˲ Help the overwhelmed person lessen the perceived overload by sorting
through commitments and dropping
the least important.
˲Help everyone avoid the toxic
moods of distrust and resentment by
coaching them to avoid commitments
they cannot fulfill, keep the ones they
make, and take care of others’ interests.
˲ Help end confusion by bringing others into moods of curiosity or wonder.
The bottom line is this: By entering
into conversations associated with the
mood you would like, you can take the
other person there with you.
table 2. moods and team project cycles.
speculation, wonder, ambition
discipline, focus, destiny, perseverance
appreciation, trust, resolution, “zone”
gratitude, forgiveness of debts
collaboration and competition
apathy, indifference, lack of focus
lack of appreciation, grudges
Collaboration is a strong human force.
In collaboration, you and the others
share a desire for an outcome and are
committed to working together to
achieve it; no one of you can do it alone.
For collaboration to work, the group
members need moods of appreciation,
trust, and mutual commitment to the
mission. Teams and networks good at
collaboration are most likely to achieve
In competition, you and your rivals
vie for an outcome that only one of you
can have. You get it by defeating or
outperforming the others in some way.
Your team may distrust your competitors. To win a competition, your team
needs moods of focus and discipline.
Collaboration and competition are
complementary moods with strong
interplay. In professional life, for example, your projects may be competitions with other teams or companies.
But your team, company, or profession
will continue on when individual projects are done. Your skill at recognizing
and reconciling the moods for collaboration and competition is a definite
professional asset. Hone it well.
few results will be apparent yet and
mistakes will be costly. You constantly
remind of the value produced by the
mission. You help team members
learn to work together and trust each
others’ actions. To improve team performance, you help them share assessments about individual performance.
You help establish needed outside relationships (with suppliers, for example).
Containment. You help the team
stay focused on its mission, execute its
commitments, cope well with the occasional breakdown, produce good results, and satisfy its customers. In some
cases your team will enter the “zone,” a
higher state of perception where the results seem to flow without much effort
and every coordination goes seamlessly.
Completion. You help the team declare that its work is done, wind down
its remaining commitments, and celebrate the end of the project.
The effective leader inspires the
team to the moods conducive to each
stage; otherwise the team will not
make it to the next stage (see Table 2).
The progression through these stages
is difficult to achieve without solidarity—
a mood of mutual trust, taking care of
each other, and willingness to stand firm
in unity against adversaries. Personal
moods can coexist with the group mood
of solidarity. Solidarity is a coveted
mood. Leaders can cultivate it by instilling five basic practices into the team1:
˲ Respect everyone’s differences.
˲Effectively make and coordinate
commitments that produce value for
˲ Listen for opportunities to bring
value to others.
˲ Build trust with others by making
assessments that facilitate taking care
of each other’s concerns.
˲Observe and bring to the foreground underlying moods that may
help or hinder the ability to act with
and listen to others.
The last two practices explicitly rest
on skills with emotions and moods.
A leader’s skills can be put to the test
when some team members fall into
distrust, resentment, or other negative
moods. If the leader cannot resolve the
negative moods, the team may fail.
The moods and emotions of the people
around us—our partners, teams, and
groups—strongly affect performances.
Positive moods enhance performance;
negative moods detract and can render
teams and groups dysfunctional.
Skilled managers, facilitators, and
teachers are keenly aware of moods
and emotions. They know how to interact effectively with different moods
and can guide their groups through the
moods necessary for a successful project, problem resolution, or learning.
The conclusion for us as professionals is that we have to continue to develop our own sensitivities to moods and
emotions. We rely on our individual
skills to manage moods in our teams
moods for teams
Richard Strozzi-Heckler6 describes
four stages of project evolution on a
team as follows:
Formulation. You invite a group of
people to help you accomplish a mission. You help them develop mutual
appreciation and personal commitments to work together for the mission.
Ramp-up. You establish team discipline to meet commitments and start
producing results; a lot of discipline
and determination are needed because
1. denning, P.J., Flores, F., and Flores, g. Pluralistic
coordination. In Business, Technological, and Social
Dimensions of Computer Games: Multidisciplinary
Developments. m.m. Cruz-Cunha, V. H. Varvalho, and
P. Tavares, Eds., 2011, 416–431; doi: 10.4018/978-1-
2. denning, P. and dunham, R. The Innovator’s Way. mI T
3. Flores, F. The leaders of the future. In Beyond
Calculation. P. denning and R. metcalfe, Eds.
Copernicus, 1997, 176–192.
4. Roberts, R. Emotions. Cambridge University Press,
5. Solomon, R. True to Our Feelings. Oxford University
6. Strozzi-Heckler, R. Anatomy of Change: A Way to Move
Through Life’s Transitions. North Atlantic, 1984, 1993.
Peter J. Denning ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is distinguished
Professor of Computer Science and director of the
Cebrowski Institute for information innovation at the
Naval Postgraduate School in monterey, CA, is Editor of
ACm Ubiquity, and is a past president of ACm.
I am grateful to Fernando Flores who, in 1987, introduced
me to linguistic signatures of moods and emotions, and
inspired me to learn more.