Hey, CEOs, How About a Little Humor

🕑 4 minutes read | Mar 02 2020 | By Becky Gendron

What do you get when you mix a funny CEO with a group of employees?  Answer: A workplace that is enjoyable, and a culture that is stronger because of it – no joke.

Humor is a good thing. Research proves that when we laugh endorphins are released in the brain, lowering stress hormones. It’s a great natural stress reliever. That is probably why there are dozens of tips on how to best incorporate humor in speeches, training, or even dinner parties. It is a simple concept but has such a powerful impact on people and entire organizations.

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done, ” said Dwight D. Eisenhower

So what is the place for humor in the workplace? Let’s quickly touch upon what research tells us.

According to research from institutions as serious as Wharton, MIT, and London Business School, laughter brings a host of business benefits. It relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.[i]

Organizationally, research shows cultures that incorporate humor are more resilient.[ii] However, according to research collected by Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jennifer Aaker and lecturer Naomi Bagdonas, as people get older, they stop smiling and laughing as frequently.[iii] There is a serious need to incorporate humor in the workplace.

It was the fourth key leadership trait, according to Forbes Magazine. So, how important is it for a leader to have a good sense of humor?

SmartPulse is a weekly nonscientific reader poll that tracks feedback from more than 210,000 business leaders. Here are the results from a weekly poll question on how important it is for a leader to have a good sense of humor[iv].

  • Great leaders need to laugh – 48.4%
  • Humor is a core leadership trait – 42.4%
  • Kind of. We’re here for work but laughs are OK, too – 8.4%
  • Not at all. Get back to work – 0.5%
  • Not very. Humor doesn’t add a lot at work – 0.3%

Humor at TTA

If Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is not afraid to create a “little weirdness” and hold it as a core value to culture,[v] then Maria Melfa, CEO and President of TTA, is not afraid to create a “little humor” at our organization.

As a leader, Maria creates a workplace environment that has humor in it, a place where people enjoy laughing and working hard each day. If you’ve wondered how your CEO compares, I’m offering five funny (and real) experiences at TTA where Maria applies humor to any situation:

  • A joke or something funny in every meeting (literally), to make people laugh, including the all-hands meetings.
  • She will break out in song or play a favorite song on her phone at the start of a meeting.
  • Shrimp brownies anyone? Yes. This menu choice appeared among a delightful spread of catered food to see if anyone dared to try a bite.
  • Weekly episodes of The Office during lunch hours.
  • Witty and carefully crafted emails and stories to make us laugh (you never know what to expect).

Let’s face it, CEOs, founders, and leaders have a lot to think about. They are tasked with making critical business decisions that have a huge impact on the success or failure of a company. From strategy and growth decisions, all the way down to talent acquisition best practices, leaders need to possess the business sense to move an organization forward.

That’s only half the story. Personality and character play a huge role in motivating and influencing employees, and all those who interact with the company and brand. Leaders are expected to be a lot of things, including having traits like inspiration, motivation, passion, and charisma. A sense of humor is also part of the art of leadership.

This is certainly a good lesson for all of us. So as you are going through your checklist of desirable traits, consider humor as one of them. People are drawn to comedy clubs, watch sitcoms, Saturday Night Live and other shows, comedies (you must have a favorite Will Ferrell movie?), and share funny clips with their social network.  So, let’s bring the power of laughter into the workplace too.

Bring humor into the workplace, and you’ll be surprised to see what it can do to inspire your teams, produce higher retention rates of employees, and give your company a competitive advantage. Laughter in the workplace is great, tell a joke or two, and see the smiles that shape a culture.

Life is stressful, we all need to laugh a little more.

Thanks, Maria, for all the laughs, and for being the funny CEO that makes you unique and unforgettable!

[i] Leading With Humor
[ii] Everyone Loves a Funny Leader
[iii] Humor is Serious Business
[iv] How Important is it For a Leader to Have a Good Sense of Humor
[v] Try a Little Weird

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *