The Manager's Primer to Moods

In a climate that demands that businesses become more adaptive and more competitive these changes also are creating challenges for managing employee morale. People feel they don't understand their jobs or how the changes in the organization are beneficial or how they can feel safe in a downsizing environment. To meet these challenges organizations need to address an often neglected aspect of their organizational life - the moods of the company and the people in it.

I have observed how frequently people fall into bad or counterproductive moods and how people typically think that their moods are a result of what other people say or do or other things that happen outside of them e.g. "the economy is bad", "they laid me off" and how easily people can feel good when things are going well. And more troubling how easily people can be pulled in either direction simply as a result of their circumstances. Understanding moods and emotions is not just intended to refer to peoples "feelings" and "emotions" but also the way in which people's past experience predispose them to act.

Every day managers are faced with the need to deal with the challenge of inspiring teams to become highly effective and they run into morale and mood issues which at times seem impenetrable. Through my studies with Fernando Flores I learned that there was an incredibly practical way to understand and intervene in my own moods as well as the moods of others. I now understand that moods are largely a product of the language that we speak. The power of language is incredible, think about the times you have practiced affirming something to yourself and others, think about those times where you have shifted your interpretation in a personal conflict. The biology of language is straightforward. We are always making promises/requests, assertions, declarations and assessments. One of the elements of language that we use incessantly is assessments.

Assessments are those judgments we are constantly making. Some examples, "I like this" "Jane is a great manager" , "Patti is an inspiring leader" , Chris is unreliable" "Microsoft is one of the most innovative companies in software design" "I don't feel well" , "I'm happy", "I'll never be good at this", "Life is looking great" etc. Sometimes our assessments are made publicly but most often our assessments are made to ourselves in internal private conversations. Assessments become like verdicts because we make so many decisions to act based on them. And yet there are assessments that we make that are worthy of no action. How then to make the distinction?

If we think about emotions and moods as assessments we can say that an emotion is an assessment we make about our prospects in the immediate moment. And we can also say that moods are assessments we make about our prospects in the future.

The interesting and powerful piece about this interpretation is that the power to deign our future lies within us. All too often we think that the future is an extension of what is going on now. With this predisposition combined with the phenomena of a mood as an assessment we make about the future its not hard to see how people end up in a mood of Resignation ("Nothing is going to help or change, its always been this way and there is nothing I can do") or Resentment ("You have limited my opportunities, and you don't listen to what I have to say") among other negative moods.

There are two things we can do to influence a shift to moods of Ambition ("There are great opportunities here for me and I am committed to taking the actions to make them happen") and Confidence ("I have what it takes, and I know how to act in this situation"), thus coordinating more powerful action between people. The first thing is to understand that the future is largely within our power to shape, create and or influence. In fact we create the future with each other each and every day at every level that we act in. The second thing we can do in order to tip the scales in our favor, (i.e. act on assessments that are more likely to coordinate action between people than not) is practice grounding our assessments.

Summarily, grounding an assessment means that we can identify observable actions and events to support the assessment being made and not just rely on opinions and heresay.

Specifically an assessment can be considered grounded when:

Specifically an assessment can be considered grounded when:

  1. The assessments is made for the sake of a specific concern or area of action.
  2. The standards for the assessment are agreeable by a community of people.
  3. The area of observation in which the assessment is made is clear and narrowly defined.
  4. There are assertions that we can provide against the standards being held.
  5. The fact that we find no grounding far the opposite assessment.
  6. A request or promise in regard to the concern, the "for sake of" addressed.

The beauty of an assessment is that they are signposts into the future of our relationships in the workplace and the power of our teams and organizations. They are always subject to revision, so they are not an unalterable truth. In fact, managers committed to shaping ambitious and confident futures have a great need to take full and complete advantage of assessments to guide themselves through the uncertainties of their lives as managers and leaders.

Paul Cooperstein is CEO of Strategic Intervention Associates, Inc., a Milton-based firm that provides business consulting and innovative solutions to clients throughout the United States. Services range from strategic planning and team building to resolution of legal conflicts. Corporate headquarters are at 107 Hillside Street, Milton, MA 02186. For additional information or a no-obligation assessment of your business, call 617-698-0678, or visit the website at www.strategicintervention.com

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