Hire for the Hottest Skill: Coherence

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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.


About the Author:

Jackie Barretta is a writer, speaker and consultant helping organizations strengthen agility and performance by shaping emotional energy. She is a thought leader bringing to light the new science of group emotional energy and connecting it to business performance. She has had a 28-year award winning career as a C-level Fortune 500 executive and Big Four consulting firm professional.
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  1. Tammie Ray  May 29, 2012

    Loved this! I have always stated this but not to this degree. It appears we normally keep the associates who create the toxic environment as they are top performers, makes you stop and think. I will have to share this! Thank you for posting!

  2. Steve Miller  May 31, 2012

    Powerful stuff! Considering the fact that the heart’s field can reach three feet, a small office of workers could be a very happy (or very sad) place. I have felt this to be true for a long time but have never been able to describe it. Thank you for the great insight!

  3. Nik Nikkel  May 31, 2012

    Thank you for this information and the down load. I have a talk, SPREAD YOUR MAGIC. I use the information on how very brief interaction with another person shares our mood with them. This is an additional incentive to lift our mood. We are within 10 feet of many people with whom we do not actively interact. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to affect their day.

  4. Jo Hutchinson  May 31, 2012

    I totally agree Jackie. An excellent article and one that I hope leaders take on board when hiring and making staff changes.

    Jo Hutchinson, Founder Great Spirit NZ Ltd.

  5. Gavin Friedman  June 3, 2012

    We have just hosted a business breakfast talk titled “Fire your mangers they are killing your business!” We covered in this talk the vital aspect of the contagious effect on emotions and How your GPH ( Gross Personal Happiness) and your GOH ( Gross Organisational Happiness) are key drivers of your bottom line.

  6. Mary Allison  June 3, 2012

    Great read Jackie. I agree with your perspective and know I have been swayed by the emotional projection of others as well as wielded my own influence – too often without intent – on others. I am also struck with how my emotional influence effects the family generations that bookend me – and am now more aware of the “blocks” family members have developed to guard agains the influence when they don’t want it. It will be interesting to learn how “blocking” shows up in the work place and what reative nuances, if any, it brings forth. I look forward to reading the next sections.

  7. Gavin Friedman  June 8, 2012

    Great concepts these aspects really resonate with us. If you read a book titled the Contagious Power of Thinking by David R. Hamilton PhD it shows just how what we are thinking and feeling is transmitted to others. When we are working with organisations we evangelise the concept of “virtuous circles” and what ever the mood of the individual, the team and the organisation is creates these circles. Therefore we say by be aware and consciously create a virtuous circle of happiness and inspiration or by default you could be creating a virtuous circle victim, fear and resentment. As ontologists we recognise that for an organisational culture of innovation, attunement, and role fulfilment to exist it all has to stem from an organisational “state” which is made up from the language, emotions and actions of that organisation all being congruent.

  8. Lisa Gardiner  June 17, 2012

    Hi Jackie, I really enjoyed your information and download. We work a lot with organisations that provide support to people who are vulnerable and have complex needs. So having the right people in the job is crucial. We also identified that employees that set a positive tone in the workplace are incredibly valuable and that all knowledge & skills need to be balanced by the individual’s qualities and characteristics. You have made this point very clear and accessible. Thank you


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