Well known American writer Mark Twain said that “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” He was right. Humor is more than the best medicine; it is good business. Ever hosted a meeting during which majority of your audience tuned off or distracted checking their mobiles? Or have you been part of a meeting during which you zoned out and began to worry about other things? A good leader knows how to make a good presentation – but a great leader knows how to retain his audience’s attention.
And one of the best tools a great leader can rely on is his sense of humor. It makes sure that people listen when you speak and will encourage them to open during meetings and social situations.
Provided the situation is appropriate, a dash of humor always help leaders manage their teams better. It can help you engage people and make them pay attention to what you are saying. It can help energize your teams as laughter is the best medicine and the ideal motivator. There is no doubt that humor is a life skill, but how can it help?
How can humor help my team?
Laughter can increase dopamine and give your team a shot of adrenaline. This will help them stay productive and creative. Not to mention a dose of positivity, credibility, and effectiveness among many other benefits.
Your employees will feel confident and authentic by being their true selves. Ever watched a stand-up comedian crack self-deprecating jokes? It always prepares people to deal with insults and impromptu jokes the comedian then makes of the audience. If the comedian laughs at the audience alone, they will feel belittled and insulted. Owing to this two-way humor, jokes and insults are welcomed constructively.
“My boss uses his sense of humor to connect with us emotionally. I always admire him for the connections he maintains with us. When we attend meetings, most of us are too shy to brainstorm ideas thinking they might sound stupid. To clear the fog, he begins meetings with the most absurd ideas or life experiences that get us laughing – the stage is set for us to act silly and laugh at ourselves if we mess up! It makes him a fun person to work with and highly approachable,” said a social media strategist at a marketing agency in Bengaluru.
Clearing the tension
When discussions in the boardroom get tense, humor can always help you clear the tension and cool things down. A well-timed joke can help people get a new perspective and release their tension. People can get creative and reciprocate positively if they feel the environment is welcoming for them.
This physical release of tension and the ability to laugh at yourself can go a long way! It could help you uniquely convey a known message and make your point memorable. For example, look at the difference between these two sentences:
- We need the press release by tomorrow night
- I am holding the release button. Do you know why? Because the client mentioned a press release. Ha-ha, get that press release done by tomorrow night, okay?
To prove this point further, here is a task for you! Before you go to bed tonight, try to remember this article. We are sure you will remember this corny joke whether the rest of it comes to mind or not!
Another benefit would be the use of humor as a coping mechanism when you feel stressed or anxious. Both children and adults use nervous jokes to get through tough times. Managers can use humor in such cases as well to help an employee calm down before a meeting they are nervous about.
Here is an example by Sripriyaa Venkataraman, a Leadership and Executive Coach at Global Coaching Lab. This insightful coaching session throws light on how managers and employees alike can take situations lightly without getting worked up by using their sense of humor.
How humor helped – A real-life example
This is an actionable insight for my coachee and a mentoring moment for me!
As usual, we connected over our zoom call. It is always a delight to connect with young leaders. I deeply respect their boldness to always try something new.
The voice on the other side sounded a bit frustrated. To my surprise, my acknowledgment of this emotion further agitated my coachee. I was a bit taken aback, as this was not his usual style. I decided to smile and maintain silence for a necessary period. I was all eyes reading his body language and micro-expressions.
Compassionate Silence (not sarcastic silence) always provides a cushion for energy redirection.
My coachee apologized and said, “Yes, I am frustrated about a personal situation. I accepted the situation and even lowered my expectations from this person. Still every time, there is a trigger, and although I convince myself with acceptance, I seem to feel like this. It shows up in my professional interactions, at such times. I am not sure why I feel frustrated, while indeed acceptance should make me feel better”.
I am sure many of you have faced similar situations as my coachee.
I decided to wear my mentor hat and narrated a personal story. Some time ago, I used to be frustrated about many things. To such an extent, that my family would often say, “When will you ever enjoy fulfillment”? It seemed like an emotion that will not leave me anytime soon.
Then one day over a domestic situation, I unconsciously used humor. The other party laughed and got the message and I suddenly felt better. I did not experience frustration. Rather, I felt victorious. I decided to apply this formula in other situations.
And it worked. Today, I thank the universe for helping me with an unconscious behavior that turned positive for me. This led me to reflect on the change. With the situation and the players remaining constant, I realized that my energy was redirected differently.
The energy within me that often highlighted frustration now had an anchor in humor and knew how to move forward constructively.
My coachee nodded with a big smile and decided to close his eyes in reflection. I decided to remain silent and let him connect the dots.
Redirect your energies
As mentioned, humor can help you stay calm and channel your energies differently. You can take a step back and have a look at the big picture. This will help you analyze things and people better and take better decisions.
It will also enhance your cognitive abilities and help you retain information better. You can help your team process information more dynamically and facilitate the learning process. Whether you are managing a senior employee or a recruit, your sense of humor can put them at ease and grasp things quickly.
It is also worth noting that it takes immense creativity, innovation, and intellect to tell and understand jokes. “It is one of the subtle criteria at my company during the hiring process to understand the employee’s wittiness. If they happen to crack a well-timed joke or an intellectual commentary during the interview, we take it as a mark of their spontaneity and skill. Such employees can help their peers stay positive and in a good mood while also thinking on their feet,” said an HR Manager at a reputed software agency in Chennai.
You can protect your energy by staying in a good mood. When someone offends you or seems to be on the lookout for conflict, simply use your humor to divert the problem. It will help you avoid wasting energy on the issue and arrive at the solution sooner. It will also give the perpetrator an insight into your approach to things and increase their opinion of you.
A good sense of humor can help you channel your energy constructively and keep your cognitive functions healthy. It can also keep you mentally and physically healthy by boosting your immune system and hormones. It will also nurture your relationships and help you forge emotional connections with the people that matter to you.
The slew of benefits is endless and will impact you in a plethora of ways. From helping your team stay calm and composed to resolving major conflicts easily, the benefits are endless. If the situation is appropriate and your audience is open-minded, your sense of humor can go a long way.
They say good leaders and humorous ones are born – not made. We do not agree and believe it is never too late to learn! To enhance your intellect and your sense of humor to channel your energies in the right direction, click here. The journey to letting things go and staying composed begins today!