There is this secret power in the world. Some people seem to naturally possess it, others have to fake it, and some don’t even know what it means: the power of humor. It is amazing how quickly humor breaks down barriers and makes you seem more approachable. I joined a new team today, and the first thing I did was send them a comic telling them I hoped they could start off the day with a smile. Instant rapport. I’m not saying they trust me with their lives or anything, but I do think it opened the channels of communication.
I’ve had the opportunity to be on a few project teams, and I find the ones that laugh and still get stuff done have the best long-term results. The extremes of the humor spectrum are not good. On the one side, you have a team which never gets anything completed since they are always having a good time. On the other, you have a productive team with low morale such that they’d rather be anywhere but work.
A few points to humor I have discovered over the past few months:
1. Self-deprecating humor makes you approachable. I love to tell the team how I’m just like the non-techy manager of the help desk in the IT Crowd, the one who believes her team when they tell her the Internet is contained in a tiny box on the top of Big Ben (due to the great reception, of course).
2. Don’t spam your team, but do send a funny joke or picture. But please make sure it’s professional and hopefully somewhat relevant to they work they are doing. I did a search on computer cartoons to see what things I could pass on to the team in the future.
3. Rein in the humor when it starts to waste people’s times. I have been on a few calls where the team had such great camaraderie that they quit talking about the project and joked around. For those participating, it was great; but for those who didn’t find it funny, they probably felt their time wasn’t being respected.
On the days I laugh, I walk around the office with a lighter spirit, I connect better with people, and I have the right frame of mind to get the job done. I say, pass it on!