I have always believed that you should take your work seriously, but not yourself . . . although admittedly, sometimes we get so mired down in the seriousness of our tasks — the pressures at hand — that it is easy to convince ourselves we don’t have time to laugh or play. And yet, at the most stressful times, that might be exactly what you need.
I had a great reminder of this yesterday. We had a staff appreciation event with a mad scientist theme, and staff members were asked to dress up in their best mad scientist attire. Yes, I was in the midst of trying to lay out plans for several major projects, but I figured if we want staff to participate in events like this I ought to be willing to embrace the silliness of it all. Apparently I embraced it fairly well because most staff members, at first glance, had no idea who I was. Actually, after the second or third glance several remained skeptical. How fun is that!?! The surprised chuckles and shaking of heads when they figured out who was under that crazy (and very hot!) wig and horn-rimmed glasses, made it worth the little bit of effort that went into fully embracing the good-natured theme of the day.
Will the pictures come back to haunt me? Perhaps . . . (okay, probably) . . . but the smiles — my own and those reflected back to me — were worth it. The Mayo Clinic, and numerous other sources, identifies laughter as an antidote to stress, a way to improve your mood and even relieve pain. So if leaders are so smart, why would we forgo something that could reduce our stress and improve our mood? Too busy? It doesn’t have to be a big production, a few minutes can brighten your day (even the whole mad scientist thing took all of about 30 minutes). Not befitting someone in your position? Get over yourself. Simply don’t think about it amid the daily pressures of leading in chaotic times? Okay, I’ll give you that one, but consider yourself reminded. Taking a few minutes to laugh, smile, or otherwise lighten the mood in the midst of the very important thing you are working on can improve your entire day, and I believe make you more effective at the project that is keeping you from laughing in the first place!
As leaders, part of our job is to role-model how to take our job seriously, but not ourselves, how to manage our stress and still make our deadlines. So take a few minutes today to lighten up your leadership. The results are sure to make you smile.