Have you ever been in a working environment which was improved as soon as the boss wasn’t around or had gone home? The atmosphere lifts, people start to smile and laugh, and yet the work still gets done? It always surprised me that managers could create such an unproductive, stressful environment by their presence and controlling demands, yet never realise the damage they were inflicting.
One of my ex-bosses used to come out of his office and stare at anyone who he thought was chatting and obviously wasn’t working hard enough, making all those around him insecure and stressed. Even if those people talking were discussing work, he didn’t seem to believe them, so stood and scowled! However, if he was away from the office, even for a few hours, the environment was so very different – and yet everyone seemed to get more work done.
Neuroscience is clearly showing that being relaxed actually helps to increase creativity and innovation, key criteria to successful workplaces. So many leaders and companies, however, think that serious work has to be done seriously, and a fun atmosphere will reduce focus and productivity.
But creating the right work environment and culture will determine an organisation’s success, with employees who want to come to work and want to work. Creating a place where employees feel comfortable and appreciated is crucial. Whether this is in the form of team events, lunches, after work get togethers etc, the effort will be noticed.
Bringing laughter into your meetings can alleviate fears and help the team to be more effective in problem solving and generating creative solutions. One of my direct reports once told me that he couldn’t believe how much fun we had in meetings, and yet always got so much done, coming up with amazing insights for future development. Does anyone want to go to stressful meetings with colleagues, where they feel uncomfortable with offering suggestions and opinions? There will always be specific meetings that need to be handled appropriately, but regular humourless leadership can be a real morale killer.
Leadership is not about control and maintaining a sombre demeanour. Work should not be a punishment. A joyful workplace is a productive one, so leaders need to develop their skills and confidence to allow humour into their leadership style. Humour and humility seem to go hand in hand, keeping a leader’s feet on the ground. There is obviously a time and place, and the humour has to be appropriate and not at the expense of others, but it helps to:
- Lighten the mood and put people at ease, which is especially important as leaders can come across as intimidating.
- Encourage clearer thinking and better decision making.
- Build better team-working, encouraging a sense of community and unified culture
- Ensure a culture of learning from mistakes and successes
- Develop loyalty and trust from your team
- Improve motivation and employee engagement
How have you encouraged a fun and relaxing working environment? What benefits have you discovered?
Leaders owe it to themselves to develop a better working environment, to reduce their own stress levels and those of their team, and build an atmosphere that all can thrive. Find out how executive coaching can help you develop your leadership skills, confidence and self-awareness.