The Art of Strengths Coaching

M is for Mood Music

There are many ways to describe what people do to influence a culture or environment. They may, for example, speak and behave in ways that set the tone. This creates a certain kind of mood music. Here one definition of this phrase:

Mood music is a prevailing atmosphere or feeling.

Great leaders, for example, recognise the importance of creating the right kind of mood music. They know that the atmosphere they create can inspire or deflate people. Here are two examples that I have seen in companies.

Leader A generated
positive mood music 

They were warm, welcoming and kind. They created a positive environment in which motivated people could do good work. They always had time for people and treated them with respect – whether they were the cleaner or the company director. They made people feel important.

They continually communicated the company’s story, strategy and road to success. They believed that people worked better if they understood the context. They encouraged people to build on their strengths and make their best contributions to the company.  

When appropriate, they gave clear messages to people and suggested positive ways forward. People respected the leader and wanted to do their best for the company.

Leader B generated
negative mood music 

They were cold and aloof. They created a negative environment in which people were afraid. They made themselves feel important and had little time for other people.

They bullied people. They held a Monday meeting where they described what had gone wrong in the previous week and pointed out people’s mistakes. They micro-managed people and made them feel small.  

They intimidated people rather than inspired them. People did not respect the leader and left the company. They were replaced by others who copied the behaviour that was exhibited by the leader.

Looking back, can you think of a situation in which people generated the right mood music? The tone could have been set by the leaders or by other people.

This could have been in a team, organisation or even a country. People could have been working towards a clear goal, tackling a crisis or simply getting on with life.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to explore the following themes.

Describe a specific situation in the past when people created the right mood music.

Describe the specific things people did to create the right mood music.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them creating the right mood music.

People create mood music in many different aspects of their lives. They do this through the actions they take, the words they say and the mood they generate.

The messages that a person gives others and the feelings they evoke can be influenced by many factors. These include the following.

The ways they relate to themselves. They may have positive or negative internal scripting, for example, which has a strong effect on their attitude and actions.  

The ways they relate to their loved ones – such as their partner, children and friends. 

The ways they relate to other people – such as their colleagues at work and others they interact with in their daily lives.

Some leaders in sport, for example, are known for inspiring others. Describing one soccer captain, their manager said:

“He lifts the mood whenever he walks into the room. Commanding instant respect, he provides the heartbeat for the team. He acts as a talisman and positive model for other people.

“A warm yet tough person, he goes out of his way to welcome new players to the national team. With our permission, he rings them ahead of time. He also makes sure they change and train alongside him in the first session.

“Many players have said that, despite starring for their clubs, they felt apprehensive about joining the national team. The captain made them feel at ease and helped them to do their best for the team.”

Great organisations often generate good mood music. The atmosphere they create is noticeable straight away. You can sense it when you are visiting a school, sports team, hospital, pioneering team or large company.

Such organisations often outline the principles they want people to follow. Here is one example. This is given to all new joiners and helps to set the tone in the organisation.

Looking at the bigger picture, leaders obviously set the tone in politics. The mood music they create can lift people and inspire them to work together.

At the other extreme, however, some people activate hate that appeals to some but alienates others. The tone they set can create a feeling of tribalism.

The mood music we create has consequences. This is the case whether we are acting as an individual, parent, teacher, artist, professional, leader or in some other role. It can be useful to recognise how the feeling we generate can affect other people.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you want to create a certain kind of mood music? You may want to do this when relating to your child, partner, colleagues or other people.

What is the mood music you want to create? What is the feeling you want to generate? How can you set the tone and help to create the desired feeling? What will be the consequences of making this happen?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to explore the following themes.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you want to create the right mood music. 

Describe the specific things you can do then to create the right mood music. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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