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The secret to a better performance on the road? You’re having a laugh!

“Frame your mind to mirth and merriment which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.”  Was William Shakespeare onto something when his words were published (almost 400 years ago)? You globe-trotters out there frequently play roulette with time. Taking off on a Saturday to land Sunday night—where has the weekend gone? Before you know it, you are thrown into another week of investor marketing, visiting fund managers and analysts to present your equity story for the nth time. In amongst the whirlwind of running from meeting to meeting, can a dollop of humour and a hint of joy enhance your performance and ‘lengthen your life’?

Investor communications is a serious business.  You’re getting great results, meeting the standard, achieving your IR objectives, showcasing your company results, but at what cost?  Companies look closely at the notion of efficiency (achieving measurable goals) vs effectiveness (being optimal in a task). Guess what? They are not the same.  So can having a laugh make you more performing? Could you inject humour in your work and get better results?  All data points to ‘yes’.

In the corporate world, humour has become recognised by senior managers as a precious tool for boosting performance, and a whole school of management celebrates its benefits.  There is a science behind the smile.  A Harvard study proves that executives with a talent for laughter and a light touch are paid more and promoted faster.  In his TED talk ‘Humor that works’, Andrew Tarvin recommends that every team have a ‘humor engineer’ and shares some compelling statistics:  in a recent survey, 81% of his employee respondents say they would like a job in a workplace with humour and 96% of the CEOs prefer hiring a candidate with humour.  So it’s more than likely the people you communicate with feel the same way about having a laugh.  From a communication standpoint, humour gets your message to stick out and people to stop and think.  The average person receives 200 emails per day, and 80% of those are some form of communications.  You definitely remember something light-hearted or downright funny.  And it implicitly gains your trust.

Furthermore, humour has a stronger impact on performance. It positively enhances economic, collective and individual performance.  The correlation between happiness at work and productivity is plain for all to see.  Attrition and absenteeism because of stress, as well as disaffection with work (lack of engagement and commitment to the job) cost businesses around the world billions of dollars annually.  Statistics on this abound.  Humour brings positive emotions, appreciative enquiry and a dose of humility and goodwill in many high-powered teams. This in turn resolves conflict, helps tackle difficult topics, aggressive behaviours and other awkward issues that may arise in the workplace.  This positivity creates a solid basis for creativity and a cohesion in teams around delivering results.  Measuring success isn’t simply limited to looking at profitability – an organisation’s raison d’être is also how it acts as a force for good in its community, and THAT has value.

Most importantly, humour and laughter boost our biological and psychological well-being and as such, our effectiveness— laughter triggers production of powerful endorphins and neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in the brain.  This in turn facilitates synapses that stimulate the thinking/executive part of the brain.  These neuronal connections enhance creativity, speed of thinking and problem-solving.  Laughter reduces tension, lowers stress and generally improves individual thinking, decision-making and ultimately performance.  But humour doesn’t just have a positive neurological impact, it also has psychological boosters, which have an impact on health and physical resilience.

So think of ways you can inject fun and humour when you’re travelling the world, meeting investors, as much as when you’re back at base.  Be careful, humour is often contextual, so before you crack a joke, think of your interlocutor’s style – and probably also their nationality and specific cultural appurtenance.  Exporting humour can require some specific knowledge of ‘what’s done here’, local politics and customs.  Some topics are universally off limits—rude or risqué, gender-specific, religious jokes almost always backfire, so tread lightly.

Next time you head out, whatever the destination, even if it’s from your office desk to the coffee machine, think about how bringing joy and humour with you enhances your performance and that of those around you.  And that is no laughing matter.

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