Telling a good joke is not only one of the best ways to break the ice, but it is an effective tool used by leaders to relax their team members and to increase productivity.
Imagine for a moment that you had a meeting set with the CEO of a major organization. What’s the first thing that runs through your head as you prepare to make your presentation? Well, you know that first impressions last. So, you select your clothing carefully, shine your shoes and arrive on time, after triple checking that you have everything packed and ready to go. Right?
Then you get there. You are greeted by the CEO and taken to the executive suite. However, instead of a stiff upper lip approach, you are thrown off guard by a leader who cracks jokes with his employees, who makes light of himself and his weaknesses, and allows his team to do what he has engaged them to do. Instead of being stressed about my presentation and how he will evaluate me, I relax and wait for the moments that I am given to present my issues and ask questions. And, his humor was infections as I found the same lightheartedness in his staff as I toured their facilities.
Sometimes we think that leadership is so much about bearing responsibility, that we look for the stiff upper lip approach, rather than the humorous and engaging head. Perhaps we can change some unhealthy patterns in our organizations as we consider the role that humor can play in leadership.
Humor is “The capacity to express or perceive what’s funny, … both a source of entertainment and a means of coping with difficult or awkward situations and stressful events. … humor can play an instrumental role in forming social bonds, releasing tension, or attracting a mate. Most important, humor is largely subjective.”(Psychology Today, 2020).
In a study of 230 musical directors, many revealed that “telling a joke or a funny anecdote was important. … The research … on humor and leadership suggests that we might be better off employing Michael McIntyre than Bill Gates” (Cronie, 2019; https://qz.com/work/1608688/learning-to-make-people-laugh-will-make-you-a-better-leader/).
Among the top ways suggested that humor can be beneficial at work are:
1. Creating unity – strengthens solidarity between colleagues and builds team spirit.
2. Fostering creativity – One of the byproducts of combining odd ideas increases creativity levels in groups, making teams more productive and innovative. So, you may be talking about the need for staff training and you make a joke about sipping Mai Tais or Pina Coladas on the beach in Ocho Rios. Suddenly the energy is shifted and team members may try to figure out how to combine the two events, or at least suggest a solution to the problem at hand.
3. Benefiting health – Enjoying a good laugh does more than just feel good. Remember that Mary Poppins song, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftxnr28LDXc). Well, laughter really does the heart good like medicine.
And, research has provided evidence to show that “Physically and mentally, humor is the opposite of stress. Laughter lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation, reduces muscle tension and pain, and boosts the immune system” (Corine, 2019).
4. Softening criticism – humor can deliver criticism in a lighthearted way. And, one of the most insidious vices that can ruin families, friendships, and once successful organizations is gossip. So, how do you tell a gossip, to mind their own business in a diplomatic way. Well, two reggae artists have done it in a little song that I will leave you with, simply titled, “Leave People Business Alone.”
So, the next time that you are in doubt about what to do to break the tension, soften criticism, inject some energy, or let people know that you are in charge, try humor. It is sure to produce the desired result in short order. Scroll through one of my previous entries at https://crystalclearvisionblog.com/2018/05/05/the-joy-of-laughter-children-learn-what-they-live/ and visit http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD .