Sometimes leaders are too close to their work, too close to their organizations to perceive what’s happening beneath the surface. The pace of business can condition leaders to focus on the tasks and crisis of the day, conscientiously reacting and responding without understanding the underlying forces at play.
In organizations not experiencing the success they desire, I universally find that the difference between peak performance and lackluster performance is contingent on the prevailing mood — the CEOs, the organization’s leaders, and their teams.
What Is A Mood?
A mood is a state of being that results from an emotional reaction, commonly set off by a response to our environment. Most of the time, emotions and feelings pass quickly, but when we experience a prolonged emotional reaction that lingers for days, weeks, months, or even years, the habitual expression becomes a part of our personality; part of how we think, act, and feel.
One of the perennial challenges for adults is believing their moods are a product of their circumstances — the people and events in their lives. When unproductive interpretations from the past go unchallenged or are affirmed, it negatively impacts how they relate to their work and to each other.
It’s a rare adult who has the skill to observe, take responsibility for, and find the power to improve their circumstances, thereby shifting themselves out of unproductive moods. Instead, most adults tend to get trapped defending or justifying their mood or attitude at work, versus seeing it as a choice that they can alter and reshape.
This challenge is even more daunting for leaders. Not only can their performers become trapped by unproductive interpretations born of past experiences, but they are routinely impacted by their peer’s unproductive opinions as well. Pair an individual’s propensity to get trapped in negative moods with their desire to conform with peers, and it’s easy to envision an organization getting entangled in unproductive interpretations and resulting moods that make it seem impossible to escape.
One mood I commonly witness in organizations is that of resignation — leaders or performers who have become so frustrated by a situation for so long, they come to believe, “This is the ways things are, the way they will always be, and there is nothing that can be done to change it.” Leaders attempting to drive strategic change in this atmosphere are in trouble. When a team becomes resigned, they are predisposed to hold back. When performers view new possibilities through the lens of past failures, they hold back, their limiting beliefs become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and growth becomes impossible.
Where Do I Begin?
It is possible to reshape the moods of your organization, but you must first cultivate an awareness of the unproductive moods operating outside of your awareness, and explore the interpretations that informed those moods. It is imperative to get to the root of what has been limiting you and your organization so that you can understand how and what to address moving forward.
Here are five steps for cultivating a greater recognition of the moods impacting your teams:
Step 1: Review your calendar. Locate the meetings most vital to your organization’s forward progress. These meetings will become your “practice field.”
Step 2: Block your calendar for ten minutes prior to these meetings. You won’t build new awareness if you are frantically running from meeting-to-meeting.
Step 3: When your pre-meeting time block arrives, unplug from your normal routine and begin slowing down. Spend a few minutes getting clear, and in addition to articulating your statement of intent for the meeting, prepare to spend time listening and observing in a new way.
Step 4: As you arrive at the meeting, settle into your chair and find a resting posture that optimizes your present moment awareness. Put yourself in the most inquisitive state possible.
Step 5: As participants discuss their successes and challenges, listen beyond the words.
- What emotions can you pick up on? What mood is present?
- What unproductive interpretations are setbacks triggering?
- What events in the past may have informed that interpretation?
- What is the wisdom to be gained from the current interpretation?
- How are those interpretations and corresponding moods limiting your team’s power and future possibilities?
During these meetings, your goal is simply to become conscious to such an extent, that you can consistently spot which moods are present. As you continue to build this skill, you will begin to uncover the widespread presence of moods that are impacting teamwork, employees and potentially, customers.
As important as recognizing the unproductive moods of others is, developing a greater awareness of the moods impacting your interpretations is vital. What moods might be unconsciously influencing your own interpretations, and could those interpretations be impacting the quality of your leadership, your relationships, and your personal effort?
When you find your organization falling short of its full potential, don’t limit your assessment to the quality of your goals or your people. Often, the more pressing problem is something that’s out of view: the overriding mood and resulting quality of engagement.
Unconsciously, singing the mantra of working smarter, harder, and faster, which at times may bring some value, is often a gerbil wheel to nowhere. Instead, start paying attention to how prevailing moods may be limiting your organization’s larger potential. When your leaders and teams are no longer reacting and responding to situations borne of unproductive interpretations, their actions will take on greater purpose and power.
This is where next-level performance occurs.