right now.
RM: Can this approach work for anybody?
BM: No matter what your job title is, no matter what your experience level is, or your IQ, it helps everybody. One of the things I love about the science of happiness is that it’s proven. A long time ago our grandparents knew this stuff, but it wasn’t proven. Now in 2012 we have a lot of data about how our attitudes can help with our resiliency, our creativity, our leadership, our management, our health, and all of those things are completely related to change. Our grandparents would be proud to know that common sense has data now.
I don’t propose that I’m giving you any new data, I’m just proposing stuff that you already know to be true. If we take ourselves less seriously while still taking what we do seriously, we tend to perform better generally, and specifically, at work. I can show them how you can take this common sense and turn into a tool you can apply daily, hour by hour, at any given moment.
RM: What’s the easiest way to adapt to these changes?
BM: Change the attitude. Most changes we deal with at work are not by choice. We can’t control what happens on the front page of the paper or the economy, so the only thing left is our attitude about that change. It sounds like a cliché but that doesn’t make it any less true. If we can learn how to bring a positive attitude to whatever is bringing us the most pain, we’ll do better. Again, I see that this is a simple concept, but I’m smart enough to understand that this is not always easy.
RM: What can Remodeling Leadership Conference attendees expect from your seminar?
BM: I want to make sure we have fun. A keynote with lots of information and no fun is painful for everybody. So I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make this session completely different from any session you’ve ever been to before. I use a lot of crazy stuff that is both funny and exciting and visual and always different. We want you to have fun because if you have fun you’ll listen to the message and it will stick. A lot of good information can be gone before you get out the door. I hope to deliver information in a fresh way so that it’s easily absorbed.
RM: What is the most difficult change you’ve had to adapt to in your own life?
BM: I’m going to tell some stories about this. I moved my family to Mexico for a whole year. We didn’t speak Spanish when we went there. My kids were enrolled in a Mexican school and suddenly my wife and I are living in Mexico. Having to learn a language and a culture that is way different is very stressful. I honestly didn’t realize how big a change in culture it would be. It was grueling and wildly difficult. When I say I’ve been thinking about change for a year, I’m not exaggerating. I had to think about it in terms of my family and think about it in terms of universal truths that apply to everybody in every business. I’ll be telling some stories about some crazy stuff we had to deal with. My job as a speaker is to make sure the audience feels that they’re there and can learn from our pain without having to go through it.
Click here to read more from the 2012 Remodeling Leadership Conference speakers.