Author: Harriet Beveridge
Harriet Beveridge is Head of Performance Programmes, key-note speaker and co-author of Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? Harriet specialises in one-to-one and group Executive coaching and is also a stand-up comic!
‘I’m not in the mood!’ wailed my 11-year-old son last night as I reminded him he needed to do his maths homework. As a performance coach of many years I obviously dealt with the situation calmly and constructively and absolutely did not go mental, shout at him and make the situation a thousand times worse (…ahem).
Our mood has a HUGE impact on our performance, our results and the people around us. It can be the difference between:
– A productive board meeting generating clear actions versus a grouchy shouting match
– The difference between a cheerful sale to a customer, versus a bored lolling about by the shop counter
– Or between an eleven-year-old remembering that 8 x 8 = 64, versus him angrily stabbing a pencil so hard into his homework sheet that it rips a hole and dents the kitchen table…
But intriguingly, over fifteen years of coaching clients I’ve found people have conflicting and utterly fascinating views on moods. I’d caricature them into three buckets:
Moods are small fry: mood is a small thing, we’re all human. Don’t patronise me by talking about the impact of moods, it’s no biggy. Tell me about some big, significant strategy that will transform my performance…but not moods, that’s teaching grandmothers to suck eggs.
Relentless positivity: OMG moods are ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL!! I MUST control my mood. It is TOTALLY my responsibility and I must ALWAYS be cheerful, a relentless positivity Robocop until my dying day.
It’s completely outside my control: I get that it has an impact, but what’s a girl to do? I’m grumpy because my commute was bad, I’m bored because I’m in a meeting, I’m angry because that’s just the way I am. How could I possibly be in any other mood?
No prizes for guessing that I’d challenge each of these responses. My coaching experience with thousands of individuals has led me to the view that if you want to achieve high performance in anything – be it work, home, sport, relationships – you absolutely need to work on mood management.
Following on from Ben’s last article on marginal gains, sometimes this does involve stupidly small steps, so I get that they may seem unexciting – but cumulatively they become a MASSIVELY powerful lever which will improve your results. Remember the state you were in last time you faced a challenge? Or got some crappy feedback? Or faced an inbox of 400 emails? What impact did your mood have in terms of how well you handled it? As a stand-up comic I have walked on stage nervous and died on my backside, and I’ve walked on stage relaxed – with exactly the same gags – and stormed it.
However, we don’t have total control over our moods and it’s unhelpful to make bonkers expectations of ourselves. If you are hoping to pick a mood as easily as you pick the next music track to listen to…well, good luck with that. Remember those many times when you just couldn’t snap out of it? Perhaps the red mist descended when Dave made that comment, or perhaps you felt so overwhelmed at the days to-do list that you couldn’t snap out of inertia? For those of us ‘lucky’ enough to live around teenagers, you can see the extreme effects of hormonal mood swings outside their control – it might be many decades since we’ve had the acne, but remember that similar hormonal forces are still at play in all of us.
So, what can we do? Here are three ways you can manage your mood to achieve high performance:
Rather than always aiming for Robocop cheerfulness, think about what mood would be useful, given the context. For example, if you are going to a meeting, what mood would you like to be in, to help you make that meeting a success? Attentive perhaps? Or curious, or bold…? Many of my coachees report that they might prepare slides or agendas prior to a meeting, but wouldn’t think about ‘choosing a mood’ as being part of their prep. When they do they often recount that simply making the choice is enough to get them into a useful state.
In the book, ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?’ Ben and I talked about ‘controlling the controllables’ – choosing to focus our attention and energy on the things we can do, and accept the things we can’t. Not in a roll-over-and-tickle-my-tummy giving up way, but in a positive, it’s-OK-I-can-handle-it way. If you’re finding a negative mood hard to control, don’t beat yourself up.
This might sound a bit Zen, but we are not our emotions. Imagine you’re in one of those sushi restaurants where plates whizz past you on a conveyor belt. When you pick up a plate, you don’t think ‘I AM a plate of overpriced sashimi. This defines my total being’. No, (I hope not) you are just picking up a plate. However, we often confuse a passing unhelpful emotion which we are struggling to manage with ‘us’. It’s not, it will pass. We can watch that plate go past and simply say ‘hello’ as it does so.
There are a gazillion simple strategies for getting into a useful mood. In our high performance programmes, we spend a whole day looking at different methods. For example, before the Olympic Final Ben and his crewmates had a variety of techniques: some harnessed the power of self-talk to get confident. They reminded themselves of past achievements and repeated positive phrases. Some used their physiology to affect their state by getting into the physical posture of ‘confidence’ we unleash helpful hormones which make us feel more confident. One crewmember famously calmed himself down by listening to Barry Manilow’s song ‘Mandy’ on repeat…
…each to their own….
Mood management is a key ingredient for achieving high performance. Imagine if choosing a useful mood became a habitual part of your daily life – what impact would that have to yourself and those around you? Sometimes we need to accept things outside of our control, but there’s a whole host of strategies for getting in the mood.
In the meantime, it’s Spanish homework tonight, so wish me luck… I’m off to download a Barry Manilow compilation…
“…how happy you made me, oh Mandy…and I need you today, oh Mandy…”
For more insights into improving performance in your organisation, speak to us about our Performance Programmes on 020 3870 7088 or pick up a copy of Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?
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