Humourology Podcast

Part of the Humourology series

Season 1, Episode 2

How to smile your way to success with Ebony Rainford-Brent

by | Nov 9, 2020

Learn the winning ways winners communicate their message so that you can win more now.

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Ebony 2

Attitude defines altitude.

Ebony Rainford-Brent speaks to Paul Boross about how a mirthful mind-set makes a massive difference in elite sport and business. In this beguiling and laugh-filled interview we learn how winners have a winning way of communicating their message so that they can take their team to the top. 

As Ebony says, “Successful teams need laughs and light-heartedness to be constantly uncovering and discovering new ways of growing.”

Enjoy and smile your way to success.

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Paul Boross

Alistair McGowan

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Ebony Rainford-Brent
To have that environment with different voices, different genders, definitely different ethnicities. You have to be open to criticism. You have to be open to different ways of doing things. If you don’t have humour, you can’t deal with all that difference going on.

Paul Boross
Welcome to the Humourology podcast with me, Paul Boross my glittering lineup of guests from the worlds of business, sport and entertainment, who are going to share their wisdom and their use of humour. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals, increases the value of your laughing stock, and puts the punch line back into your bottom line. My guest on this edition of the Humourology podcast, is a World Cup winning cricketer, broadcaster, motivational speaker and performance coach. Her passion for using sport for social impact, has seen her dedicate herself to charity work that gives young people equal opportunity to play sport, and enhance their life prospects. Her life enhancing enthusiasm, passion for sport and love of laughter have won her place in the hearts of audiences around the globe. I also suspect that she holds a unique world record for having the most hyphens in her full given name. Ebony-Jewel Cora-Lee Camillia Rosamond Rainford-Brent. Welcome to the Humourology podcast.

Ebony Rainford-Brent
I wasn’t your first of all, thanks, Paul. I wasn’t sure if you’re gonna get that all out. I was testing you. I was testing you. But you passed the test. So, my mum always wanted a girl that was her dream. And she ended up having four kids and three boys first, and then a girl. So each time she had a child, she would just park some of the names – ended up with this ridiculously long lists. There were more as well. Dion-Randall was another hyphen. So when I came around, she started putting them all in. And then eventually I think at the, you know, the registry, they said, Look, you got to stop, like, we got to cut out some of those names. So that’s what I’ve ended up with. But yeah, my mom, my mum definitely had a bit of humour when she gave me that name to

Paul Boross
Joe. wonderful, fantastic. So what’s the young Ebony? Funny? Was she humorous? Was she cheeky?

Ebony Rainford-Brent
That’s a really good question. I don’t think I was actually, you know, just that going back, I was maybe quite serious, a little bit intense, a little bit shy as a kid. Sport is most probably the thing that brings you out, because everyone talks about banter. Like that’s what the changing room is full of is taking the Mick out of each other, everybody’s got a nickname. So I’ve most probably grown into somebody who’s now much more cheeky, I don’t mind winding people up, I get wound up a lot myself. You know, even in the midst of a very intense broadcast, I don’t mind bringing a little bit of lightness and humour to it. And definitely in the change room as a player. I would say banter was my go to as a sort of person. So yeah, something that’s grown through the environments I’ve been part of.

Paul Boross
So when you talk about banter, and you, you talk about sort of dressing rooms, and you are a World Cup winner, so you’ve been in pressure situations, how do you think humour helps that?

The team that won the World Cup that I was part of back in 2009, and I was with the team for sort of 18 months in the build up to that win, when I started, we were losing everything. And during that stage, there was no lightness in the atmosphere, we struggled to connect, struggled sometimes to have difficult conversations, just all of those sort of things were part of it. And I remember there was a point it was like a line drawn in the sand by our Captain Charlotte Edwards, where we decided to start singing this song It was by Take That Calle Never Forget. So the song was just every time we want a game, just remember where we came from. But once we started singing the song after each game, we won, we were just, we didn’t take the Mick out of each other, how we sang how we you know how bad or good we played, it just sort of started bringing the team together and we anchored that you know about anchoring no doubt, but we use it as an anchor every time we won for 18 months, and we ended up going on this incredible win run and winning a World Cup or two World Cups an ashes in that whole year so a World T20 and a 50 over so there’s no doubt like bringing all of that jovial aspect lightening the changing room. Maybe making it easier to sometimes tackle difficult conversations is really important.

When you talk about anchoring them for our listeners who don’t know it’s, if you think very simply and anchoring is like like Pavlov’s dog, you know when you ring the bell the dog salivates so it anchors the state you had at the time. How important is that because you talk a lot as a motivational speaker, how important is that to business people do you think?

Ebony Rainford-Brent
I think sometimes in the business world I found we get a bit dehumanised sometimes it’s just all about delivering but forgetting that the humans need to connect and enjoy doing what they’re doing and enjoy the atmosphere to continue to perform. So you know, I have seen it come into the boardroom at times I’ve seen it come into the you know, the the conversations of work in my director of women’s cricket role, and you have to have it otherwise, the environment becomes a little bit stale, a little bit static, and everyone’s a little bit prickly. And I think just being able to be yourself, be relaxed while performing is gives you sustainability kind of bonus that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

Paul Boross
So what makes you laugh?

