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Mood Contagion - Are You Infecting Your Team?

John did very well in his job. As a key account exec, he exceeded targets, was positive and no task insurmountable. John was confident and ambitious to move to the next level. He achieved his goal and promoted to commercial director.

Fired up with drive and enthusiasm John repeatedly presented in team meetings, what he thought, were exciting objectives for the next 12 months and beyond. A member of John’s team responded: “…I’ve seen it all before, it won’t work and it won’t happen, how is this any different…?” Over time John became worn down, deflated and frustrated and with this negative attitude.

He went to his boss for support, who advised: “I brought you in to shake the tree; keep shaking it and fire anyone who isn’t on board!” Anxious to show he could do this new role John shook the tree and shook it more. His team proved unyielding and even more resistant.

John came to me for coaching to sort his team. Describing them as lazy, cynical and not thinking as he did. He couldn’t understand their short-term attitude.

I fed back to John, his team’s behaviour and attitude reflect the organisation’s culture. What he’s experiencing is mood contagion. Mood contagion is the phenomenon of having one person's emotions and related behaviours directly trigger similar emotions and behaviours in other people. In an organisational context, the leadership, communication and behaviours set the organisation tone.

The ‘emotion’ of the organisation becomes like a virus; it’s contagious.

John had a choice, focus on what he could control or accept the status quo.

Didn’t that clever man Einstein have a great saying about the definition of insanity? “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.

We started with an Emergenetics neuroscience-based psychometric profile giving John a tool to adapt his communication and behaviours with the aim to increase rapport and build relationships with every member of his team.

Your Personality is Not an Excuse for Poor Communication

He learnt people see things differently than him and enabled him to increase engagement and understanding.

Emergenetics Profiling

Rather than just talk about the big picture and ‘great ideas’ he changed how he communicated.

Sounds simple and common sense, but when we’re busy and under pressure, common sense doesn’t often prevail.

As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

John changed how he communicated and adapted his approach. He prioritised time to spend 1-1 with each team member. Over time his team meetings became more collaborative, with healthy debate and respect for different views; engagement increased.

Jennifer Baker

Professional Executive Leadership and Career Coach

Member of AC, ILM, Qualified Coach (Distinction) LCA

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