Sneezing man

Leaders: Your emotions are contagious

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!).

 

 

 

Christina Haxton
Christina combines psychology with humor and brain science to enable newly promoted executives to harness the power of their potential to become authentic and sustainable leaders who motivate, understand and develop themselves and others to create built-to-last people-driven organizations. Connect with Christina on her LeadChange profile, Twitter, LinkedIn or her blog. Also, check out Lessons from the T.R.A.I.L: The Art & Science of Exceptional Leadership on Christina's website!
Christina Haxton