Ebony Rainford-Brent
I love to laugh. Actually, I laugh about a bit of everything. I don’t mind. I love a good prank and a good wind up. You can never go wrong with a good prank and a wind up. I don’t mind being taking the Mick out something I’ve done badly. You know, for example, I remember our team Surrey, I am Director of Women’s cricket. So I looked after the Surrey Stars. We actually won the championship a couple of years ago so the Women’s League but we I went into the boardroom after we lost – played half of the season lost all the matches in the row. And it looked like we were just gonna end up bottom of the pile. And you know, when it with a little bit of laughter actually, because the board were asking what’s going on with performance. I didn’t mind at that stage being taking the Mick out of because it kind of lighten the mood, it lighten the atmosphere allow me to start getting out some of the issues. So I didn’t mind everyone sort of wagging the finger what’s going on with your and your girls. And then actually, what was amazing is we ended up turning around went on this incredible run win. So, I was able to go back in the boardroom with a bit of a smile and say, Hey, come on, guys. You know, you took the Mick out of us then. Now what where’s the champagne type of thing. So you know, I don’t mind using it as well as a bit of a, if your performance is low, could take a little bit of ‘light Mick’, as long as you know, you can handle it, and then throw it back with a little bit of spice as well as quite fun.

Paul Boross
I love that throw it back with a bit of spice. So what’s the hidden learning in that that story that people can take away? Do you think that they can use in their everyday lives?

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Yeah, you know, I think the hidden message actually is it’s okay to fail. And, and I think, you know, that’s when things get tense is there’s no space to fail or get something slightly wrong, you feel under pressure to just deliver without any sort of flexibility. I think when you know, there’s a little bit of humour that you could have with a chief executive or with a member of staff or whatever it is that there’s a little bit of flexibility is okay, and we don’t have to take this over intensely, as long as we’re learning and we’re growing, it’s so important to be able to fail, it’s so important to be in an environment where there isn’t, you know, you don’t want to ever make anyone feel uncomfortable. But you can have just a little bit of give and take with each other as well just allows that environment to be able to fail better, and then keep growing and learning very quickly.

Paul Boross
One of my favourite quotes is the quote of there’s no such failure… there’s only feedback. And it seems like you actually embrace that. And I and one of the things of talking to so many successful people in different fields. And I know you did on your podcast, talked about to lots of people that actually really successful people fail better, don’t they? And more often,

Ebony Rainford-Brent
I remember I asked you about failure, and you’re like, no, it’s all feedback. And so many people took that message from the podcastt. So I’ve stolen your message as wellthere Paul, don’t worry about it.

Paul Boross
You’re very welcome.

Ebony Rainford-Brent
All your wisdom and insight.

But you’re right, yeah, the best people are comfortable failing. You know, I love our chief executive and our chairman at our club, for example, very powerful businessmen have been very successful as a club but the speed at which they give staff within the organisation the opportunity to go out and learn quickly and say, Look, let’s get something moving. Let’s get an idea. Let’s get a new commercial product in the market. Let’s try something. Let’s try a new grassroots initiative, whatever it is go fail. We learn and we adapt and move quickly. People who are able to have that humour, pick it up, go again, and live in that sort of environments. Great, you know, you look at something like Apple, I love the fact that they release, you know, 11.1 11.2 11.3 and they give themselves a deadline. And I have no doubt there’ll be a lot of humour if they make something and it completely flops but it’s okay because they’re on the innovation train and you won’t innovate. If you’re, you’re nervous, you’re static, you’re not got an environment of growth and fun and enjoyment. So all the best athletes have come across, you know, in our world of sport at the moment, Ben Stokes, who’s an incredible, incredible player, and I just saw him come losing his first test match as a captain, and they’re asking questions in the interview, he backed himself and he says, We’ve got to take it, we’ve got to learn, we have to go to grow. And he has not allowed the failure to seep into his skin and over worry him. It’s just like, let’s pluck out all the goodness, have as much enjoyment of the process, bit have fun, and let’s crack on again. So there’s no doubt and you know, the podcast I did Paul, interviewing incredible people, that was a massive theme across all of them.

Paul Boross
I think failure is an attitude. And really, the people who are successful, don’t really consider it an obstacle. It’s like, great, I failed, I moved forward, I learned something. And I remember my father, God rest, his soul said, I’m not very good at anything except making decisions quickly. And he said, if you get something wrong, you make another decision quickly, in order to move forward. And I think that’s what you’re talking about. And so what is the role of attitude play in all this?

I don’t know if you’ve all heard of a lady called Carol Dweck, who wrote a book called Growth Mindset. And it’s, you know, it’s one of the best books you could could read, because I think that’s all you want is your environment to want to continually improve. But without the capacity to accept failure, and to be able to be an environment and a culture that allows that to happen, you’re not going to grow. You know, I think about my career, my one goal in life as a batter was to get hundred. And the amount of times I’ve walked across that line, Paul, I can tell you day in day out and got your noughtd, you’ve got your 20s, you’ve got your 30s. And you have to walk back across the line, the honest truth is you failed, you know, it wasn’t a success on paper. But if you have the attitude to say, right, I’ll get straight back in the nets and work on the next phase of it. That’s the key is the having the humour are having the light heartedness to having the perception that it’s, it’s a fun process. It’s kind of like uncovering and discovering. That’s what you want. That’s what you want from your employees. That’s what you want from your teams, environments that are just so open and accepting to those sorts of conditions that you just keep finding it a way of growing. So yeah, I think there’s a really good concept by Simon Sinek, which talks about the infinite game. And so playing an infinite game, it was all about growth is all about dynamism. And just cracking on really.

