We all know how pleasant it is to be around happy, upbeat people, but what we don’t all know is how much these people benefit an organization. Researchers are finding that emotional people literally set the tone of the organization, and they can do so without saying or doing anything. We need to learn how to acknowledge and appreciate the people who set a tone that boosts success.
There was a guy, Alan, who used to work in a group that I led. He was exuberantly upbeat and everyone liked being around him. He made it a point to get to know the entire group of about 200 people, and he routinely mingled with them and uplifted their mood. It wasn’t his job responsibilities that led him to this intermingling, because his job was heads down, doing version control of software. But every time he had a spare moment, he would interact with people and brighten their day. We all knew we liked Alan, but at that time we didn’t understand the impact he was having.
Alan was playing a much larger role in the organization. Scientists have found that the human heart generates and emits a powerful rhythmic electromagnetic field, which changes depending on the person’s emotional state. Positive emotions, such as caring and joyfulness, create an electromagnetic field that is organized and coherent. A person who is highly emotionally active with positive, heartfelt emotions, is said to be in a state of coherence. Alan was the picture of coherence and was influencing the entire organization.
The heart’s field has been proven to extend at least ten feet from the body, and it is detected by the nervous system of other people. The signals transmitted by one person’s heart can automatically alter the mood-generating physiology of another person, such as their hormone levels and cardiovascular functions. Experiments have shown that three strangers can be in close proximity and within a couple of minutes, with no communication, the most emotionally active person will have transmitted their mood to the other two.
The emotional state of an organization is critical to its success. There’s a huge body of research showing that when people are in a positive emotional state, or coherent, their ability to analyze information, think of creative solutions, and solve problems is greatly enhanced, as is their memory recall and intuitive discernment. These are the very traits that a moder organization needs to thrive, so a person like Alan literally boosts the success of an entire organization.
Unfortunately, our company encountered some financial problems and went through a round of layoffs. Alan was one of the first let go. Although he was good at software version control, he wasn’t the best on the team, so his manager felt he could spare him. But we didn’t realize what we really lost. We didn’t just lose a mind and a pair of hands that controlled software libraries, but rather we lost a large piece of the heart of our organization.
It’s accepted practice to make decisions about who to employ based on intellect, talent and skill set. Sure we all like positive people, but we’ll almost always keep the grumbler when he’s one of the smartest guys in the group. If we had decided to keep Alan and let someone else go, it would have been very difficult to explain to HR and even other employees, yet it would likely have been the best business decision. As leaders in business, we need to get better at understanding and explaining the value of coherency on success.
As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.Share