Harvest Party: Why Laughter is Good for Business

The harvest is done!  The long days and nights of exhausting work are over and all the people associated with vineyards and wineries can get back to a not-quite-so-crazy rhythm of life.  But first… after all that effort and accomplishment, it’s time for a party!!  It’s time to acknowledge all the hard work by roasting a pig, setting out the trimmings, turning up the music and drinking wine… or beer!  Toasts are made to the pickers, the interns, the truck crews, the winemaker and anyone who moved grapes or juice in any way from the vineyard to the tanks to the barrels.  The mood is festive and laughter abounds as everyone tells a story or two of the crazy things that happened this year…or in years past.

We notice the laughter at this one event, but in a well-run winery, it’s been happening all along.  Amid the stress and overload of harvest, a good winemaker finds ways to be upbeat and bring laughter to the process.  Sure, it’s serious business, but you can tell a crew of pickers is enjoying their work as the sound of their laughter floats across the valley in the early-morning fog.  The hard-working interns collapse into giggles at the craziest things, like a grape skin lodged in their eyebrow.  Wouldn’t it be dull to work where there is no laughter? 

We all know that laughter is good for the soul, but did you know it’s good for business, too?  In his compelling book, Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman tells us, “When people feel good, they work at their best.  Feeling good lubricates mental efficiency, making people better at understanding information and using decision rules in complex judgments as well as more flexible in their thinking.” (p. 14)  In effect, laughter is the signal that people are feeling good, and when we feel good, we do our best work.  

When leaders are upbeat and positive, employees tend to catch the positive energy.  How does this happen?  The neuroscience behind how emotions, especially positive ones, spread is fascinating.  Our emotions, apparently, reside in the limbic system of our brain.  The limbic system is an open-loop system, which means it depends on external sources to manage itself.  This open-loop system is constantly surveying the other limbic systems around us and trying to connect with them.  (Yep!  Our limbic brains are trying to connect! Weird, huh?)  Once connected, the emotions or moods get passed from one to the other, with positive moods emerging as stronger than negative moods.

For the record, studies show, cheerfulness spreads more easily than negativity. This is good news!  The fact that positivity is stronger than negativity explains why a mother can calm a frantic child or a positive friend can shift your sour mood.  It also explains how a positive person can shed negative vibes and why a baby’s laugh always makes us laugh, too. Taking it a little further… When an employee is happy they are more likely to treat customers well, and, we all know, a well-served customer increases business.  The math behind the increase goes like this: “for every 1 percent improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2 percent increase in revenue.” (p. 15)  It pays to be positive!   

The joyfulness of harvest reminds us of the need to be positive leaders.  Laugh at something silly today and see if someone else starts laughing with you.  Spread cheerful thoughts.  Drink wine with a friend and laugh a lot.   

I think my limbic brain is trying to connect with my wine right now!!