Yeah, I love the American expression, which is that your ‘attitude defines your altitude’. In other words, how high you will go. And I think what holds a lot of people back and that’s business leaders, that’s people in sport that people in show business is the attitude of, I can’t do it, I won’t do it. And winners, like yourself, always have that. Okay, I didn’t get 100 today, but guess what, I’m gonna work that little bit harder to get 100. Next time,

some people are luckily born, like my mum, for example, would never let me sort of sit and if I if something went wrong, and I just wanted to she’d let me have five minutes of being upset. And she say, right, come on, let’s go again. And I think sometimes you can be in good environments that teach that but sometimes you’re not. And I think this is why it’s so important to get around people who are used the word winning but a winning in your field and just soak up from them how they’re going about it. environment and culture is so important because you could have someone who’s got a fixed mindset who’s not about growth, but has talent, but starts to learn from other people around them. An example in our sport, for example, would be a guy called Dom Sibley – you know, you might not be a cricket fan – but he is a talented player went into the England environment had a bit of a taste, and just lost 12 kilogrammes in weight he just dropped it he said he went in there he looked at how the winners were going about their fitness their diet everything and it made him just being around that environment want to up his game wanna you know not stay in that fixed mindset. I think it’s really important the people you’re around, have that mindset you can soak up and learn from them so quickly, and then that just changes everything you have.

I know that you’re passionate about sort of having a social impact and changing especially young people’s lives. And is that very important to you to to get them into new environments, whether through sport so that they can be around well for want of a better word positivity.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah massively. There’s so many programmes I’ve worked on I’ve worked on disability sport. I’ve worked on cricket for the disadvantaged have just launched a programme around ACE which is for Kids from an African Caribbean background who are not progressing in our sport. And one of the key things we put in there was an academy where they’re going to get exposure to role models to high quality coaches to time with players just to soak it up, because they may have the talent, the raw talent. But there might be a stage where they’re not so willing to put in in some areas or whatever it would be an inspiration from good people who have that winning and learning and growing mindset makes such a difference, you know, all of our programmes that reach out, there’s always an element of giving them inspirational role models and people that they can learn and grow from. Good coaches who, when you have a bad day, you know, kind of remind you, it’s okay to have a bad day, we want to see you come back tomorrow with just and have just as much fun and those messages that you have really flow through the community. And it kind of can foster really strong clubs and community clubs and environments. So you know, when you have that, then imagine what you’re creating a generation of young people with a really good attitude that are going to feed back and maybe give more back to the environment. So I’m so passionate about social impact work and making a difference to different communities. And I think it’s vital that you know, throughout you get that inspiration that kind of gives you that lift and boost yourself.

Paul Boross
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Because as you know, I do a lot of work with with social impact of getting people who are not normally given a chance into the world of media and entertainment. And it seems that same way in sport that the same people keep getting to these places. And I think it’s about giving starting them somewhere where they do have role models, and they do I actually believe that it is possible. I’m sure that happened to you. It happened to me, where I actually saw people, I thought, Oh, this is possible. So how important do you think it is? For all companies, if they want to grow, to actually get people with different backgrounds and attitudes into positions of power,

they are absolutely important diversity of thought is like, it’s incredible. And this is where humour comes in as well. Because to have that environment with different voices, different genders, definitely different ethnicities, you have to be open to criticism, you have to be open to different ways of doing things. If you don’t have humour, you can’t deal with all that difference going on. But actually, you know, all the studies show, historically, that actually boards which are more diverse, are more financially successful. You know, that’s comes down to gender that comes down to ethnicity that comes down to LGBTQ you know that how important diversity is. And, you know, I kind of for me, it’s like, it’s the only way to go, it’s the only way to go. Because if you want to innovate, and if you want to be at the forefront, and you want to be continually growing, you can’t think in a one way train and you can’t have an environment that’s only about one way and doesn’t really challenge itself. One of the most powerful things I love to see in organisations is when like the empowerment comes from below, like people influence up they set up their own little working groups with ideas and feed it up. Things like that is like it takes away hierarchy kind of issues, and actually starts to say, let’s just all commit to improving this organisation, this culture, you know, as a woman, sometimes I go into a room as the only woman and you put your hand up and say, Hey, guys, are we considered this? And no one’s thought of it, you know, or, you know, sometimes it could be, you know, the only person of colour in a room and you thinking how’s no one thought of this?! And you bring it up. And it’s, it’s a very valid point. And that might be only because my experiences might have been different, or I’ve looked at the world in a different lens.

Yeah. And I think the only way things are going to change quicker, is when they understand that this impacts the bottom line. I always say who your audience, you know, if you’re not meeting the needs of your audience, because you don’t understand them, how are you going to increase the bottom line? So I think,

you know, what I was just gonna say, I think like when it comes to diversity and opening up your business, or your sport, or whatever you’re offering to wider audiences, it’s like having a restaurant to me, and you’ve got footfall of all these different people, but you’re only serving like a segment. And it’s kind of like, why not just get your head around opening it up, because the opportunities become endless, you start to you know, bring yourself more opportunities, more ways of selling more ways of engaging, more fun to be had and it makes no sense to me that you know, you’re selling to one segment of the market when you have an opportunity to really open that up and be a little bit more diverse and, and open up the stream. So for me it’s a no brainer is an absolute no brainer.

