Yesterday, my sister (who just moved home from Prague and has the same wanderlust that I do) announced that she had received the opportunity of a lifetime and would be moving to Australia at the end of her semester.
I couldn’t believe it…mostly I was just mad because I can’t wait for her to be back here this summer. Either way, I knew something wasn’t right, so I messaged her.
Her reply: “It’s already April over there!”
It still took a bit before it hit me: April Fools!! Well done Megan…sneaky of you to start a day early.
While I can never quite come up with good April Fools jokes myself, it is one of my favorite holidays, especially because companies have adopted it: Every year Google pulls some funny prank; this year it was 8-bit maps. Conan O’Brien took over Mashable today. I love to see examples of humor used by companies.
This speaks to an incredibly important, yet often overlooked aspect of leadership: humor.
Yes, you can increase your effectiveness as a leader by telling jokes.
Humor isn’t just play and games–nor is it wasted time. Maybe a few examples will convince you:
Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a stressful day, when suddenly a friend stops you in the hallway with some funny story that gets you laughing, smiling and feeling better? Sure, you probably still have a LOT of stressful work ahead of you, but that lighthearted moment gives you a quick mental refresh and powers you through the next 45 minutes or so.
Or perhaps you’ve found yourself in a very tense meeting and your boss or even another co-worker changes the whole tone by injecting a little bit of humor. All of a sudden, one joke can have the ability to transform a combative situation into a collaborative one, just by altering the mood.
You might also have found yourself working for a ‘cool’ boss. Someone who you respect and admire, but who is also very real, practical and fun. At jobs I’ve had in the past, the ‘cool’ bosses were always the ones that were most sought after by lower level employees. While there probably need to be several posts written on how to be a cool boss (especially about how to do so while still commanding respect), humor is a large part of the job.
Humor has the power to energize you, release tension and motivate you. Therefore, as a leader, it is a vital tool for you to use. Plus, if you’re walking the halls and you catch two of your employees having a laugh, be happy about it–they are instinctually helping each other mentally refresh for the work that lies ahead.
Keep in mind humor is a tool, not the whole tool-kit; just like you wouldn’t use a screw driver to screw in a nail, you need to know when to use humor. That being said, you’re probably using it less than you could.
Why is humor so powerful?
There is a physical reason to all of this: when you laugh, your lungs pull in a lot more oxygen than normal. Additional oxygen in your blood flow makes you feel more awake and alert, which gives you that mental refresh feeling. On top of that, the act of laughing flexes several of your muscles rapidly, which releases endorphins and makes you feel happier.
Just like stories, people have been telling jokes for millenia. Leaders should take note.
p.s. Improv in the office anyone?