“Excuse me, but can you get your foul State off of me, please? I’m trying to be creative and inspired here, and you’re contaminating it with your irritated grouchiness, which is getting all over everyone. Please go handle that.“
What would it be like to work on a team where you could actually say that to someone? I’m here to testify that it’s actually possible, and can be awesome. Maybe you won’t start off quite that pointed, but I can get you close...
We know by now that what we’ve called “mood” before is actually State, comprised of three interconnected parts- Mental, Emotional and Physical. We mess with one of those parts, the other two shift instantly, every time. If you’re just joining us here, take a few minutes to check out Part 1 and Part 2 to get the full power of State in how you’re embodying it yourself- it’s huge.
Once you’ve got a handle on your OWN State (which you’ll tinker with for a lifetime), you’re halfway there, since your State is the model for theirs, and they’re watching you all the time. So now it’s time to directly take on something just as clutch... other people’s States. As we’ve established, most people have little awareness of their own State and even less aptitude in effectively changing it. If you came at most people with the opening statement of this post they might slug you or cry, because they simply don’t get it (yet). So until they do (and even after), it’ll be YOU in many moments who will need to do it for them.
Check them out.
...In a different way than you have been, paying attention to their State. At any given moment, any person you’re with is in a particular state. The key question is twofold-
What State are they in? and…
Is it the state you want them to be in (for the task at hand, the news you’re about to drop on them, the next XX hours you’re about to spend with them, the way their State is spreading to others etc.)?
As a leader, start paying attention as much to their State as those other things like what they’re contributing, focusing on and doing. This matters because it’s fueling all of those things already, and will get you to the core of what makes them awesome (or not) moment to moment. To maximize not just your performance but your team’s as well, start managing States. Your ability to facilitate their State is directly proportional to their motivation, focus, and productivity.
Cues tell all.
80-90% of all communication is nonverbal. What we feel and think manifests itself in our tonality, body language, eye movements, breathing and facial expression. It’s incredibly hard to fake these things (maybe impossible, but that’s for another day), and the people you’re with tell you a lot about where they are without ever uttering a word... if you pay attention. Notice posture (leaning forward, into you or turned away, avoiding), jaw set and brow furrow, eye contact, and the tonality/cadence of their speaking. Even breathing- if someone’s breathing is high or shallow, they’re stressed. If it’s low and abdominal, they’re more relaxed. Practice first paying attention to these cues, then labelling them in your mind as different States (excited, bored, curious, sad, irritated, reflective, pumped up, grouchy, inspired…). Then, ask yourself if the State they’re in is a good one for what’s happening, or not. If not, then get busy…
Change from the outside in.
You can change someone else’s state in a second. In fact you do it all the time without labeling it such.
Take someone who’s State is resistant, for instance. Arms folded, jaw set, breathing high in chest, brow slightly furrowed, voice monotone and forced. Yet with a simple question that gets them to think about something else completely... you get that person to a much more open and receptive State. That’s an outside-in State Change.
Or… you and a teammate were brainstorming on a question with you recording at the whiteboard, and at one point you switch spots- you hand over the marker to your partner to get her up and writing as you then walk around the room, new ideas flowing. That switch was another State Change.
Or... you’re presenting to a group, and you see their eyes glazing over, as Bored State starts to take over the room. You have everyone quickly stand up, you pose a question for them all to answer to another person, then have them sit back down, now awake and engaged. Nice State Change.
Here are some more (some deliberate breaks in pattern/focus, others quick resets) :
- Have them tell you about their last success with this team in vivid detail. (mental)
- Take them for a walk. (physical)
- Change the subject completely. (mental)
- Continue the conversation standing up if you were sitting. (physical)
- Give them a compliment. (emotional)
- Give them a high-five. (physical)
- Tell them a joke. (emotional)
- Everyone rotate positions in the room. (physical)
- Ask their opinion about something you know they care about. (mental/emotional)
- Toss them a ball. (physical)
- Offer them a snack or drink, like a bottle of water or a cup of coffee. (physical)
- Change or put on some music with the energy you’re going for. (mental/physical/emotional)
- Show them a hilarious or inspiring or thoughtful or intriguing post or video online. (emotional)
Switch it Up- Early and Often
Those state changes are key when someone’s in a overtly negative or low-energy state, as each will break the pattern they’re in, changing their State to something more engaged, positive or higher energy. The higher the energy, the better in most cases.
That said, your team needs deliberate State Changes more than you think.
The average attention span correlates with age (like 5 minutes max for a 5 year old)… up to about age 18, at which point it maxes out. So 18-20 minutes is about the limit of most people’s attention span in the work you’re doing (outside of gaming and other immersive altered-state activities). All attempts of “plowing through” beyond that window are a waste of time and energy, because we know that once State’s gone so is focus, learning and performance. Instead, Change State! All you and your team need is a reset of attention- a State Change- about every 18-20 minutes in your work process, and the brain/performance/focus stays fresh.
While the list above is a start, personalize, customize and add to it with your own State Changes, and then start playing them all to try out what fits best where.
You can call it.
There is tremendous power in State management- for you as an individual and for the people around you. Once you and your team understand it, you can then own it and call it with one another. I coach high performing teams across industries and rank, whose productivity and morale has been transformed with the power of State. On these teams, because they get it, everyone is responsible for his/her own State, making sure it’s productive, conducive to what the team’s up to, and able to help others accelerate. They incorporate State Changes as regular team practice into their work, which makes all the difference. You’ll see high-fiving between agenda topics, movement as they work, koosh balls flying purposefully to engage the right States, and people owning their own attention, performance and focus with their State. And when they don’t, you might just hear that line I opened this post with, to which someone would respond,
“Actually, you’re absolutely right. My grouchy State isn’t helping anyone- I apologize for getting it on you. I need a State Change. I’ll be back in a few minutes, better.”
And then they go, take a few minutes to change their State, re-engage, and the team’s on on its way. It’s a beautiful thing.