Is everyone One funny Ebzs?

That is a really good question. There’s so many different types of humour aren’t there?I enjoy, like dry wit, humour as well. You know, there’s some people I’ve played with who’ve got like a, sometimes a very dour appearance and they can seem you know, quite, you know, you wouldn’t assume they’ve got humour, they just give you a little something that sets the whole environment off. And it’s, it sometimes makes a humour even better that it’s not from the person that you expect. It’s not coming the way that you expect it. There’s just a little bit of something in there that makes everybody laugh, I love dry humour, I love dry wit. But I also think the conditions make a difference. If you are around people who love to laugh, love to enjoy things love to enjoy the process, it does rub off even those who are in the awkward end of humour can start to, to enjoy that process. So it’s, I think there’s some people who are blessed. You love your humour. Paul, I have no doubt about that. Every time I sit with you, we laugh for hours. So, you know, you’re definitely blessed on that that spectrum,

Well, you’re very kind, but I actually I, I’m interested in the if you think people can actually learn this stuff, because I mean, fundamentally, I think that there is a, there is a key that you either you get it, and then you build on it. But I’m not sure if you can just create it from nothing.

Hmm. I think you I think there’s some people who just naturally have a way about them. And actually, those people often are very good in a way that they can lead because it’s just a bit charismatic, it’s a bit fun, it’s a bit jovial. I think there’s a bit like anything, you may be born with a certain amount and a nature and nurture kind of will, we’ll take you as far as it’s gonna take you. So, you know, it’s important, I think to have in any team, any environment, a couple of really funny people just naturally funny. To break down, especially in the tense moments, I will always make sure in my team, though, I have a couple of people who, who know how to just lighten the mood and have a bit of fun, and show that everything is not overly serious. It just just breaks down the pressure, sometimes in the environment,

I’m really interested in that idea that you would actually build a team, with people who could actually have enough humour to change the state of the rest of the team. Because I think business can learn a lot from that, in the sense that you go…. I’m wondering if you know, the great managers of our time, you know, the Sir Clive Woodward – who obviously, we both know and interviewed and worked with. But Alex Ferguson, the same, you know, if they weren’t consciously or unconsciously thinking like you, ah, why need a couple of jokers in the pack

Unknown Speaker
100%. But there’s no doubt we’ve had team selections where you’re selecting your squad for a season, you’re selecting your overseas players, you’re weighing up contracts, etc. And you’ve got two very similar players, you look at their numbers, and there’s not a huge amount of difference. But and I can think of an example would say the name, but there was a definite decision in between all the coaching staff that the person who had that ability to bring out the, the extra side of the squad wasn’t just their skill on the field as what they’d could deliver. It was how their interaction and their energy impacted the team and it was massive, especially, you know, when players sometimes there’s nothing worse than a player who’s down. Their performance is low, back to back low scores, they’re fearful of, you know, the next stage are they going to get picked and all that and they sit down with a player who can make them have a laugh can make them release some tension and pressure, tell them to free up. And when you see that happen within teams, you realise how important it is to have that skill set. So, we see it as when we’re evaluating who’s part of our squad, that is a massive factor in determining sometimes two very similar players. If you’re walking around and you’re intense, and you’re frustrated, and that energy is seeping into the team, it’s no good for anybody. So, it’s really important that that that team makeup has a balance, you need to have a few and a bit of a an ebb and flow in your environment. So anyone choosing a team, I say it’s really important a factor.

Paul Boross
Well, and from a psychological standpoint, there’s that whole thing of if you want anybody to go into any state, you have to go into that state first. And if you’ve got too many ‘dementors’ in your team sucking the life out of it, it’s going to impact on everyone isn’t it?

I’ve been in the ‘suck the life out of you’ environment, especially someone who likes to laugh when it is so serious and intense. And God is just like a bit drain… it’s draining you think oh, what was the point? Why are we here? And it sounds really bad. But you can get in a negative mindset if it’s just all a bit…woof… Where if someone comes in with a joke and just like, calms the environment down, you’re like, Alright, Let’s relax. Let’s start again. So yeah, there’s nothing worse than a overly intense environment. It’s not I don’t think it’s good for anybody to perform over a long period of time.

So what would the world be like, without humour?

Unknown Speaker
It would be so dull Paul, it would be so dull. I mean, every single environment has humour, and it’s vital it I think it shows how open the environment is to just a bit of flexibility, adaptability, but change to different people. It’s just shows how open the environment is. Without humour, god I, I don’t know what the point would be it actually, will you know, in some ways, I asked that real question What, what would be the point if you’re not enjoying yourself and enjoying the atmosphere?

Paul Boross
Do you find yourself funny?

It sounds really sad, but I do laugh at myself and my goal please listeners Do not judge me.., Do not judge me I laugh at so many stupid things on my own. I can share jokes as well sometimes with people and they’re like, that’s just not funny, but I’m laughing my head off anyway. I don’t mind I love to laugh. I love to laugh at myself. I laugh at myself a lot.

