Coming to the end of a successful team development day recently I was reminded of a long-since archived UK talent show called Opportunity Knocks. What came to mind in particular was the show's famous 'clapometer.' This measured the noise generated by the audiences' clapping as each act was announced. The more popular the act, the louder the applause and the higher the score on the clapometer.
However, it wasn't applause I wanted to measure. It was laughter.
This was the third one-day event I had facilitated with this team. The day went very well and I was reflecting on the changes I had seen over these three days, spread over 9 months. A once dysfunctional group, was now beginning to shape itself into a cohesive team.
What struck me most about this day was the laughter. I wasn't the only one thinking this. Several of the delegates commented afterwards that they had noticed a distinct increase in laughter in this most recent session compared with both the previous two.
The laughter came principally from two sources. The first was self-deprecation. Individuals were willing to 'take the mick' out of themselves quite readily, in front of peers and in front of their bosses. This demonstrates an important aspect of team engagement: humility.
The second source was jokes told at the expense of others. Especially telling was the laughter produced at the expense of the more senior members in the team, including the Managing Director. All felt comfortable to crack the odd joke at the expense of others, and those who were the target all seemed to enjoy the attention. This demonstrates a second important trait of effective teams: trust.
Noting this increase in laughter, and the evidence it provided of increased team cohesiveness, I was minded to build my own clapometer (or should that be laughometer?) as an indicator of how well the team was getting on.
The next time you are in a team environment:
- Notice the number and volume of the laughs.
- Notice the source.
- Are they self-deprecating or aimed at others within the team?
- Do the targets of the jokes accept the jibes and laugh along (another form of self-deprecation)?
These laughs could be good measures of developing or established levels of humility and trust, two important building blocks for effective teams.
Watch the clapometer in action here. Be prepared for cheesy lines, cheesy acts and shocking fashion.