Leaders: Your emotions are contagious

by  Christina Haxton  |  Leadership Development

For just a moment, remember your favorite boss. You know the one you said you would follow anywhere if he or she ever left the company.  The boss for whom you came in early and stayed late for to meet a promised project deadline.  How would you describe his or her overall mood?  How did you feel when you were working for him or her?

Now, remember the boss you would never work for again in a million years.  The boss you worked really hard to avoid being in the same room with for longer than necessary.   The boss you had when hiding under your desk or in your closet was not beneath you.  How would you describe his or her overall mood?  How did you feel when you were around him or her?

Surprised?  Probably not.  Now, here’s the tough question:

If I walked in the front door of your office or showed up at your next team meeting, how would I describe the mood of the people who work for you?

Neural Wi-Fi:  Peas & the Interpersonal Neurobiology of Leadership

Pretend for a moment you are spoon feeding peas to a baby sitting in a high chair.  What do you do?  As you are putting the spoon to her lips, what do you subconsciously do with your mouth (whether you like smooshed peas or not) … You got it, you  OPEN your mouth and make an aaahhhh sound, in a sometimes desperate attempt to get her to do the same.  Why?  It works most of the time.  Instinct. Mirror neurons.

The truth is, recent research in brain science proves that for humans (and I’ll add chimps and horses), emotions are actually contagious because of mirror neurons.  The short explanation is mirror neurons in our brains are responsible for our “catching” the mood of other people without realizing it. Add to that fascinating fact that our brains are prediction machines and constantly are making connections to predict the future based on our past experiences.  Your grumpy boss could be in a good mood on Friday, however your brain won’t realize it and will automatically predict (or believe), he’s his usually grumpy self.

E-motion = Energy in Motion

Why does this matter for leaders, bosses or other people of influence?  If you can believe that your mood is reflected in the mood of your team, you may or may not like what you see in the “mirror.”

What? … So What?… NOW WHAT?

While you may read this and understand or you are reading it for the first time and think Wow!  that makes sense, what’s the “So What?”  Understanding is overrated.  It does not automatically lead to action or doing anything differently tomorrow.  Unless you make a commitment to take action and the more accountable you are publicly the greater the odds you harness the action potential of your Aha! moment and transfer it into action.  Feel free to consider using the ACE approach to change:

1.  Awareness:  Notice your mood.  Notice the mood of others.  Label the feeling (without judgement is the key).

2.  Choice:  How do you like what you see in the mirror?  If it’s what you want, keep going.  If it’s not what you want, what choices do you have in the moment?

3. Execution:  What is one small action you are willing to take in that moment?  You don’t have to effect change on anything, just take action to make it different.

4.  Repeat #1 What information did you gather?  What choice do you want to make now?  What action will you take next?  Just like directions on shampoo, rinse, lather and repeat.

Accountability: What are you willing to do in the next 24 hours to recognize and change the effect you have on the people in your company?  If you have the courage, feel free to post your commitment in the Comment box below.  (If you are not quite that brave, feel free to email me directly.  All responses are strictly confidential!).




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What People Are Saying

Patricia.riesenkampff@gmx.net  |  27 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Bravo Christina,
What a simple yet excellent coaching lesson of self assessment in just a few paragraphs!
At present, I am without the parameters of a company and therefore the systematically working structure thereof. Still I believe that this ACE approach is so concise, pertinent to team effectiveness and simple to implement that I would suggest its use also on the personal side of life within our family and partnership relationships.
A mother knows that her mood will have a direct impact upon the teachings and promptings she utters to her children. As a partner, a woman can be thankful to be able to have such a clear approach toward positive behavioral change which once implemented and upheld will have its successful” mirroring” effects upon her partner.
This was an enjoyable read and I don’t need to be brave to post my personal commitment to be personally responsible and open toward change and self betterment and to await, with hopeful expectation and curiosity, the positive results of using your ACE approach.
Thanks for sharing.
Sincerely, your American in Germany LinkedIn fan,
Patricia Riesenkampff

Patricia Lee Riesenkampff  |  27 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Bravo Christina,
this was a simple yet excellent lesson in self assessment in just a few paragraphs!
At present, I am without the structural and systematic parameters of a company but find your ACE approach so concise, simple and easy to implement that I think it could also be used successfully within the private sector of life toward the betterment of our family and partnership relationships.
A mother knows that her mood will have a direct result upon her teachings and promptings which she utters to her children. As a partner, a woman can be appreciative to have such an uncomplicated , simple approach toward personal behavioral change which when implemented and upheld, will have its encouraging “mirroring” effects upon her partner.
Bravery is not needed for me to make a public commitment here to be open and personally responsible for my moods and actions and to take the simple steps of this ACE approach toward effective self development and personal harmony.
Thanks for sharing.
Patricia Lee Riesenkampff

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