The ability to laugh at yourself is is important in your business whether that’s in the boardroom or on the pitch or in the in the commentary box. It’s important to laugh. Do you find it easy to just laugh at yourself and be easy with it?

Yeah, but you know what that comes down to I think it sometimes comes down to like, are we overly attached to our self image and our ego so the more you’re attached to you know, who I am and the image I have to present and how I have to be seen and you know, you’re rigidly holding on to that image and your ego is kind of like let go a bit and laugh like it’s okay to be someone who fails to be someone to get something wrong to have done something stupid or to said something stupid you know. Unfortunately, in the world of broadcasting so much gets replayed I’ve said some really dumb things on the radio that have been clipped up and played over and over again and you hear you have to laugh because you know I was really dumb I know. And also you know the audience enjoy it because they know I’m not overly you know, gonna be ‘turn that off’ I don’t want that to be played. You know, just relax. It’s okay. It makes it easier to connect I think as well so laughing laughing at yourself is so important. I laugh at myself a lot and I don’t mind sometimes to people taking the Mick because like life’s about just being a little bit freer and a bit funner

Yeah, and all part of this Humourology podcast and the book and and the movement as I like to call it now, the whole Humourology movement is about actually humour humanises people, and it makes it makes them connect more because they go that look, you know, they can see the funny side of themselves. But guess what? We like that. I mean, I always talk about that, that when people do their dating profiles, nobody ever says, I’ve got a really shit sense of humour.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. I mean, actually, that might if someone actually wrote that I might actually…

Paul Boross
You’d go for that.

Unknown Speaker
Is that a joke? Or are you? Yeah. But you’re right. You’re right. It does humanise people doesn’t it? There’s nothing better than connecting, right?

Paul Boross
Do you think people actually laugh enough in the workplace? Or have we reached a state where everything’s like, it’s serious, this don’t laugh at business now, when you go into companies to advise them, to motivate them to inspire them? Do you actually actively go we’ve got to actually get more humour in here.

Unknown Speaker
You know, it’s not something we do. And I think this is why you’re most probably on to something quite interesting. Just because we may be know it. I think everyone knows, you know, a relaxed, good working culture fun, enjoyment is vital. But actually, I always feel like the priority is on performance. And performance is vital. But how you get to performance is has many layers to it. And I think we are overly focused on drilling down sometimes into the, the numbers and the delivery and the outputs and things like that. Whereas actually, I know if I had a member of staff who is really enjoying themselves – they would work that extra hour because it’s fun. You know, I go on long tours, as well. with commentating, we go around the world. I’ve been at World Cups. I just came back from Australia for the Women’s World Cup, I’ve done Men’s, all over the world. And when you see the commentary team that you’re travelling with, you’re thinking we’re going to be stuck together, you know, hotel to hotel, game to game, commentary box to commentary book. And if if there was just intense dour people, you’d think, why am I doing this job? Why would I put myself through any of that? But actually, as soon as you look at the team, usually it’s made up a really nice mix of people that you think do you know what I can, I can enjoy being away for six weeks on the road away from family and friends and stuff like that? Because it has that, that to it. So I think you’re right. Look, I don’t think we focus enough. I don’t think we add it in our picture of how we go about creating our environment and team but I think it is something that could easily put in as a metric. Are we having enough fun? Is this enjoyable? There’s a wonderful statistic that came out of America, which said that 70.9% of people will change supplier based on one criteria. And that criteria is if the new supplier is more fun.

Ebony Rainford-Brent
That’s really interesting. That just simply based on more fun,

Paul Boross
Yes. Because if you think about what people in you, you just made, by the way, the perfect business case, for more humour at work, I think you put that beautifully. But the the fundamentals are important and having fun. If you look at all the statistics of why people change jobs, or why people leave jobs, they’re very rarely at the top to do with more money they have to do with is it going to be more fun, and anybody listening to this podcast who wants to get sort of a get a promotion or get a new job or anything. Show the people that you can bring some fun, some humour into the situation. And I think you will excel and you’re more likely to get the job. What do you think about that?

Yeah, hundred percent. And you know, even as we’re talking, I’m not a football fan. But I just saw this morning a clip. It’s Wycombe versus Oxford, and I don’t know who the guy’s name is.

Akenfenwye. Yeah, we’re getting a really big muscly guy who used to play for Wimbledon. AFC Wimbledon. Yeah, yeah. Amazing clip. He’s so funny.

He’s so funny. So two things were just one how much he was enjoying the fact that they won. And he was, again, we talked about putting a bit of spice to the naysayers. But then he also said, you know, I’ll wait till Klopp gives me a WhatsApp call. That’s the only one I’m picking up my phone for. And I just saw a clip this afternoon. That Klopp actually gave him a video call. And there’s a bit of fun there of just them having fun. And it’s like, you know what, football just got elevated for that moment. Right? all the fans are loving it. Jurgen Klopp, you know, again, no ego, let me give this guy a call. He’s called out for it. And so it’s just fun. It’s just you know, and that’s all about performance that’s about delivering on the field, you know, they have won, they’ve been promoted. That’s one part. But the energy that it just gives to everyone in the team, the fans, the football community is incredible. And like you say, that was just a little bit of enjoyment behind you behind the success.

