Leading through Laughter


















Leading through laughter has been an implicit practice of mine.  And, I love it when I witness it in others.  For instance, Joe Maddon, manager of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

On July 9th, The Associated Press ran an article that captured Joe’s joking genius. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/sports/baseball/joe-maddon-keeps-his-cubs-moving-and-guessing.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

Joe is not only a master of the unexpected (for instance, once, rather than pulling a pitcher from the game, he sent him to the outfield for one batter while a reliever came in…then he pulled the reliever and returned the outfielder/pitcher to the mound…there was laughter during the infield conferences on the mound), and he also loves to instigate zaniness (as he has talked a few dozen of his players into donning pajamas for the charter flights home from West Coast trips).

Joe says, “[The players] love it!”

Perhaps especially his rookies recognize Joe’s spirit of adventure.  One noted, I watch him when I’m not playing, and it seems like he’s three, four moves ahead of the game…So he’s not afraid to try things, even with the rookies. Just about the first thing he said is he doesn’t care if you mess up.  Like if you’re in a situation where you think you should bunt, and he says hit and it doesn’t work out, he’ll come up to you right away and say, “That’s on me.”

One of Joe’s veteran players put it this way: “Too many guys want to equate smarts with being uptight.  Joe doesn’t.  He just says, ‘Do simple better.’”

And, what is not surprising, this team of players, playing loose and having fun, are leading their baseball division.

It’s an age old athletic adage, YOU PLAY BEST WHEN YOU PLAY LOOSE.

For me, there’s correlating connection, YOU THINK BEST WHEN YOU THINK LOOSE.  In both cases, laughter induces looseness.

Almost always when I’m involved in group discussions, something will strike my funny bone, and I’ll share what I think is the joke.  Almost always if the joke is in fact funny (I don’t always bat 1.000), the ensuing laughter is not a distraction, but rather it is an energizer for divergent thinking…and almost always a new idea emerges, or a new perspective becomes apparent.

It turns out that there’s lots of research on this.  If you’re interested, here are a couple of resources.

“Joyful laughter immediately produces the same brain wave frequencies experienced by people in a true meditative state,” says Lee Berk, lead researcher of the study and associate professor of pathology and human anatomy at Loma Linda University.

The elation you feel when you laugh is a great way of combating the physical effects of stress. When we laugh, our body relaxes and endorphins (natural painkillers) are released into the blood stream.