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CEO Mindset: Are You Contagious?

CEO Mindset, emotional contagion, neuroscience, Imagine you start your day in a terrific mood. The birds are singing, the sun is shining and you are looking forward to today’s client meetings. Then, you meet the office curmudgeon on the way in and have a conversation. Suddenly, the day isn’t quite so wonderful or your work so engaging. What happened?

 You caught the bad mood

Yes, seriously. People have this ability to both sense and take on another person’s mood and it is called emotional contagion. It can work both positively and negatively. While this may seem a bit on the strange side, consider this. Humans are social animals so we have the ability to read both verbal and nonverbal cues. This includes empathy and other aspects of social connectedness. Research since the 1700’s has noted that people will unconsciously adopt the posture, tone of voice, facial expressions and other outward signs of emotions. It seems that the nonverbal cues, including micro-expressions, are the most powerful and we will mimic or synchronize ourselves to match another person.

Recent neuroscience research

Curiously, we have a section of our brain called the insular cortex (which is in the cerebral cortex which is located in the front of your brain) which is thought to be responsible for perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning and interpersonal connectedness.  Since our brains work so quickly, we are often unaware of how well we can both sense and blend ourselves in relation to another person’s behavior. Essentially, humans are wired to note both subtle and overt clues to begin, maintain and grow our social connectedness.

What does this mean for business owners and executives?

If you are a business owner and/or an executive, you are in a position of authority. Leaders create, by words and actions, the value system and preferred behaviors. With this authority, your staff and/or team watch you more. There is a much greater likelihood that you can infect your company with your moods. This can put you at odds for creating that warm and human-centered organization you imagine.

Try an experiment…for about one week, stop yourself 3 times every day and ask yourself,

  • What do I feel?
  • What am I doing?
  • How is my team/staff acting right now?
  • How is my team’s behavior reflecting my mood(s)?

Supporting your CEO Mindset

Noticing your own emotional state will help you determine if you are contagious in a positive or negative way. And reinforce your emotional and social intelligences. Using the CEO Mindset is more than understanding your role in your organization. It also facilitates how you understand the effect you have on your staff/team.

Are you contagious? And is it more positive or negative?

Related posts: Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightenment

                         Giving Thanks Is a Hidden Leadership Tool

                         Using the CEO Mindset For Smarter Communication



Confidence: Aphrodisiac for Business Building?

Confident small business ownersWhile I’ve been focusing on business plans recently, there are often things in the background that will determine how much faith you put into your own planning and any action actually taken. Confidence is one of these things.

Confidence is a remarkable attribute in any part of life. Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists one definition as “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of one’s circumstances”. In business, it’s a huge piece of any effective business plan. When we can clearly see our our choices and actions are successful, they build on each other. There is an aphrodisiac effect when we feel confident. People want to be around us. They believe that we can deliver our products or services and they will work. Like that feeling of first being in love, our customers want to tell others how wonderful we are. So what could possibly get in the way?

Emotions have a major influence in how we approach the hard work of our businesses.

My friend, Caroline pointed me to a post recently about emotions. It was an interesting tie in of how our emotions are tied into our emotional intelligence. Our instincts and perceptions certainly work on a nonverbal level that is useful. How many times have  you noticed that when you didn’t listen to your instincts that you ended up in a negative situation? We know stuff that we don’t realize we know.

But confidence can be built or eroded by emotion. Consider this-your skill level doesn’t suddenly evaporate. You still have the same body of knowledge and the same talent to serve your customers well. However, if you’re seeing your revenues decreasing or you just can’t seem to land new customers, your confidence generally drops. On the other hand, the times you’ve landed that fabulous client or solved a difficult problem, it gave you such a boost. There are days when you feel as if you couldn’t find your way out of a paper bag or, conversely, you are beautiful and people love you.

It’s not just our reaction to our performance that can grow or erode our confidence.

Circumstances in our environment can be taxing on our confidence as well. For small business, access to credit or consumer spending or lack thereof can drain one energy and motivation. The Irish Independent reported that the Small Firms Association ((SFA) urged that measures be taken to restore confidence to Irish small and mid-sized companies. Access to adequate networking, advice or governmental policies make up the environment in which we operate our businesses.  They fertilize our thinking and present opportunities for our growth. The way our peers respond to circumstances does in some way affect us. We may choose to get caught up in the zeitgeist or not but it is still in the air.