Well, I couldn’t agree more. And I only saw the original clip, but I’m going to instantly go out and see Jurgen Klopp doing it. Because how indicative of that is of a great leader who can see the fun and play along with it and join in. And it doesn’t actually make his status less. And I think that’s what people have to understand. And he can have, he can play, if anything, like you say it elevates him. Because he could he gets the humour and he can have, he can play the most creative…, I’m sorry, I’m getting all…

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Let it out ! Let it out Paul! I’m with you.

Paul Boross
Whenever you and I speak, I get so inspired and so animated. But you know, when children are playing, they are creative. And what happens now is you go into businesses, and they’d go, right everybody to the boardroom for a creative session. Okay, who’s got a very creative idea now? Okay Ebony… Create!

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Okay, okay.

Paul Boross
And that’s why, you know, and really, what the our natural state is a state of play, and, you know, to create to be inspired, you know, whether that’s a business idea or anything, you have to have that, that that lightness and that element. And I would say that Wycombe won the league. For those of you listening the player Ebony is talking about played for Wycombe was doing the interview after they got up into the Championship, Wickham one partly based on fun and personality,

I, that’s one thing I think environments don’t do enough of. And that includes our sport environment actually, is celebrate success. When you do get something, right. It’s okay as a unit to let your hair down a little bit to do something a little bit different to do a bit of team bonding that’s unusual to go out from it, whatever it is, and and celebrate it. And one thing I just wanted to back up on what you said about Klopp, a leader who is able to have a bit of human and have a bit of fun, it humanises them. Straightaway They’re fun, they’re someone you want to be around. And your exactly right. So I’m with you, when you went for it a moment ago, in your charge, I was right behind you Paul!

Oh, sorry, I just get carried away at times. It’s always when we’re together, we’re good to go. This podcast, by the way ladies and gentlemen is gonna last eight and a half hours.

And it’s just all laughter right?

Um, you talked about owning your mistakes when you said something, have you ever taken a joke too far?

I’ve taken things too far with people. And you kind of have to have enough intelligence to see or sort of see in the eyes and go, sorry, apologise that, you know, I think you know, this is where the danger is. Sometimes it’s like, sometimes, for example, in the performance, world sport, you know, if you get out for naught, and you keep ‘nicking it off’, and you know, that just means getting out for zero, or whatever it is, maybe once or twice, that could be a joke with your team. And you know, you make a joke about how they’ve gone about it, and they just wafting and get it together. But equally, you’ve got to know when that that is a sensitive issue for somebody, and it’s actually starting to build into a bit of a stress and you continuing to highlight that is now starting to become like wearing at somebody’s confidence. So I think, you know, sometimes bad comments are dressed up in banter. I’ve been in rooms where sexist comments have been dressed up as banter or racist comments or just up as banter. You know, you really got to be sensitive to that person. That’s where good relationships come in. I think when you understand and you know, and you’re connecting with people, you know, where those lines and boundaries are. And you got to be open to someone telling you that you’ve crossed the line as well. And this is where emotional intelligence comes in, is it because there’s no rulebook? There’s no rulebook that says, Oh, it’s okay to say that. And it’s not okay to say that, and it’s all very prescriptive and strict. It’s about getting to know people at the core of who they are.

I think all humour comes from that ability to listen, and what you’re talking about -the emotional intelligence side of it – is properly listening to people and knowing that actually, that did cross the line slightly. But if you’re listening, you can pull it back. Your body language is vital as well, because I learned a lot when I did my NLP course about reading, mirroring, matching eye patterns and things like that, which of you know, I now pay a little bit more attention. So in the past, I could have dropped the joke that I thought was funny and they might have gone haha. But actually, if you read the signs of how their eyes actually flicked off flash, how actually their body language was with you and matching and mirroring you and then all of a sudden, it’s become offish. In that moment, you can stop and say, hold on, I’ve gone a little bit too far. Actually this week, I was joking with a friend who we always joke around with each other and the hair is, you know, so guy, the hair has grown. And I made a joke about the lockdown locks. And sort of caveman, he sort of it was just a jovial joke that we often go back and forth. But I just noticed the response wasn’t as normal. I don’t know what do and I stopped this at all. Do you know what? Just in case I did, I might have gone too far. I just sensed your interaction was a little bit different there. Now, he said no problem, no problem. But yes, they stay away at the moment. I don’t know what the reason was, but it was one that I know that person well enough to realise that we have so much joy we go or sometimes over the edges. But for that moment, for whatever it is, I maybe had caused some offence, and I only knew that not because of what he said because what he said was actually, right, it was to do with the flick of the eyes and the body language change. And I was like, okay, and I apologised in that moment. I said, I don’t know what if I’ve gone too far, but I’m just gonna offer an apology because I felt that something about what I said might have been a little bit sensitive, so I apologise. And that means that our friendship stays strong because he realises I’m engaged and I’m listening, you know, we got work together. So there’s nothing worse than causing offence or a joke and then, you know, all of a sudden now your working environment is getting difficult. So, you know, I think that’s where the emotional intelligence come reading way more than what’s said.

Humour stems from understanding, from listening, from from knowing it. And of course, we sometimes go too far but if if you actually really want to work on things that will help you to become more humorous if you like it, actually emotional intelligence working on the psychology, reading people, like, you know, you’ve worked on that. Those are all things that will help every aspect of your humour, and your humanising effect on people. So I think you make a great point.

