A couple of weeks ago, I dumped an ice-cold bucket of water on my head, had my husband record it, and posted the video onto Facebook. Not very CEO-like, right?
This type of behavior probably wouldn't have been acceptable 20 years ago. But nowadays, I think it's important for the leader of a company or organization to show off their not-so-serious side once in awhile. I'll go into why in a minute.
But first, some context: I did this as part of the Ice Bucket Challenge (#icebucketchallenge), a social media-fueled effort to raise awareness and support for Lou Gehrig's disease. People unload a bucket of ice water on their heads and then call out the names of a few others challenging them to do the same, or otherwise make a donation toward ALS research. (The effort has helped raise $2.3 million for the national ALS Association in just a few weeks.)
Ice bucket aside, why do I believe it's OK to lose that suit and show off your silly side sometimes?
1. It makes you real and approachable.
I'm friends with a lot of my employees on Facebook, so they usually know when I've gone to a killer restaurant, when I visit my mom back east, and yes, when I dump a bucket of water on my head. And I love it when I see snippets of their lives outside of work, too.
Long gone are the days when it was normal--and perhaps expected--for employees to tremble with intimidation whenever they got called into the CEO's office. People like to work with people they like and can relate to, and your customers like to do business with companies they like. Taking the time to establish real relationships with your employees and customers will pay off in ways that are much more meaningful than some formal business contract.
2. It helps bring your teams closer together.
In my Ice Bucket Challenge video, I challenged a few personal friends and a few employees at my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, to do the same. The comments I got were incredible! Soon, videos of my VPs and other execs at the company made the rounds on Facebook, and it was so awesome to see them getting doused in their backyards. (Several people took the challenge and made a donation, too.)
It's great to involve members of your team so it starts to go viral around your company. It shows people that your company likes to have fun and your people love to support a cause.
3. It shows you have a sense of humor.
Most will agree that a sense of humor makes you more likeable. A 2012 study surveyed nearly 3,000 employees in a variety of workplace settings and found that "sense of humor" was one of the most important traits for leaders:
"The most effective leaders use humor to spark people's enthusiasm, deliver an honest message in a good-natured way, boost productivity, put people at ease, bring teams together, and see the light side of a situation."
There's certainly a time and place for humor in the workplace, but overall, a little self-deprecation--like recording a video of yourself pouring ice-cold water over your head (on a chilly night in San Francisco, no less)--can go a long way.
So what do you think: Is it OK to let your employees or team see your silly side? Sound off in the comments.