Lighten Up!

We tell our children that work is serious business. And that’s right  — to a certain extent. However, research is reminding us that it takes more than just grim determination and single-minded focus for success at work (and in life).

Marion Chapsal recently reiterated this truth in her post, Play, laughter and creativity in coaching.  In it, she refers to recent studies in neuroscience that “show the correlation between the ability to make people feel good and the global productivity at work.”  Taking this one step further, she cites Daniel Goleman, who has done landmark research in the area of emotional intelligence.  According to Goleman and Richard Boyatzis (Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership, Harvard Business Review, 1 Sept 2008):

Mirror neurons have particular importance in organisations, because leaders’ emotions and actions prompt followers to mirror those feelings and deeds.

Here’s an example of what does work. It turns out that there’s a subset of mirror neurons whose only job is to detect other people’s smiles and laughter, prompting smiles and laughter in return. A boss who is self-controlled and humourless will rarely engage those neurons in his team member, but a boss who laughs and sets an easygoing tone puts those neurons at work, triggering spontaneous laughter and knitting his team together in the process. A colleague of Daniel Goleman, Fabio Sala, found that top-performing leaders elicited laughter from their subordinates three times as often , on average, as did mid performing leaders. Being in a good mood, helps people take in information effectively and respond nimbly and creatively.

In other words, laughter is a serious business.

As you start this new work week, consider if your leadership style is depressing your team and its success.  Perhaps it’s time for you to lighten up and create an environment that enhances both productivity and personal satisfaction.

[Photo Credit:  Allie Wojtaszek]

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