Ebony Rainford-Brent
There’s got to be stages to introducing that into your culture into environment. And maybe that’s hard. I don’t know, maybe for a leader who’s got 10 million things on their list. They’re thinking, Woof, this is this is one, how do I do it? I don’t even know where to start.

Paul Boross
No, I but I think that’s what leadership is, is a leader, you know, has the emotional intelligence to know that that is a crucial part of the whole thing, I was talking to a Premiership manager, and we were talking about how important is humour in this and he went, it’s vital, they’ve got to understand that, whilst it’s important, it’s a game. But the reason they have to understand that is I want them in that perfect state, where, where they’re relaxed enough to play to their maximum ability. And you know, what it’s like in professional sport, there, it’s the ability to be in a pressure situation, you know, but relaxed, and what we call in comedy, and you call in sport ‘the zone’, it’s the same thing. And that’s all about how you create the zone. So long answer to your question is actually, leadership needs to look at how laughter can actually cement those relationships, but also allow people to be their best

Ebony Rainford-Brent
It’s actually a culture that allows people to be themselves as well. So, you know, actually, I’ve been in environments where it’s not okay to be yourself. And, you know, you have to fit an image of what the leader, the coach, or the captain said, This is what we want. When you have a good leader, they let people be free to be themselves that allows them to flow more an environment, which is different, and diversity and stuff like that. And so to get to that flow state to get to those performance states, you need to be being as close to yourself as possible. You need to be relaxed as possible. And if you’re, you know, if you’re someone like that footballer we just talked about, there’s no way be having a coach who’s going to be cracking the whip saying head down, keep quiet. That’s not gonna work, is it that is not going to bring the best out your players. You’re right. It’s, it’s about the leader creating a good environment.

Paul Boross
Have you ever gotten yourself out of trouble by using humour?

I use my smile, this sounds really bad. I’m giving away a secret. I smile a lot. So I could say, you know, I could say about your shirt that, you know, that’s a horrific shirt, but I say it with a deadpan face. And you’re like, hold on, as I say, with a big smile. I think it’s great. But I could say, you know, there’s a bit of a dodgy shirt there, Paul, and like, I actually that becomes a bit of fun between us. It’s like, you know, it’s a great shirt, by the way, but I’m just saying, I noticed that putting a smile and a bit of cheek to the same statement completely brings you different engagement with somebody.

I’ll have you know that I used to be the fashion correspondent for The Exchange and Mart!

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Yeah, I can. I can tell. I’m joking! Im joking!

Paul Boross
Yeah, you know, anything was said with a bit of a smile and warmth behind it, you know, real genuine warmth. I get myself out of a lot. I mean, I’ve tried to get myself out of one or two tickets. I remember it was in the West Indies not too long ago. I just didn’t really understand the roads and I knew I wasn’t meant to like, turn right at this junction. But I just thought you know what got pulled over. And I always try to pull out the the English accent and the smile. No, no, it didn’t work I got done.

Generally it does work. There’s the old Danish comedian Victor Borge. I think I’ve said this on a podcast before but Victor Borge used to say that a smile is the shortest distance between two people. I’ve always liked that.

I do like that. I do like that. It’s true. It is very true. Look we’re both smiling.

We’re mirroring and matching. In business, is it survival of the fittest or survival of the funniest,

Ebony Rainford-Brent
I think to be have sustainable success over a long period. Everything has to be geared up to enjoyment and growth and fun because, you know, I was given a good bit of advice by Alec Stewart, who’s one of the greatest players in England is, you know, we had almost more caps than anybody else. He’s currently my boss. And I remember him sort of saying to me, it’s really important that the, the mindset of your environment isn’t focused on just a goal and winning that moment, because as soon as you achieve it, everyone switches off, okay, we’ve done the job, we’ve hit that number, we’ve hit the target. Whereas actually, if the environment is more focused on growth, improvement, fun, that sort of progression, then once you hit the goal, is that okay, great. What’s next, let’s grow again, let’s have some more fun. And it becomes a continuous journey without an endpoint. I know actually, I went about a lot of the World Cup, I take an example of us the World Cup, where we won, World Cup World T20, and ashes all in one year, we were so overly engineered and focused on winning the World Cup. We worked together for two years to do it. And then kind of the fun fell out after we did. And we were so goal focused, that we then ended up losing to some really weak teams for a long time. It took the team, maybe a year to get back to it. Because we actually after I did it, it was just like, I don’t know, we forgot it was it was like we became focused on the wrong things. And that was a big learning for me, as well as that long term sustainable success is more fun, more enjoyment more growth. And I think it’s as simple as that.

Paul Boross
We’re now coming to the section of the podcast, near the end, which I call quick-fire questions.

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Oh, dear, here we go.

Paul Boross
And I always say this, like, I’ve got a jingle, but I haven’t. Oh, no, I can No, well, I’m looking in the background. And I’m we’re both drummers and we’re both guitarists so between us, we can come up with a quick fire jingle – Quick fire questions.

Ebony Rainford-Brent
There we go. You do the singing, I’ll do the playing.

Paul Boross
By the way, you’re very good player. I’ve seen your videos on YouTube and social media. You groove.

