It’s 9am on a Monday morning. You’ve had a relaxing weekend and charged up for the week ahead. You walk into the conference room for the staff meeting and find people are smiling and talking about how their weekend went. As others stroll in, they instantly feel the energy in the room.
Then, the boss walks in looking down and tense, and even before he says a word, his body language itself is enough to suck the life out of the room. The conversation in the room comes to a sudden halt. Sounds familiar?
Role of Mirror Neurons
Like viruses, emotions can quickly spread and are contagious. We can get infected by emotions and one person's emotions and behaviours can trigger similar emotions and behaviours in other people. This phenomenon is called emotional contagion and we just saw that play out.
Emotional contagion is explained by mirror neurons in our brain which are involved in empathy. What Neuroscience is uncovering is that by observing another’s actions, the same area of the brain becomes activated that would if we were performing that action ourselves. In other words, the same neurons fire when we perform that action or merely observe it. It is as though this neuron adopts the other person’s point of view.
Implications for Business
We often come across managers who complain that their teams have all the resources but lack energy. What they probably fail to realize is that the team’s energy is a direct reflection of the manager’s energy, thanks to emotional contagion. When a manager is calm, happy and energized, those qualities get reflected in his team.
Leaders, because of the position they hold, exert a disproportionate impact on the moods and feelings of their team members.
So, if you are a leader, the question becomes – Are you aware how much your emotions and behaviours are causing ripple effects in your teams and organizations?