We’ve all got a load of tools (or skills) in our leadership toolbox. And each of them serves a specific purpose.
We have communication skills, relationship-building skills, problem-solving skills, influence skills, listening skills, and so many more.
But there is one skill that many leaders have easy access to but just don’t put into practice very often. Really, it’s not so much a skill but a behavior. In fact, it’s really just a simple action.
Smiling is, indeed, a simple act but often it is hard to put into practice. It really is a skill that needs to be developed. Of course, there are people who smile freely and naturally, and they make it look effortless. Others have more difficulty turning up the corners of their mouths and flashing those pearly whites.
Now before you turn off this podcast, dismissing it as some warm and fuzzy nonsense, stick around for some cold, hard facts to see why smiling can make a huge difference in your top performance and your bottom line.
There are many studies correlating happiness with improved health and reduced stress. And there are almost as many that show alignment between happiness and performance.
Given that happiness can have a positive effect on your health, your wealth, and your success, it just makes sense that we should all seek to attain a bit more happiness if we can.
This might be easier to accomplish at home where we are less stressed, more comfortable, and feel more secure. But what would happen if you made a habit of smiling more at work?
Ok, maybe I’ve moved too fast for some of you. Let me roll back a bit and explain the positive effects of smiling, specifically smiling in the workplace.
Smiling is good for your health.
That is because smiling tells your brain to release a group of hormones, namely dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. All combined these hormones elevate your mood, alleviate pain, help you relax, and lower your blood pressure. (Those all sound like things that could be helpful at work. Just saying.)
Obviously, when you feel better, you are going to look better and you’re going to work better. And this will radiate beyond your own personal experience; when you’re at work, people will notice your improved mood, energy, and interaction with others.
Smiling boosts your activity level.
Not only does smiling improve your health and your mood, it actually boosts your performance levels. A recent study in Ireland showed that athletes who smiled during their workouts performed better than when they frowned or kept their usual facial expression.
Sounds crazy, I know, but I’ve done it myself and it really works.
I was skeptical, so I tested the theory myself by doing my normal workout with my regular expression and then changed to smiling throughout the last three minutes. And you know what? They were the best three minutes of the entire workout. Seriously. Just smiling gave me more energy and a more focused workout. Now I smile though all my workouts. And I still find optimal performance every single time.
Smiling builds trust.
The easiest way to break down barriers and create a sense of ease and reassurance is to greet people with a warm smile. A smile tells people that you are approachable, open, and most importantly, nonthreatening. A smile also conveys confidence and competence, both of which are key indicators of a leader worth following. And that is why we are all here: to be better leaders.
Smiling will make you a better leader.
As a leader, people are watching you all the time. I mean, all the time. They want to see what you will do in any situation. They want to see if you get stressed. They want to see if you will mess up. I’m not saying they are all against you, but admit it, we all like to see when someone in authority slips a bit.
Do yourself a favor, get your people on your side, by showing your softer side, your smiling side. You see, smiling lightens the mood, opens you up to vulnerability, and shows that you are happy to be at work and happy to see your employees.
When people see you are happy, they know it is going to be a good day, they want to interact with you. When you’re grumpy, they want to keep their distance and they tend to anticipate the worst. And when that happens, you lose touch with what is really going on in the team and any projects they are working on. Because nobody wants to talk to a grumpy boss. Nobody.
So, you’re probably thinking, “Business is business. I don’t smile naturally when I’m at work. Now what?”
Here are a few tips if you are not a naturally good smiler. Find ways to force a smile: watch funny movies or videos, play with your kids, and hang out with happy people. And if none of those things are available to you, go up to someone and pay them a compliment Watch their face light up with a smile. And you know what? Yours will too. Your brain can’t help it. When it sees a smile, it wants to smile too. Go ahead, try it. You’ll see, it really works.
So, how will you find ways to smile over the next few days? How will you use your smile to create a sense of approachability, trust, and reassurance? And how will you develop an air of confidence and competence in yourself and in others just by smiling?
It might not come easily at first, but practice smiling when you’re not at work so it becomes more routine, more natural. Then find opportunities and situations to put that smile to work when you’re at work. You’ll thank me later.
Oh, and for those of you that were curious about the numbers to the bottom line?
Recent studies find that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy ones. And with salespeople that number skyrockets to 37%. And for the CEO in all of us, companies on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for” saw annual stock price gains of 14% versus just 6% for companies not in that list.
Your Mindful Moment
When you smile, the whole world wants to be near you and cheer you. So do yourself a favor and just smile.