Having always appreciated good humor, the article I found for this week's discussion reminded me of my early adulthood many years ago.
In those days, it seemed to me one of the funniest men alive was Johnny Carson, the master of one-line stand-up performances on late-night TV. Another was Bill Cosby (of course this was long before he was involved in politics and sexual harassment accusations). One of his funniest routines ever, for me, was about God giving Noah instructions for building an ark. That's one of the things I can think about to make myself laugh when I want to - a very good thing to do!
With that lead-in, today I'll address the appropriate use of humor by business leaders. Properly done, it can be quite effective. Below, I'll take on this topic in the context of an article by
, a long-time contributor to
Laughter's Good for You!
Often when there are important issues on the table stress levels rise, communication can break down, and people can get distracted from effective progress. Appropriate use of humor can lighten the atmosphere, and get people back to thinking clearly and effectively.
Many studies have shown that laughter is great therapy. I remember several which suggest that laughing uproariously at least once a day can have tremendous health benefits. This is at least partly due to the release of endorphins which can counteract stress hormones such as cortisol.
Watching children is often a great way to see a microcosm of adult topics of importance. When my granddaughter is mightily upset about some issue of great matter to her, I've often noticed how quickly that can change when her father makes a joke about something close at hand - he's very good at that. Within seconds she's laughing through her tears and has completely forgotten what had her so upset.
, Buchanan describes work being done by two Stanford professors which shows there can be many positives in the use of humor by business leaders, including:
- Strengthening cultural sense of belonging
- Stimulating creativity
- Improving negotiations
Check it out!
Of Course, Moderation is in Order
As with many techniques in leadership, variety and discretion are critical to the effectiveness of this one.
As valuable as the use of humor might be, overdoing it can make it very ineffective, even detrimental. Trying to force humor or worse, ridiculing individuals or religious or political views can be very damaging to relationships. And surely it goes without saying that sexual innuendo is entirely inappropriate in the workplace. Any of these gaffs can do more damage than any benefit that might be gained by appropriate use of humor.
So...be a bit light-hearted in your approach as a leader, and use humor appropriately and with discretion.
Leigh Buchanan's article
is a good guide.