Yes, business can be tough. And sometimes there is a need for a serious poker face, not to mention deep empathy with people if things are going very wrong. But on the more normal days, two laughter professionals, Lotte Mikkelsen, and Sue Haswell, argue (nicely!) that it’s far better for leaders to laugh regularly than to be serious all the time. And here’s why:
De-stress with a giggle and your hairdresser will thank you.
People who can laugh more are less stressed! Check it out at www.laughteryoga.biz/home/laughter-and-stress/. When we get stressed our cortisol (the stress hormone) soars! And we can reduce it by movement and by breathing. The great news is – a hearty chuckle followed by a few moments of deep laughter will also get rid of the cortisol – and make us feel great! So, if the options are ripping out your hair, or letting rip with a belly laugh – go for the belly laugh every time. Your barber or hairdresser will agree!
It’s very timely to de-stress and have a good laugh as we have observed World Laughter Day on 7th May. We join in raising awareness of the importance of laughter and humour in our lives and in the workplace.
Stop the bants and connect with emotional integrity instead.
Most people have experienced a testosterone-fuelled environment— they tend to be full of banter, put-downs, and joking. But whilst these can certainly lead to laughter, they are more often laughs at someone else’s expense. So, big yourself up, and support your crew. Find fun things to laugh about, that won’t make someone else cringe.
Stop: Laughing AT people (even if they aren’t in earshot); and
Start: Laughing WITH people.
Stop: Trying to be clever and witty; and
Start: Having a stack of dodgy cracker jokes. Yes, people will tire of them – and that makes them even funnier. An example of this joke is, “Question: What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? Answer: A carrot!” Groan… Hahahaha!
Engage with creativity— go for wrong!
So much of our human creativity has come from experimenting, trying out new stuff. If we did everything the same, all the time— then nothing new would ever be created. But there’s nothing that stifles creativity more than TNTBR! (“The-Need-To-Be-Right”). Actually, that’s wrong! There’s nothing that stifles it more than “The-Need-To-Be-Right-All-The-Time”.
So, let’s go of TNTBRATT and embrace creativity and play instead!
Let go of blame culture.
TNTBR (“The-Need-To-Be-Right”) theme also extends into the most dangerous of games— the blame game. As managers, you are demonstrating a certain style or acceptable culture. Your role in people leadership means that your team members are watching your actions and then deciding that this is how it is.
A great way of boosting creativity and making it OK to have a go is the radical act of “deliberate error”. Demonstrate getting it wrong. It might feel uncomfortable but demonstrate having a go and failing sometimes. Allow people to see your vulnerability and allow them to know that you don’t have to be 100% right. And allow yourself to openly laugh AT yourself.
Time your laughter well!
Yes, you should because sometimes laughter isn’t such a good thing… We all know people who make a brilliant contribution in the boardroom, but then laugh and say “Oh, it’s nothing?” And we know those who laugh at the non-jokes or boardroom banter— when the rest of us are cringing. It’s obsequious, ingenuine.
Remember you CAN be too nice! A good manager is authentic, and genuine and doesn’t downplay himself or herself, or the team. So, notice the times when you might want to make yourself seem “nicer” with laughter. Or when you’re forcing a smile even though you want to call someone out. And if that’s happening—stop. And practice just sitting and breathing, focus on your breath. You don’t need to laugh when you really don’t feel like it.
Lastly, focus shift: contributions matter more.
Often managers can be so focused on heading up the achievement-driven elements of work that they forget about their team members. And without your team, an achievement-focused manager just ends up becoming a lone wolf (often a very sad lone wolf!) It stands to reason that working on our team leadership matters just as much as honing our leadership skills. And a very simple way to do this is by switching your focus from being driven-by-achievement to being driven-by-contribution.
The bottom line is, a manager who laughs readily takes themselves lightly. That manager is likely to value creativity and contribution and likely to encourage their team to value themselves for who they are (not just what they do). And that manager is more likely to be leading a tribe of happy, committed, caring individuals, who will look out for each other, as well as their pack leader!
Sue Haswell and Lotte Mikkelsen have written this blog. Sue Haswell is a trainer, psychotherapist, and facilitator. She’s also an international Laughter Yoga ambassador and teacher, and she wants to “help clients turn laughter into a regular everyday experience”. Sue lives in Devon. Know more about her on her website: www.suehaswell.co.uk.
Lotte Mikkelsen is the UK’s first and foremost Laughter Yoga Master Trainer, having brought Laughter Yoga from India and Denmark to the UK, in 2007, Lotte is a favourite facilitator for major festivals, including CarFest, and has made several TV appearances. More of Lotte’s works can be found on her website: www.unitedmind.co.uk.
Lotte and Sue work together regularly, delivering corporate and open training courses, including Laughter Facilitation and Laughter Yoga.