Productivity: It's just a state of mind

Experts: Managing your mood makes quantifiable difference in output

Being able to manage personal "state of mind" makes a quantifiable difference in leaders' productivity, three industry experts write in the Harvard Business Review.

Alexander Caillet, part of Georgetown University's Institute for Transformational Leadership, Jeremy Hirshberg, Center for Creative Leadership regional director of leadership solutions, and Stefano Petti, managing director of organizational transformation and leadership consultancy Asterys, launched a long-term research project to measure the link two years ago.

The three identified 18 states of mind—including depressed, frustrated, anxious, satisfied, energized, and elated—and surveyed 740 leaders around the globe on how frequently they experienced each one, methods of managing them, and each state's effect on performance.

Predictably, 94% said that they perform best when "calm," "happy," and "energized" (CHE), a relatively common state. "If you are energized, without being necessarily too excited about things or euphoric, that energy will transmit into the people working around you," says one respondent.

Related: How do you balance the need for efficiency with achieving strategic goals?

However, "frustrated," "anxious," "tired," and "stressed" (FATS) was also common—and typically led to benefits in the short-run but detriment in the long-run, particularly when it came to relationships.  These lower states of mind were more frequent among workers who were lower-level, younger, inexperienced, and male.

Respondents reported it is particularly difficult to improve mindset when company culture and environment facilitate FATS. "When you're stressed and frustrated, it is much harder to see the state of mind you are in, and unless you have clear strategies to be aware... and then shift it, you more than likely will cause serious harm to yourself and your organization," says Jim Daniell, COO of Oxfam America.

To help leaders move toward the higher states of mind, Caillet, Hirshberg, and Petti boiled down four best practices.

  • Let yourself feel. Do not try to repress your emotions. Instead, acknowledge them and refocus on something else, such as visualizing positive images.
  • Relax your body to relax your mind. Stretching loosens muscles, increases blood flow, and betters cognitive function. In addition, breathing exercises have been shown to lower stress levels. Taking breaks also allows the mind to clear.
  • Create a comfortable environment. Music, comfortable lighting, and a clutter-free workspace may encourage calm and reduce anxiety.
  • Physical health translates to mental health. Getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising improve energy levels (Caillet et. al, Harvard Business Review, 12/8).

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague