Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease from pain. ~ Charlie Chaplin

How we look at life, our attitude and general outlook towards events, people, and situations, greatly affects how well we work through difficult times. Our disposition, our “natural tendency” and “state of mind” are vital to how well we effectively lead ourselves and navigate our organizations. One way to maintain perspective and lead with a positive disposition rests with our ability to laugh at ourselves despite how hard it may be and the vulnerable position you take when you do. 

Laughter not only heals and brings people together, laughing at ourselves is a unique way to not take ourselves so seriously. This helps us to maintain our focus on the real issue at hand and to separate ourselves from the situation. When done well, we become free from a great deal of our own insecurities and fears, both of which prevent us from being our best self when dealing with a difficult topic or concern. 

If you don’t feel like you’re a “funny person,” someone who can lighten the mood but also maintain a serious focus, you’re not alone. Too many leaders are caught up with being business-minded all or too much of the time. Take the following challenge to demonstrate your willingness to use humor, especially during dark moments and unsettling scenarios. 

You don’t have to be a comedian or even a great joke teller to take the following three steps in using humor as a tool to create hope on your team. 

  1. Reflect: Think about the weight of the situation that you’re trying to lighten so that hope is in sight for your team. Allowing the heaviness to sink in provides the needed recognition regarding the weight that you want to lift. The burden of the pandemic is an example for educators who are working to plan what school will be in the fall. 
  2. Identify: Identify something humorous that you came across recently–this can be something that happened to you or that you did (even a silly mistake you made). Think about, for example, something funny that one of your kids said. “This 5th grade car parade is better than my graduation. All I got to do was sit on a stage in an itchy shirt and sing a song that I didn’t even like.” 
  3. Do: Tell the story at the start of a meeting or when the time seems right. Have others share a funny story as well. Be sensitive about the context of your humor, but note that humor heals and laughter lightens. 

Pro Tip: Whenever times are tough–a serious situation arises or the work turns into a slog overnight–your team will likely get super focused on the in-the-moment tasks. Effective leaders know that the grind can be over-taxing. Ask each individual on your team if they were able to share a laugh with someone recently? Give them the opportunity to explain what was so funny to them and why. Understanding the sense of humor that each person on your team has gives you an advantage for using humor when the time is right. You know this to be true if you’ve ever said to a coworker or friend: “I know you’ll appreciate this…” or “…I thought you would find that funny.” It’s a reminder about the connection that we share with others. 

Reach out and share your story with us.

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Joe & T.J.