Sometimes personal issues have an impact on our confidence. It doesn’t take much to notice that we siphon off energy to respond to personal situations. They can be positive or negative events (e.g. weddings, children leaving home, illness or death) but they still evoke an emotional response.

Perhaps wisdom is in our awarenss of how we allow our emotions to grow or erode our confidence.

We’re going to feel our emotions, no matter what. As I often say, it isn’t the emotions that are good or bad. It’s what we do with them. The level of influence you have over a situation can markedly affect how much confidence you feel. And we have choices about how we express ourselves. Our choices encourage that glow and attraction that an aphrodisiac provides.

While it’s tempting on my part to provide suggestions for creating confidence that works like a love charm, it will be much more interesting to hear what the #kaizenblog community has to say. Please join us as we’ll be discussing “Confidence, Emotions and Business Growth” on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, May 13, 2011 at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT 

How would you describe the levels of confidence in your offline peers?

Could confidence have a fragility to it? Why or why not?

What is the relationship between experience, confidence and emotional intelligence?

What is it about confident people that attracts you?



Does Emotional Intelligence Still Have a Place in Business?

Feelings in businessWhat is it about business that makes it almost taboo to talk about feelings? Maybe it’s not so much the emotions themselves but the expression of them. On the other hand, there are emotions that our overall culture tries to avoid, even if it is the appropriate response. If we slow things down a bit there are 2 areas we need to master to foster our own success.

1. Know our own emotions

2.  Be able to read other people’s emotions

For a time, emotional intelligence was a popular concept. Is it passe now? It certainly seems so. Yet, when you read books on effective leadership, self-awareness is typically one of the skills that we’re told to develop in ourselves. It may be obliquely recommended but so are the skills needed for the awareness of others. I was talking to a colleague this week and we were wondering if strongly negative (even traumatic) experiences can inform someone on how to handle workplace dysfunction. (We did go with the assumption that people have learned better coping skills so they wouldn’t recreate a situation in which they could be victimized.) If we’re working more collaboratively in teams within our organizations or in alliances with other organizations, then managing emotional health is a piece of building and maintaining relationships.  By bringing all we know, could this change the quality and efficacy of these collaborations?

There is an interesting post on the Harvard Business Review written by Tony Schwartz about an offsite experience he had with members of his company. He talked about the Sanctuary Model and its intersection with Daniel Goleman’s point about how others’ judgements of us can feel as threatening as if they were physically attacking us. Schwartz found it deeply affecting to heart how people from his company, The Energy Project, felt about how he treated them. Since he is the CEO of this company, it was brave of him to stop and listen.

How many of us stop and listen to how others intepret our behavior? This can feel very risky. They might express sadness, anger, disappointment, delight, awe, admiration or a host of other emotions. For leaders of organizations, this could induce feelings of obligation and guilt. I have heard so many small business owners express feeling anxiety, and even intimdation, at the idea that they have so much influence over people’s lives.

What would happen if I asked you “how are you feeling”? Okay, it’s a no brainer to say, “it depends.” In business, it is not always safe to reveal your feelings.  Since you need to know the level of safety, emotional intelligence is an essential skill. If you can read other people well, it helps with finding the right words or knowing when to be silent. When you know what is happening inside you, you can choose how and if you want to express your feeling state.  The skills in emotional intelligence are a big piece in preventing and containing conflict as well as negotiating.

But what if the question is really not a “how” but  a “what”? When I was a practicing psychotherapist, I learned the hard way why asking “what” is a very different question. What are you feeling? See, when you ask “how are you feeling”, it is easy for someone to give you the glib answer of “fine”. Asking “what are you feeling” can be a major breach or a gift. It means you have to slow down and see the person as he/she really is. It also means that you enter a relationship (or deepen one) with this person.

Do business leaders have an duty to display emotions in a healthier way? Of course!  Think of how many times you’ve seen a business leader who has tantrums, addictions or some other negative behavior. What was his/her organization like?  Now think of how many times you’ve seen a business leader who stops to pay attention and listen to someone, exhibits appropriate humor or some other positive behavior? What was his/her organization like?

What place does emotional intelligence have in the current business environment?

What emotions are considered safe to express?

How would you design a workplace that encourages healthy expressions of feelings?

  *Join us on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog this Friday, February  at 12pm ET/5pm GMT/9am PT to discuss “Is Emotional Intelligence Still Important?”


