Last Updated on 2023/08/25

Dear Friends,

I hope the summer of 2017 was a happy one for you and the people you care about. My family and the team at True Development had a wonderful summer, and I think we all look forward to the fall weather!

My wife and I have five children. That is not a typing mistake. We have three boys and two girls, ranging in age from 11 to 26.

Four out of our five children have jobs, even if they are still in school. Each of them has a manager and the opportunity to observe other managers where they work.

One of my sons said to me the other day: “Dad, I think team leaders have a big impact on the engagement and motivation of their teams. And I think it begins with the team leader’s own engagement. If the manager is happy to be at work and cares about what they do, they will have a positive influence on their team members.”

It was a great observation, and 100% correct.

Emotions are Contagious

A few years ago, I wrote a True Insights on engagement (http://true-development.comnews_detail.php?sn=38). We were getting a lot of requests for engagement workshops and engagement-oriented leadership events and I wanted to have a deeper understanding of this hot topic.

Since then, I’ve continued to learn about engagement but the strongest lesson of the past few years is the one my son brought up: A leader’s emotions are contagious. If the leader isn’t engaged, it is impossible for him or her to elevate engagement on the team.In fact, unengaged leaders usually destroy engagement on their teams.

Dr. Daniel Goleman, the father of EQ, writes about this idea on his website:

“Understanding the powerful role of emotions in the workplace sets the best leaders apart from the rest—not just in tangibles such as better business results and the retention of talent, but also in the all-important intangibles, such as higher morale, motivation, and commitment.”

Engagement Starts with the Leader

A few years ago in an engagement workshop, I noticed that one of the participants seemed withdrawn and  unhappy. He’s an old friend who I’ve worked with in several workshops over the years. When I asked him what was wrong, he said: “To be honest, I don’t want to talk about engaging my team members right now. My own engagement is so low that I just cannot think about it.” 

We had a private conversation during the next break. I found out that his boss had spent almost two hours the night before yelling at him and his team members, in front of an audience, after the team worked 10 hours of overtime.

His boss should probably be fired, but that isn’t the point. The point is my friend was absolutely right. You simply cannot positively impact others’ engagement if you are feeling lousy about your job or company.

Check Your Emotions at the Door

For those who lead people, my advice as a coach is to ask a few questions before you start work each day. If you haven’t done it before you reach the office, stop outside the door for a moment and take an inventory:

●  Are my emotions positive or negative right now?
●  Do I need to take a moment and release some stress before I walk in?

If you are not feeling positive; or if you are unhappy, frustrated, or under a lot of stress, you MUST adjust your emotions before you
engage with your people. Go for a short walk. Meditate. Buy something healthy to eat or drink. If you can’t be confident and  positive, you should not walk into the office. 

Long term, the best way to manage emotions involves things like identifying your mission as a leader, managing your priorities effectively, and maintaining your energy. But the daily “Check in at the Door” can act a mechanism for reminding yourself to bring
the right energy into the office.

The Coach Doesn’t Get a Free Pass

The other day I was driving with one of our team members to a training. Traffic was bad, we were running late. I was upset, impatient, cursing under my breath.

Later, I thought to myself: “Anyone can unconsciously get into a negative emotional state. But you should know better than to let it go that far. It had an impact on a team member. You can do better.”

We all feel frustrated, upset, stressed, or negative at times. We are human. As leaders, we can let people know how we really feel—this is called being authentic. But we have to be able to quickly recover so that our emotions don’t damage the emotions of our team members.

Yours in learning,




Leave a Reply