“Learn to laugh; it is a discipline to be mastered. Let go of the everlasting burden of always having to sound profound.”—Theologian and author, Richard Foster
While we sometimes become obsessed with the notion that our employees and followers will not think as much of us if we aren’t portraying an intensity of focus, it is important to remember that even “serious” leaders can, and should, have fun. We are worried about avoiding the impression of being silly. We are concerned that, if employees see us laughing and having fun they may not take their tasks as seriously as they should. As a result, we create an environment that is not very enjoyable to be in.
This is unfortunate. While being a constant goofball doesn’t do much to engender confidence in your ability, taking the opportunity to occasionally laugh or have fun with your team can go a long way in building and growing relationships. It also contributes to the overall health of you and your workforce. Health experts Melinda Smith, Gina Kemp and Jeanne Segal point to four measurable benefits of laughter on well-being:
- Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
- Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Relationship-wise, laughing with your employees or followers also allows them to see that you are, after all, human. Laughter is a sign of affection and affiliation. It is an indication that we are open to contact and willing to interact with others. Most importantly, it is a shared experience. When something occurs that gives us all a good laugh, it becomes a point of reference for what it means to be on this team. Teams that laugh together (yes, I’m going to say it), stay together.