Smile – It Can Make You More Successful
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Did you know that smiling can make you more successful?  I’m here to tell you that it certainly can.  What we now know is that smiling creates a chemical reaction that literally gives us more stamina and improves performance.  In professional athletes, smiling while performing grueling activities give them more staying power, additional quickness, and fewer injuries.  I recently came across an article explaining that a world-class marathon runner was able to increase his final mile pace by over 20% by forcing a smile every few seconds during the final mile.  Smiling gives you a competitive advantage—it’s amazing!

As a leader, smiling can have the same effect with your team.  Just try it as an experiment.  At your next meeting, smile broadly to start the meeting.  Say nothing – and just watch. Notice the number of team members who actually smile back.  You will be amazed – almost all will smile back.  Like yawning, smiling is contagious.  Really – this is true.  And, with a smile, special chemical reactions in your brain actually make you feel happier.  A simple smile can brighten everyone’s day whether they meant to smile or not.  Pretty cool.

In today’s work environment, we are looking for a competitive edge to attract and retain the best individuals.  Have you considered joy?  You might want to.  It has been proven to work.  So, what would joy look like in a place of work?  Does work still get done?

Joy does not mean nobody is getting work done.  It’s not play time.  Employees are still expected to accomplish outcomes.  Joy is not what we do – it’s how we do it.  When team members help define their outcomes that lead to the organization’s success, leaders can encourage ways to lighten the mood and smile a lot.  We can celebrate success as it occurs, thank people, and embrace even bolder efforts and opportunities.

To be honest, I was not trained to work this way.  At West Point, we did not do a lot of smiling in our day-to-day work.  Don’t get me wrong, we certainly had fun too.  However, when we worked it was hard work and long hours.  As you prepare for combat, there is little room for error.  However, for many of us, our work is not life or death.  It’s important – but there is room for levity.  What I learned through experimentation at MACNY over the years is that smiling and celebration at the right times increase the level of commitment and excitement which adds to our efforts and is not a distraction.  Sure, it is more of an art than a science – but there is good science behind the impacts it has on the creativity of our team and the desirability of our office as the place to work.  A strong focus on mission, identified meaningful outcomes, individual accountability, and on-going reviews for improvement  – along with a healthy dose of joy and celebration can make a huge difference at work.

Have you considered what smiling and celebration could do for you as a leader at your place of work?  Can you smile – even when you don’t feel like it?  Can you offer a word of support or a helping hand and do so with a smile?  Would it matter?  I think so.  I have seen it work. Give it a try – I am pretty sure it will be well worth your effort!