Oh, I enjoy. I enjoy. I try and move. I don’t know what comes out. But it’s so much fun. Right? I’ve seen your stuff you and Ainsley getting down. The Calypso Twins.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah,

Paul Boross
yeah. I mean this, which one of us is funkier do you think?

Ebony Rainford-Brent
You’ve both got it. You’ve both got it.

Paul Boross
You see how to get on in everything with diplomacy and a smile?

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Yeah, yeah. It’s you. It’s you. Don’t tell Ainsley! No I’m joking…

Paul Boross
No, I’ll clip this bit and just send send it to him quick-fire questions up? Who’s the funniest business person you’ve met?

Oh, that’s a really good question. Our Chairman at Surrey, whose name’s Richard Thompson. He is you know, he’s an amazing he’s owns MMC, Saatchi, Merlyn, a talent agency. He’s built loads of big companies. He knows how to have fun and as soon as you you do something, well, you know, he’s saying right, let’s celebrate let’s crack open the champagne. If we have to do the conga to celebrate, we will. He’s an inspirational leader in that sense. So not only does he deliver at every level, I will also say he knows how to enjoy life and have fun and the staff and the people around and feel that to

what book makes you laugh? Or

that’s a really good question. I don’t think I’ve read enough fun books actually. I don’t read fun books. I read really intense psychology ones you’ve you’ve changed my life go read a fun one.

Okay, actually I I would recommend because I’m right in the middle of it Miles Jupps book – Fibber In The Heat which is about him blagging his way as a journalist onto the England v India tour in India. Oh,

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Oh, no way. Okay, that’s Yeah.

Paul Boross
Okay. Do you know what I need as a thank you for being on the podcast? I’m going to send it to you.

Amazing, I’m all over that, I’ll have a good read and tell you about

it’s a it’s a really good book, especially if you’re on tour but it he writes very, very well. And actually, if you like the audio book, he I don’t know why I’m selling his book when we’ve got loads of stuff to sell. But it really is good. I think go like that. What film makes you laugh?

Oh, I love it so much. Comedy Chris Rock anything with Chris Rock anything with Eddie Murphy. I love Jennifer Aniston. She always brings just fun to everything she does. So I watch a lot of comedy stand up as well.

Okay, with that in mind, well actually know what word makes you laugh.

Oh my gosh. I don’t know.

Is that one word that corpses you in the box? Does it? You know, the classic when he couldn’t get his leg over?

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Oh, yeah. Yeah,

Paul Boross
well, there’s a guy called Daniel Norcross, who doesn’t I know this isn’t meant to be quick. But he pretty much he went to Oxford and he pretty much swallowed the Oxford dictionary. So every time we’re on and he brings up these really over engineered words, I just sit there laughing going, I’ve no clue what that means. So yeah, I wouldn’t say there’s a set word, but whenever I sit with him, I just laugh. He just brings out every long word that exists in the whole dictionary. And I just laugh my head off.

Okay, on a slightly serious note, what’s not funny?

Well, right now in the world, there’s a lot of not funny, the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement. They’re very intense. So yeah, I maybe haven’t found any humour in those yet. I don’t know if there will be I don’t know if it’s even possible to have. So that’s not funny.

Would you rather be considered clever or funny?

Ebony Rainford-Brent
Oh, that’s a really good question. I think in the past, I would have said more intelligence because I would have been more trying to image of who I was up. And I think as I’ve got older, I’m like, doesn’t matter how people see me? I want to be more fun to be around. So yeah, I’ll take the second. But actually, it takes a bit of confidence to say the second I think, yeah, that you don’t have to prove your intelligence that you’re comfortable just being you.

Paul Boross
Yeah, well, actually. And I think that if you are, here’s my theory, is that people who are funny, are automatically considered to be intelligent.

Do you think I’m not sure I think sometimes people see you as a joker. And don’t consider that you have that. That thought process behind but

Well, having you know, worked with you know, hundreds of stand up comedians, to be a stand up to be funny. I think you have to be clever. I you know, I think the funniest, the funniest people are the ones who can put disparate thoughts together. And that takes a certain intelligence to be able to do that.

Ebony Rainford-Brent
I every time I tell a joke, I’m hoping that it raises my intelligence now Paul. Do I look intelligent now? apparently,

Paul Boross
It pushes both hemispheres of the brain together. There you go. Exactly. Oh, oh, look at the intelligence there.

Ebony Rainford-Brent
It’s just flowing. It’s just flowing.

Paul Boross
It’s just flowing. And finally, I’m desert island gags. You can only take one joke to a desert island. What would it be?

Oh, it’s just got to be all the knock knock jokes like this. So you know any knock knock? And I don’t I can’t think of one specifically. But every time I hear Knock, knock, I just think this is so cheesy. I know. I’m gonna laugh. Like, it’s basic. So I wouldn’t mind anyone taking a whole little book of knock knock jokes, and that’ll keep me going.

Well, your humour has kept us going on the podcast. Thank you so much for sharing it with us today. Ebony Rainford-Brent, thank you so much.

Thanks for having me, Paul. I really enjoyed it.

The Humourology Podcast was hosted by Paul Boross and produced by Simon Banks. Music by Steve Haworth creative direction by Les Hughes, and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe, like and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a BIG SKY production.