The one thing I hated most about my leadership in my early career was the unpredictability of my moods. I don’t think I was unusually moody, but I was aware that my disposition—sometimes volatile—affected the team I led. No doubt, they often wondered: Is this a good day to approach him about a problem? Is he in a good mood today?
Over the years, I’ve improved the volatility of my moods, and I’d like to talk today about steps every leader (and coach) can take to do just that.
Your Mood Is Contagious
Emotional Intelligence guru and author Daniel Goleman says,
“A growing body of research on the human brain proves that, for better or worse, leaders’ moods affect the emotions of the people around them. The reason for that lies in what scientists call the open-loop nature of the brain’s limbic system—our emotional center. A closed-loop system is self-regulating, whereas an open-loop system depends on external sources to manage itself. In other words, we rely on connections with other people to determine our moods.”
This allows every leader to benefit from their emotional intelligence, not just their strategy. It enables a mother to soothe her crying infant. It allows a coach to know how to approach a player who’s just committed an error. It enables a teacher to guide the classroom through the ups or downs of understanding a new section of the textbook. Moods are contagious.
And leaders can leverage this fact.
Do you remember the cliché: “Smile and the world smiles with you?” It’s actually more factual than we realize. Mood contagion is a genuine neurological phenomenon, but the truth is, not all moods are equally contagious. A 1999 study by Sigal Barsade, at the Yale School of Management, demonstrated that among work teams, cheerfulness spreads easily, while irritability spreads slower and depression even slower. It turns out laughter is the most contagious of all the emotions. Wow. That’s good news for all of us, don’t you think?
So How Do Coaches Benefit from This Research?
Whether coaches know it or not, they carry moods with them everywhere they go. If you’re an “old school” coach, you might assume your players just need to live with it. The truth is—you’ll get better performance from your team if you first coach your moods. Cornell University released a study done by Alice Isen that confirmed these findings. But she took it a step further, finding that an upbeat environment actually fosters mental efficiency, making people better at taking in and grasping information, at using decision rules to make complex judgments and at being flexible in their thinking. Leaders with good moods actually help their followers perform better.
What coach, teacher or parent wouldn’t want to capitalize on that?
The bottom line is this. Coaches lead their players. Teachers lead their classroom. Parents lead their family. Employers lead their teams. And our first task is to manage our mood. Others will catch it like a common cold. Unfortunately, too many of us fail to recognize this process. Scientists put it this way: humans become attuned to those around them, whether they realize it or not due to their physiology. When the heartbeat of two people is measured during a good conversation, they almost always begin at different heart rhythms. But within 15 minutes, their physiological profiles are strikingly similar. When three strangers are seated facing each other in silence for a couple of minutes, the most emotionally expressive of the three transmits their mood to the others. It is vital that we get this right.
Five Steps to Ensure a Good Contagious Mood
Here are several action steps I practice to ensure my mood is positively contagious:
1. Practice self-awareness.
This took time, but I became acutely aware of myself and my surroundings. Regularly pause and ask yourself: “How is my body language and words influencing others?”
2. Speak words of self-affirmation before you see people.
Every morning, I repeat four statements that lay a foundation for positive impact on the people I’ll see that day. I’ve done this for decades. It forces me to be intentional.
3. Ask yourself: Who am I now and who do I want to be?
This is a great question to ask yourself daily: “What is my current reality (where do I stand with others?)” And “What’s my objective for where I want to be?” We need goals.
4. Who and what am I grateful for?
Nothing brightens a mood like focusing on the positive impact people and events have had on you. This isn’t denial. It’s simply choosing your focus.
5. What’s one good target I can work toward today?
I always end up having a positive attitude and productive day when my targets are clear, realistic and meaningful. Don’t go through a day without one of these.
The bottom line is this—it’s all about social and emotional learning. We need to model it before we teach it to our young. That’s why we’ve created a special Habitudes for Social and Emotional Learning course.
New Habitudes Course:
Social & Emotional Learning
Our Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning curriculum uses memorable imagery, real-life stories and practical experiences to teach timeless skills in a way that is relevant to students today. Students are constantly using images to communicate via emojis, Instagram, and Snapchat. Why not utilize their favorite language to bridge the gap between learning and real-life application?
Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning helps middle and high school students:
- Develop habits of self-discipline and initiative
- Implement time management skills to do what really counts
- Plan for personal growth outside the classroom
- Identify their unique strengths and passions for a healthy self-image
- And many more social and emotional skills
Click on the link below today to learn more about Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning!