Laughter: A Key to Successful Project Management

Good project management is serious business, and project managers often feel they must be serious people. They have a a job to do, deliverables to deliver and expected outcomes to achieve. Approaching these important objectives with humor might seem like a way to hamper progress and diminish managerial authority. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. Studies have shown that there are many ways laughter can be used to successfully enhance your project.

Humor has been defined as a state of mind, the ability to understand what makes people laugh. Although timely and appropriate humor can enrich your project, simply trying to get a laugh can also backfire. For laughter to be a healthy and positive motivator, there are a few cautionary points:

  • Be a leader first, not a comedian
  • Do not use humor to excuse unacceptable behavior
  • Laugh with people, not at them
  • Keep laughter natural, not forced
  • Humor is inclusive – don’t leave people out

When used effectively, within guidelines, laughter can keep your project on track towards a successful outcome.

7 Reasons How Laughter Can Keep Your Project on Track

  1. Studies have shown that managers whose leadership style includes humor have the best-performing employees. Leaders who use humor are perceived more positively and as more likable and better communicators. 
  2. Humor helps people remember. You may be using powerful IT management software to track progress, but if you really want people to remember a key point – get them to laugh about it.
  3. Laughter is a way to manage consensus and team building. Funny mantras like, “There’s never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to go back and do it over” can effectively bring a team together towards a common outcome.
  4. Humor permits exploration of new ideas. It reduces tension and promotes divergent thinking. You can introduce a risky idea with a laugh. People will be more inclined to give it consideration because it does not bear the weight of something very important and serious.
  5. Humor builds cohesion and shared interpretation of events. 
  6. Humor can be a powerful visual motivator. Looming deadlines? Print up team T-shirts with a funny slogan, “I see dead lines,” or put up a Dilbert cartoon poster that says it all.
  7. Laughter is good medicine and can relieve stress and anxiety. It dissipates anger and worry and has beneficial physical effects, enhancing cardiovascular health and promoting good respiration.

While your project might be a serious matter, don’t take yourself too seriously. Humor is good therapy for everyone, not just project managers. Shared laughter gives hope. Things can’t be that bad if you can laugh about them, right? And if all else fails, hire a Scrum Master like Ian in this video:

Successful projects take advantage of all available tools. Supplement laughter and humor with your project management software and you will have all you need to motivate and engage your team to get the job done – and enjoy doing it.

Learn how Intuit QuickBase can improve your next project by watching this quick YouTube clip:

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  • Hi,

    I do not think that laughter can really keep a project on track – it does help the morale, but it cannot keep a project on track… Whoever thinks that laughter is the best medicine in PM must review his strategy.

    Nevertheless, this is only my opinion!

    PS: This is a really odd post!

  • Pierre Marchal

    Good project management tools help a lot to reduce stress. I am using proofhub and this tool is helping me a lot to manage my team and therefore reduces the stress too.. 🙂

    • Jimmy

      Hi Pierre, like you is my favorite also. This tool helps me a lot and I am using this tool for the past 1 year. I love it 🙂

  • Olivia Jennifer

    I would say that a PMP Certification is highly respected within both IT & non-IT communities where strong project management skills are required. If you plan on a long term career as a project manager, then yes, even with your level of experience, I would suggest getting your PMP. You can prepare yourself for the exam in one of the PMP trainingproviders like PMStudy. You can do minimal prep-work to get 40 PMI® Contact Hours and apply to PMI for PMP Exam before the class begins.