#Kaizenblog Recap-The Role of Emotions in Business Decision-Making

This past week’s topic for #kaizenblog chat was “The Role of Emotions in Business Decision-Making.” Please add your comments here if you couldn’t join us for the chat. I’ve included the transcript here ( Transcript for #kaizenblog – Emotions!)

 So what role, if any, do emotions play in business decision-making? Are we even supposed to acknowledge them? Certainly there is no shortage of decisions for our businesses from monumental to mundane.We tackled this topic and barely scratched the surface in our 1 hour chat. There were so many threads that could have been followed so this recap is an attempt to give all of us another place to express our ideas.

Right from the start, it was noted that people are not the cool, objective, rational creatures we imagine ourselves to be. Tom Asacker (@tomasacker) said it succinctly, “…human beings are NOT rational actors.” This recognition that we are more complicated was found throughout the rest of the chat. Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) reminded us of how passion can fuel movement and “emotions can help you move fast in biz, however, sometimes too fast.” While Ms. Di Diego gave a passionate argument for how passion supports the growth of startups, Joshua Pearlstein (@jpearlstein) cautioned us, “emotions can clou[d] your vision  for good or bad.” Derek Edmond (@derekedmond) summed it up pretty well, “it can be pretty difficult to separate the human component in the decision making process.”

How true is this dichotomy that one must be rational or irrational in business?

Stephen Denny (@Note_to_CMO) began a thread that triggered references to Blink and Straight From the Gut when he tweeted, “Safe to say we have more data than we can digest. Intuition, emotion +gut (judgement) are underrated.” Yes, emotions are information. Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum) added that “emotions can warn us of to things we have not mentally digested or lack the vocabulary/understanding to explain.” The dangers of trying to be too much of one thing seems to trigger the opposite of what the business person is aiming for. Mr. Denny tweeted, “Ppl who pride themselves on being analytical and ‘open-minded’ are often slaves to emotional decision mking [sic].” It seems fighting against using our whole selves produces more complications.

So what about passion anyway?

Mr. Asacker poetically tweeted, “Emotion means to set the mind in motion.” This led to many acknowledgements of the power of passion in startups and businesses in general. Melissa Savoy (@SheCrochets) declared, “without emotion, some of the greatest non-profits and humanitarian projects would never have gotten off the ground.” When you are invested emotionally in a project or cause, it is so much easier to act. This was seconded by Mr. Denny-“Emotions drives passion + commitment. We do what we love better than what we don’t.”

What could possibly go wrong?

There was another thread that worked its way through the conversation about the importance of holding off before making final decision. From advice to check and re-check first drafts before sharing to using collaboration to stay clear during decision-making times, there were interesting tweets:

  • Ms. Di Diego-“NEVER look at decision as fight or flight ~ to me always left fork or right fork in road.”
  • Mr. Pearlstein- “it’s why you need to work with someone to balance you out. who provides that emotional check.”
  • Ms. Savoy-“everything benefits from a 2nd draft. When emotional, do NOT send your first thoughts.”
  • Ms. Crum- “You have to acknowledge and give validity to emotions that are at play, even if just to work around them.”

While anger can be a potential disruptor, one can also be blinded by accidental success. Staying open and allowing the opportunity to question why something worked can be just as much a challenge as was noted by Mr. Denny, Ms. Di Diego, and myself.

Emotions and Communication

Mr. Asacker noted, “that’s why best communication is not verbal. It’s imagery, eye contact, smile, action. No miss understanding.” While there was agreement that in-person communication has its advantages, many of us communicate through social media tools, email, and other print media. These are some of the tweets offered to feel more integrated in all communication.

  • EllisTweet (@ellistweet) reminded us to “address communications by removing your own filters when U read/listen. Don’t assign intent; search for real message.”
  • Kristen E. Sukalac (@KSukalac) “Neuroscience shows openess to messages depends 1) feelings about org 2) feelings about spokesperson 3) ‘facts’.”
  • Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge and #kaizenblog co-host) stated she was “thinking that emotion is more engaging. Story, empathy, shared experience.”
  • Mr. Asacker- “Feelings inform-they tell the brain what to attend to, stay away from, etc.”

No clear conclusion

This was one conversation that could have gone on for at least another hour. There were a few side conversations that are intriguing which you can find in the transcript.

How do you handle your emotions when making decisions for your business?

Do you believe in the rule that you must be rational in business?

What role do you give emotions in how you lead your business?