This article is Part 1 of a two-part series. Part 2 is “Share The Mood You Want Your Team to Have,” which explains what you can do to put your best foot forward even when you’re not in a perfect mood.
I recently had a rough day at work. The stress and frustration got me down, and I was wearing it all over my face. At dinner that evening, my partner remarked, “You look like somebody killed your puppy!” Even the next morning before work, my Grumpy Cat face was broadcasting my mood. My partner put this in perspective for me when he commented that people were going to interpret anything I said that day based on my demeanor. Looking unhappy and frazzled doesn’t convey confidence, and people would respond to me at work accordingly.
Uh oh. It was time for an attitude adjustment. Research does indicate that a leader’s mood impacts their team and people they interact with. Leaders must have self-awareness and develop skills for better self-management of their own bad moods. Read on to learn how mood is contagious.
People take emotional cues from their leaders
Author and psychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman has written several books on emotional intelligence (EI). The Wikipedia article on emotional intelligence defines EI as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” Goleman has written much about how strong EI skills enable leaders to be successful, even more than intelligence or technical skills at high-level positions in companies.
In his book Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman sites two different studies that show how mood is shared on a team. “In seventy work teams across diverse industries, for instance, members who sat in meetings together ended up sharing moods – either good or bad – within two hours. Nurses, and even accountants, who monitored their moods over weeks or every few hours as they worked together showed emotions that tracked together – and the group’s shared moods were largely independent of the hassles they shared.”
We spend more time with our co-workers during a workweek than we will with our families. It makes sense that people that spend so much time together will begin to share moods. Throw a new person onto a team, and she will pick up on the mood of pre-existing team members–good or bad.
The mood of a team is influenced by the work environment. Leaders have a large role in shaping the mood of people they work with. Dr. Goleman explains in Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence that, “Leaders typically talked more than anyone else, and what they said was listened to more carefully. Leaders were also usually the first to speak out on a subject, and when others made comments, their remarks most often referred to what the leader had said than to anyone else’s comments. Because the leader’s way of seeing things has special weight, leaders ‘manage meaning’ for a group, offering a way to interpret, and so react emotionally to, a given situation.”
When a leader responds to a negative rumor with grace and good humor, team members are put at ease and relieved. They understand that the manager may need to find out more information or determine how to proceed, but that she is confident she’ll do so and help the team. Now, consider an alternate example when teammates see that leader in a stressed and crabby mood. They team will wonder what the leader knows about the project or company that they don’t. They may speculate and believe the worst. (My condolences, you’ve just spread a bad mood!) It could be that the leader is upset about something totally unrelated to project work at the company, but the team members who get emotional cues from leaders don’t know this. Their moods are impacted by the mood of the leader.
Now that you’ve learned how your attitude as a leader can impact your team, check out the second part of this series: “Share The Mood You Want Your Team to Have.”