Share the mood you want your team to have

This is the final part of a two-part series on how a leader’s mood impacts their team, and how you can better manage your mood at work. The first part of this series is “Mood is contagious. Which one are you spreading?”

Eeyore and TiggerI’ve read articles before that say you can choose to be a Tigger or an Eeyore in life. Personally, I don’t entirely believe that. I think my regular mood, like most people, is in between. Great days pull me to a Tigger mood and bad days pull me to Eeyore mood. But, if you ever see me being either Tigger or Eeyore 24/7 for weeks at a time, I think something has gone wrong. 🙂

I don’t believe you can always just “choose” to stop being unhappy, angry, or upset at work. I also don’t at all agree with wearing a mask all the time and pretending to be thrilled when you are upset. But, there are definitely things you can do to start breaking a sour mood when it hits you.

You don’t like being in a bad mood, and you’re hurting your team the longer you remain that way. So, here are some tips to break the funk.


Tell your face you’re happy

Dog smilingSmiling has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. Kansas researchers Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman conducted research on how smiling affects stress and mood. They had people hold chopsticks in their mouths while performing stressful tests. Based on instructions provided for holding the chopsticks, the subjects would end up holding their mouths in a neutral state, a smile, or a full smile including the facial muscles around your eyes (called a “Duchenne smile”). Using chopsticks allowed the researchers to get the subjects to smile without being instructed to smile.

Their research showed that the smilers (especially those with the genuine-looking Duchenne smiles) had lower stress levels than non-smilers. This suggests that smiling during stressful activities (even when you’re not necessarily feeling it), can actually reduce your stress levels. Reducing stress levels will definitely help you get in a better mood.

SmilingInterestingly, smiling can actually improve the moods of others! This is a valuable knowledge for anyone leading a team. In an interview with Scientific American, neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni of the University of California at Los Angeles explained, “When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile. I don’t need to make any inference on what you are feeling, I experience immediately and effortlessly (in a milder form, of course) what you are experiencing.”

The “quick patch” solutions for bad moods

Clothing patchIf your bad attitude was sparked by something recent or it’s usually just a temporary thing, some of these quick patches can help you break out of a small mood rut:

  • Go out for lunch. Getting physically away from the situation that’s bothering you can give you perspective to come back in a better mood.
  • Watch a funny video on YouTube. Laughter helps!
  • Stop by and chat with somebody about something completely unrelated. See how their day’s going, what they did over the weekend, or what their upcoming vacation plans are.
  • Take a walk. Get outside for some vitamin D!
  • Do something nice for somebody else. Focusing on making somebody else feel better has the remarkable effect of lifting your own mood.
  • Check out Emergency Kittens on Twitter, for when you need a cat to cheer you up. Our chat client at work is cleverly set up with a channel that pulls from this Twitter feed, so you can get a dose of funny cats whenever you need it! Seriously, isn’t this one of the funniest things you’ve seen in a while?

The real solution: figure out what’s bothering you and what to do about it

IntrospectionIf you’re in a serious funk over an issue at work, you may not get happier long-term by using quick fixes like slapping a smile on your face or watching funny cat videos on YouTube. It’s time to bring out the big guns. I’ve written before about reflection (being introspective and digging into what is going well or going badly in your life). Reflection is all about the next phase in that process: deciding what you’re going to do about it.

When I’m in a foul mood, I’ve found tremendous value in taking 15 minutes to write down what’s bothering me and brainstorm my thoughts on why. For me, just writing these things down is therapeutic. It feels like I’m pulling them out of my head and thereby removing some of the negativity from my thoughts. If you need help at arriving at the root cause of what’s bothering you, the Five Whys approach may help you.

The crucial next step is identifying what you’re going to do differently to better react to your situation. This could be a deliberate attitude adjustment, for example: take a deep breath, try to be patient, and have faith that the situation will improve when today’s deadline passes. It could be that you realize you need advice from somebody that’s been there before. Talk to a peer, your boss, or a mentor and ask them how they’d handle it.

If you’ve made it this far and all you’ve gotten is a bad mood, your only option for breaking that mood is to do something different than what you’ve been doing.

Share the mood you want your team to have

Pictures of different moods of same manEvery single day will never be sunshine and roses, but we can still choose our own reactions to bad situations. Choose wisely. As a leader, our mood can set the tone for our team. Since people will read emotions from their leaders and react accordingly, be sure that you’re sharing a mood that’s best for your team and company.

Do you have any ideas for breaking out of a bad mood? What strategies have you tried to keep your team in good spirits? Share your thoughts below by commenting on this article!

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