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The first thing you register when you meet someone, before you’ve even realized it consciously, is their smile – or the lack of a smile.   The presence or lack of a smile decides the entire tone of the interaction you’re going to have with that person – long before a word is spoken.

Every workplace has its own emotional microclimate – and the day-to-day weather is set by those in charge.

As a leader your smile is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal for setting the tone of the workplace.

The Science of Smiling – it’s all about contagion

When you adopt a positive smiling expression the feedback from your face to your cortex triggers the release of the neurotransmitters Serotonin and Dopamine into your brain.   These are ‘feel good’ chemicals that have the effect of improving your mood. Smiling has even been shown to trigger the release of Oxytocin, the so called ‘caring hormone’ which leads to greater bonding and intimacy (this is the hormone that promotes mother-child bonding).

Bottom line: when you smile YOU feel good and feel closer to those around you.

But that’s not all. Research by Sweden’s Lund University confirmed that we all instinctively mimic the facial expressions of those around us.   In doing our brains translate these mimicked facial expressions so that we experience the same emotions as the person we unconsciously mimicked. In this manner emotions and mood are communicated from one person to another in an instant.

So when you smile you set off a chain reaction – you are mimicked by those around you who, in turn, enjoy a boost to their moods.   This makes them smile more. You end up mimicking them and so the cycle continues.

“Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking

…you’ll see the sun come shining through”

Lyrics of ‘Smile’ – Charlie Chaplin

This is about productivity

Even when things are tough charismatic and engaging leaders create an emotional climate that lifts the moods of their people – providing them with the energy, optimism and motivation to keep pushing for the results their leader needs them to achieve.   Smiling is a simple but effective way to contribute to such an environment.   Look at this previous post on the Losada Line to see just how important the positivity/negativity ratio in driving productivity in the workplace.

This is why your choice as to whether or not choose to smile in the service of a positive workplace is gone the moment you take on a leadership role. You no longer have any real choice. You must learn to make smiling a standard part of the way you behave day to day – especially when things are tough and this is the last thing you feel like doing.   It’s your job to do everything you can to create a positive work environment – and smiling is one of the easiest ways of contributing to this.

Just one thing you need do…

At the start of every day make a point of greeting your people with a personal smile, greeting, and word of positive encouragement.   Raise the mood in the workplace one smile at a time – and watch the mood of your workplace rise.

And, as a final pitch…

…let me give you a few other personal reasons the research suggest that you really should smiling more.


  • Raises your mood and makes you more positive
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Increases self-confidence
  • Makes you younger looking and more attractive to others!

Now if that didn’t make you smile then I give up!

Try one day of smiling a little more at your team…

…the let us know how it goes in ‘Comments’ below