The Power of Humor

Last week, we kicked off a series called Leader Laughs and the responses we received were, well, funny. 

Apparently we all needed a laugh. 

I’ve seen it in myself and I’ve noticed it in our teams and communities and in leaders along the way. 

Competency, professionalism, organization, and service – leaders double-down thinking that these are the most important traits to success. And while every bit of these matter, over-indexing on those traits is causing a major issue in our professional and personal lives. 

One of the biggest problems? We’ve fallen off the humor cliff. And this is costing us.

What’s the cost?

In a performance culture that worships speed, pressure, and success, everything is getting far too serious. In our endless pursuit to be “best and brightest”, we’ve lost the ability to enjoy the journey or the people who make it possible. 

We’ve quit having fun.

Here’s a statement I’ve heard over and over again in our community: “I wish I enjoyed my life more.” 

According to the authors of the book Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (And how anyone can harness it. Even you.) a lot of us see humor as an obstacle to success. As a result, we’re afraid to have a sense of humor as well as share our true personality.

This phenomenon known as “the humor cliff”, officially happens for most of us at age 23. 

The authors said, “We grow up, enter the workforce, and suddenly become ‘serious and important people,’ trading laughter for ties and pantsuits. Before long, we lose levity entirely in a sea of bottom lines, slide decks, and mind-numbing conference calls.” 

The beliefs that keep us from laughing in the workplace, simply aren’t true. 

There is an upside!

In fact, research shows that humor is an incredibly powerful tool in leadership and success. It is not in opposition to seriousness, it’s actually the pathway to authenticity, health and influence. 

A survey by Robert Half International tracking hundreds of executives found that 98 percent of them preferred employees who had a sense of humor, and 84 percent believed employees with a sense of humor did better work.

Studies like this one are just the tip of the iceberg.

Humor matters to our influence and success AND it matters to our fulfillment and joy. It has the power to build relationships and a culture of openness in addition to commanding a higher level of respect among leaders. It reduces stress, improves overall health and makes us more attractive to be around! 

Activating humor is better for you and it makes you better at your job. 

And here’s more great news.

Humor is not a talent, it’s a habit you can start today. And if you’re one of those people who have fallen off the humor cliff, here are four tips for how to get some back in your life:

  • Take a humor audit. For one day, note when you laughed, what made you laugh, and when you made some else laugh. 
  • Choose humor over drama. Don’t worry about being funny, simply commit to finding more humor in the day to day things that happen in your life.
  • Curate a comedy collection. Social media and news can bring you down or pull you up. You decide by intentionally choosing to follow your funniest favorites.
  • Lighten Up. You can be serious without taking yourself too seriously. Laughing puts mistakes into perspective and makes everything in life easier to digest. 

We’re all looking for ways to change the trajectory of our health, joy, relationships and success. Humor is the unexpected lever that has the amazing potential to impact all of it. It’s free and it’s powerful.

We’re willing to work to create all kinds of things in our lives – why not work for more of this? 

It just might make you laugh.