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“L” is for Levity

This month, let’s discuss levity and its role in leadership and teams.


“Levity” is “cheerfulness” or “enjoyment.” As we work and try to manage successful businesses, it’s easy to lose sight of just having fun. Honestly, there are some days when we fight just to get out of bed.


However, there are always moments when some joyfulness and laughter can be found. Even when things seem hard or crazy, you have to be intentional in finding levity. Allow me to share a wild but true story.


In my previous column series, “Pop’s Pearls of Wisdom,” I stated that my parents owned liquor stores and then motels. One day, my dad and I were working the front desk at the motel when he received a call from a customer. The client complained that there was a rat in his room.


We were quite thorough about pest control and cleanliness. My dad was tired from several days of rowdy customers and the previous night’s incident that involved the police. But he decided to not fight with the customer and employed a touch of interpersonal jiu-jitsu.


At first, he asked the gentleman if he was sure that there really was a rat in the room. Given the incidences of drug use in that neighborhood, this was a very valid question to ask. The customer emphatically stated, “Yes.”


Dad, being savvy and cautious just in case a rodent had slipped by us, asked the man where in the room did he see the rat. The customer answered, “Under the bed,” and that he could hear the rat scratching and trying to get out.


Our beds were basically a mattress and a box spring that was set into a wooden base. Unless a rat had been put under there, the rodent would have to burrow through thick wood and the walls to actually be under the bed.


Hearing this, my dad assured the gentleman that he was mistaken. The man argued back, saying that there was a rat under the bed and, worse, it “had a machine gun and wanted to kill him!” Yes, you read that correctly.


My dad then put the man on hold, laughed loudly for a few moments and then reassured the customer that we exterminate regularly. And that there was not a rat underneath the bed with a machine gun.


The man wearily believed my dad, but asked once more if my dad was sure that there wasn’t a machine-gun-toting homicidal rodent underneath the bed with murderous intent.


My dad, in classic form, told the man, “Look man, I can promise that there isn’t a rat underneath your bed with a machine gun. But if there was one in your room with a machine gun, I’m not about to mess with him!”


Trust me, my family went through an immense amount of craziness and chaos with people over the years. Despite fights, drug deals, drug use, violence and tons of police activity, we somehow found levity and moments to laugh and be grateful. If we can find levity when, say, the vice squad is conducting a raid, I’m sure you can, too. Your world is presumably far more civilized.


Let’s consider the following tips for being more intentional to find the lighthearted moments in our lives.


  1. Bring joy to someone else. Having something nice done for you is great; doing something nice for someone else is better. Be that person who fosters acknowledgement and appreciation. Doing for others can do wonders for you.


  1. Remove yourself from the situation. Being close to your source of distress is tough. Creating distance from it provides relief from the stress it causes and adds perspective. It also helps team members find some relief.


  1. Neither dwell nor obsess over anything. Things can be bad, but obsessing makes matters worse! You can’t move forward if you keep looking back! No one wants past mistakes or problems to keep arising, so resolve matters and agree to move forward.


  1. Be like a plant or a flower. Appreciate the fact that both light and dark are necessary for growth, but keep seeking and bending toward the light. Leaders and team members that are negative neither grow nor flourish for long.


Running a business and managing people is serious work, but everyone doesn’t have to be serious all of the time. I hope you and your team can find moments to enjoy the journey and keep earning your stripes.


Dr. Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/ speaker in the areas of Teams, Leadership and Conflict and can be reached at [email protected].


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