The Reasons for Putting on a Happy Face

The Reasons for Putting on a Happy Face

The results of a 360 Degree Evaluation for a successful Team Leader revealed his direct reports unanimously felt he wasn’t friendly – he didn’t present a friendly face – in essence, he simply didn’t smile enough!

When he and I reviewed this information, he responded his natural demeanor was not a friendly face – even his mother continued to tell him to smile more! He was a serious guy and felt to force a smile would not be “authentic.” His Team would perceive it as being false and, therefore, even though he recognized the issue revealed by the 360 Degree Evaluation, he didn’t feel forcing himself to present a softer countenance at work was the right thing to do.

My reply to him was often Team Leaders don’t realize the impact they have on Team Members. Team Leaders are under the spotlight constantly from the time they leave their house in the morning until they take off their work costume at night. When the Team Leader arrives at the workplace, everyone on her/his Team gauges their appearance to determine the mood he/she is in. A frown on the Team Leader’s face and a Team Member may make the decision not to share vital information because the Boss is not in a good mood – better to wait until another time when he/she is more receptive. This reaction can create a dangerous situation since waiting to deliver information may cause the Team Leader to not make important decisions in a timely fashion.

This possible negative outcome is a compelling reason for Team Leaders to determine to change their workplace behavior – whether it is their constant frowny face or their knee-jerk negative reaction when a Team Member delivers upsetting information to them. And this is all about changing behavior and not betraying core values or beliefs. I would never ask anyone to do that. But since 90% of the reaction to any message/information is through visual cues how a Team Leader physically reacts to receiving a message is important since Team Members need to feel safe delivering both good and bad news.

I asked the Team Leader if the normal stern expression he wore in the workplace was the same one he wore when he interacted with customers. His answer, unsurprisingly, was of course not! When he was with clients he was a jovial guy (he had on his client disguise!), smiling and laughing because he knew that was the way to make the best impression on the client. When I asked him if he felt he was not being his true self with the clients, his response was “of course not.” So, it wasn’t that he couldn’t smile more, it was that he didn’t see the reason to do it with his Team Members.

The Bottom Line:

What is the compelling reason for a Team Leader to change his “look” and be more positive? It’s the first of the 3 A’s: Attraction. A Team Leader that has a positive enthusiastic attitude attracts Team Members who are willing to give the discretionary effort necessary for a High-Performance Team. And it is always the little things that determine Attraction. When a Team Leader walks through the door he/she needs to be in their work disguise – properly attired and with the appropriate positive facial expression and body language. They need to stop and greet those they come in contact with, say “hello”, smile (and not a fake one either!), walk slower than their normal fast pace, think about how they are being perceived and that their key job is to encourage others to perform better – and Team Members will if they like the Team Leader rather than fear them.

BTW: There are situations where a happy face is not appropriate, but everyone on the Team recognizes what those situations are and they don’t expect or want a smile when a frown is required.

P.S.: The Team Leader I was coaching reflected on the evidence provided by the 360 Degree Evaluation and our conversation and made the necessary changes to his facial expressions and body language. His Team responded with increased engagement and productivity.

Thanks for reading.


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