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Mood And Engagement Are Contagious

| August 5, 2014

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading is “Mood And Engagement Are Contagious” and first appeared in Joe Folkman’s Forbes column.  Folkman describes himself as “a behavioral statistician who covers evidence-based improvement.”  More conventionally, he is co-founder and president of Zenger-Folkman, a consulting firm that works to improve organizations and the people within them.  

There’s not a one of us who hasn’t gone to work with a bad attitude or frustrated with the work itself.  We’ve believed that if we don’t tell anyone, no one will know.  We wrongly thought that we could lock our emotions up tightly inside.  Evidence is now available that emotions are as contagious as a cold or the flu.  Our mood impacts those around us.  

Folkman’s research has looked at the level of engagement of leaders and compared it to the level of engagement of their direct reports.  (Highly engaged individuals are those who go the extra mile, are enthusiastic about their job, and excited to take on challenging assignments and do what is necessary to complete them on time.)  It shows that leaders in the top quartile for engagement have a disproportionate share (36%) of direct reports who are also in the top quartile.  And, leaders in the bottom quartile, have a disproportionate share of direct reports (38%) of direct reports in the bottom quartile for engagement.  

From a leadership perspective, on the whole leaders have significantly more influence on the moods of others than do friends.  This same research found that individuals who worked for leaders who were disengaged and also had significant competency weaknesses were on average only at the 9% level in terms of satisfaction and commitment.  Practically speaking, they hated their jobs and were frustrated at work.  Further, 51% of these workers were thinking of quitting.

Folkman notes that every interaction that we have with people can make a difference.  We can be inspiring and build people up or we can be discouraging and tear them down.  When leaders understand this, they see that they can take advantage of their interactions and look for ways to encourage, support, build and inspire.

So, take a little extra time this week and look for and act on building your staff up.  If you make this a regular practice, it will make a significant difference in your team and the results that they deliver.  

Have a great week.  .  .     jim