The team’s weathervane

It took a long time for me to realize my influence on my coworkers’ work atmosphere. In my scrum team’s retros, I began to notice that wherever my mood rating was, others’ would cluster around it. I had a great past two weeks? So did everyone else. I was in a pessimistic mood? I dragged the team down with me.

Realizing this was a bit of a shock and I remember thinking, more or less in this order:

  • That’s kind of cool! I have influence.
  • I’m responsible for the team’s mood? Help!
  • How do I become one of those magical people who smiles and is in a good mood all the time?

Let’s break that down a little.

I have influence. I am someone who can inspire people. Without meaning to, even without thinking a lot about it, I can create a better work environment for a team by helping to create an atmosphere that people like to work in. I would shorten this to “positive energy” but I fear that’s been taken over by the relentless positivity cult. My take on this is not “every cloud has a silver lining” or “count your blessings” or something you’ll find on inspirational posters. Rather: with humor, curiosity, and perseverance we will conquer all obstacles.

On the other side of the coin, I am responsible for keeping my negative moods from affecting my team. I can instead:

  • Acknowledge it and apologize if I am crabby or dismissive.
  • If I’m hungry or need caffeine, that’s fixable: fix it! But if I’m irritable because I don’t feel well, I should take pain meds, call in sick, or take a break to see if it improves.
  • Back when I was working in an office with others, I could put on headphones, play music, and just try to get through the day without talking to people.
  • I fit my schedule to my mood, if necessary. “Team, I’m feeling cranky / down / tired today, can we reschedule this meeting? I want to be all in for it.”
  • If I can’t move or cancel meetings, I take a breather, and come into meetings with the thought: If I were someone who wanted this meeting to have a good outcome, how would I act? And try to do that.

I will never be a magical person in a good mood all the time (and I’m pretty sure they aren’t either – they just have really good camouflage skills). I’m not going to try to fake it, one, because I would be really bad at that, and two, because I can be a damn good leader and coworker the way I am. Modeling that for my team is the better way to go.

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