The zygomaticus muscle aids in lifting the corners of the mouth. You could try exercising it right now if you like. Now, you are probably smiling.
A very powerful tool for better serving and caring for team members – with a very large return on investment relative to the effort – is to exercise your smiling muscles more often.
The encouragement to smile more doesn’t mean that we should ignore or repress unpleasant emotions when they arise. We should certainly acknowledge those emotions and investigate how they are manifesting in the body.
However, once we are objectively aware of an unpleasant emotion in this way, there is no reason why we can’t smile at the emotion, and smile at ourselves. We might smile with the thought, “Hello there anger. I see you. Here’s a smile for you.”
Smiling results in numerous benefits to you personally. When you smile, you:
- Are likely less caught in an unpleasant emotion, and therefore more productive
- Are likely to be more relaxed and think more clearly
- Look more attractive (some research suggests this is quite quantifiable)
- Probably project greater confidence
- Can boost your immune system
- Are likely to have reduced heart rate and blood pressure
There are three main reasons why smiling authentically (which includes smiling eyes along with a smiling mouth) more often helps us to lead more effectively:
1. Smiling is highly contagious. The more often we smile, the more often the people around us are likely to smile. When other people smile, they are likely to receive all of the benefits mentioned above.
Imagine how productive an entire team of people would be if they spent significantly more time experiencing the benefits above. Imagine the long-term effects of a culture that more consistently experiences the benefits listed above, such as attracting better team members, reducing turnover, and reducing sick days taken.
Even if you could improve those things just a little bit, without any investment of time or money, it would clearly be very helpful in terms of achieving better business outcomes.
As leaders, we can improve those things a little bit by simply smiling more. We set the tone of the team culture. Why not ensure that tone includes more smiling?
2. People trust us more when we smile. Trust is one of the core foundations of effective leadership. The more trust we inspire in team members, the better able we are to influence behaviors in a positive way.
3. People feel more cared for in our presence. When people feel cared for in our presence, we further increase the influence that results in people going the extra mile for their team, not because they have to, but because they want to.
Here’s a simple idea for improving your ability to smile more often. Find some ways to remind yourself to smile any time you change activities or posture. For instance, any time you’re about to open another e-mail, switch websites, start working on a different task, stand up, sit down, etc., these changes can serve as reminders to take a breath, notice what’s happening in your body, and smile for a moment. You might like to start with just a couple activities for the first week, and then add a couple more each week.
As a side effect of this practice, you’ll likely notice that in addition to the professional benefits, you’re significantly happier, too. You’ll discover that smiling authentically can actually give rise to the emotion of joy.
Your joy is a gift to others. It’s another lovely way to better serve and care for team members.
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