Want to be a Better Leader? Be Funny

Y.You don’t have to look far to find advice on how to be a more effective boss. There are almost endless books and tropes for you to think about how to better engage your team and encourage creativity.

It used to be easier to create a bond at work (not easy, but easier). Conversations with water coolers, cocktail parties, holiday gatherings – all of these were social lubricants that we could use to interact and collaborate with colleagues. Then the pandemic hit – and all of these things suddenly disappeared.

How can leaders (and employees) create that connection and sense of wellbeing? The answer could be a good knock-knock joke.

Ok, maybe not. According to two professors from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, humor is management’s new superpower. Naomi Bagdonas and Connor Diemand-Yauman examine the links between humor, leadership, and business – and say we all need a good laugh these days.

“Humor is one of the most underrated and underfunded assets we have in business, especially for executives,” says Bagdonas. “The reality is that the more technology-driven our communication becomes, the harder it is to get our humanity and sense of humor to work. We subconsciously adapt to our medium and when we are constantly communicating through technology it is easy to sound like a robot. Often a touch of lightness is enough to shift a moment or relationship from transactional and generic to relational and authentic. “

Research by Bagdonas and Diemand-Yauman found that leaders with a good sense of humor are seen as 27% more motivating and admired, and their employees 15% more engaged. (It also works the other way around. 84% of executives believe that people with a sense of humor do better jobs.)

Laughter suppresses the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, and calms people down. It also opens up a more creative mindset, the couple says, making it an especially valuable leadership tool at any time, let alone one that people felt disconnected from.

“When we laugh with someone, we bond powerfully,” says Diemand-Yauman. “Neurochemically speaking, laughing together gives you more bang for your buck when it comes to interpersonal connections than anything else. When we laugh, our brains release the hormone oxytocin, often referred to as the “trust hormone,” which stimulates us to make an emotional connection and feel more connected – whether we’re in person or across screens. “

It turns out that laughter is like a cocktail for the mind. A good laugh releases a barrage of hormones, including dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, making people feel happier, more confident, and easily euphoric. Laughing regularly can relieve stress and make employees feel more in control.

While humor has always been a key management tool, the pandemic has underscored the need for humor among supervisors. Executives who incorporate humor, whether by using a joke on their wallpaper screen or putting on surprising Groucho glasses, or turning an awkward moment into a light one with ease, can connect with their team while others may have been struggling lately have to do this.

“We don’t need professionalism in our workplaces. Instead, we need more of ourselves and more human connections – especially since face-to-face meetings have been replaced by video conferencing, more relationships are maintained solely through email, and so many people struggle with isolation, loneliness, and personal tragedy. “Says Diemand-Yauman.

Of course, happier and more motivated employees are more productive employees. And a manager with a sense of humor can get more out of their team without working harder. Just make sure you don’t lean too far into the Yuk-Yuk realm.

“Through playful cultures, teams can (and especially) thrive when the stakes are high and times are tough,” says Bagdonas. “Of course we shouldn’t be funny all the time. That would be exhausting (and counterproductive). But we’ve gone so far in the other direction that our companies thirst for it – and our team productivity can benefit greatly from it. “

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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