Laughter is Contagious
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

When your team is together do they laugh? This seems like a silly question for leaders – but it is a very serious one. A team’s effectiveness is linked to its ability to laugh. Let me explain.

Researcher Robert Provine decided to study the impacts and causes of laughter. What he found matches what I have witnessed in organizations and on teams. Teams and groups of people that have the ability to enjoy their time together – demonstrated by laughter – are significantly more effective and achieve better outcomes. This is even despite the fact that most of what we laugh at is not very funny. Provine found that only 20% of what we laugh at is even remotely funny. Why are we laughing and smiling? Because laughter is more about relationships than humor. Laughter is what ties us together with others. It’s the glue that hold us together in our common struggle to get outcomes.

Leaders are responsible for helping teams become cohesive and mission-driven as they accomplish important outcomes. Fostering social bonds between the members of the group is a big part of getting the group to perform. Finding ways to enjoy the time together while working hard is the key. Laughter is a quick way to know if the team is bonding.

I like laughter. I enjoy seeing my team members smile. Easy conversation that is not related to work shows people are more than just colleagues – they are friends. What won’t we do for our friends? Provine found that laughter is 30 times more prevalent in social settings. Do you foster true social settings at work where both the job can get done and people can enjoy their time together? If we are to succeed, we need highly motivated teams and individuals who work hard — and can’t wait to be together.

The talent we need is harder and harder to find. It is the lifeblood of successful businesses today. One way to win is to create a great work environment that is both fun and produces great outcomes. When we have those places, we can recruit – and retain – the best talent. Laughter is one way to measure the progress of your efforts.

What are the social bonds between your team members? Are you fostering deeper relationships? Do you laugh together as a team? What are the indicators that people are building closer ties to each other? These are important questions to ask ourselves. During this joyful time of year make sure you find time to laugh and smile – it will help you be more productive and connected to your team and those you care the most about.