Guest Post: The Mood Elevator by Larry Senn

We could all do with an increased ability to handle life and all that it throws at us more effectively.  One of the more comprehensive, but readable books of late which attempts to show us how to do exactly that is The Mood Elevator:  Take Charge of Your Feelings, Become a Better You by Larry Senn.

Larry writes clearly and comprehensively about the factors that influence our daily well-being and the importance of choice in how our days and nights go.  His perspectives are well-supported and valuable for application in both our professional lives and our personal arenas.

 In honor of the launch of this useful book this week, a guest post from the author is below.  If you find this helpful, you will love the whole book.  I will have more to say about its value to me later in the week.


by Dr. Larry Senn

There are countless pointers, tools, and books on how to be happy- and rightfully so, we’d all love to be happy and at the top of our Mood Elevator all the time.

Unfortunately, being happy all the time is just not reality. We will all spend times in the emotional basement since having low moods is a natural and normal part of life.  Human beings are unique in the animal kingdom because we have the power of thought. This allows us to imagine the future, plan for things yet to come, muse about possibilities, and analyze and interpret everything that is going on around us.

That same power to imagine through thought can also cause to us to worry excessively and unnecessarily, experience periods of depression about real or imagined problems, have moments of paranoia based on our assumptions about other’s motives, be self-righteous and judgmental, and even experience fits of anger and rage.

Because we take this ride on the Mood Elevator every day, it’s important to also have some tools on how to do well when you’re “in the red”. It’s not a bad thing to be in a bad mood, but it’s best to minimize the damage you cause when you’re having “one of those days”.

The best thing to remember when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed is to remember that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Having the awareness that you’re not at your best will help you proceed with caution throughout your day. Imagine when you’re driving somewhere on a cold, icy road at night. You’ll do the drive, but you’ll proceed with caution. You’ll drive slowly, take turns gently, and leave plenty of space between you and any other drivers on the road.

Think about that same tactic the next off day you’re having. If possible, reschedule that meeting with your coworker you butt heads with. The reason it’s so important to proceed with caution when you’re in the lower mood states is because our thinking becomes very unreliable when we’re down there.

Have you ever said something to a friend or loved one in the heat of the moment that you wished you could take back? Have you ever hit the send button to transmit an email that you later realized was a terrible mistake? If either of these has happened to you, think back to the circumstances. Where were you on the Mood Elevator map when this occurred? Most likely, you were somewhere in the lower half.

Imagine these two scenarios that are common in our everyday life and how we might get ourselves in trouble if we don’t recognize that our thinking is unreliable.

The first is getting an email that “pushes our buttons”. It might be accusatory, aggressive, or downright rude. After reading it we drop down to irritation, anger, or anxiety and our instinct is to write an email back giving the person a piece of our mind. These are the kind of situations when we’ll likely regret what we write. An alternative solution would be to write an email, and instead of hitting send, hit save as draft. Wait at least a few hours. If possible wait 24 hours and come back to it once we’ve had some time to cool off. Chances are we’ll be happy we didn’t send it. And, we might be at a higher level on the Mood Elevator the next day and are capable of sending a much more effective email, with a much better outcome.

The second scenario is the common one of having a disagreement with your spouse. My wife and I first got together in the 1970’s, the era of the human potential movement. The conventional wisdom at the time was encapsulated in saying like, “Tell it like it is, let it all hang out, and don’t go to bed with anything left unsaid.” As a result, there were a few times we struggled unproductively until all hours of the night, fighting over issues that, in retrospect, were usually not worth the time and energy.

As we both started understanding how our minds worked, we decided to set a ground rule that we don’t take on any significant relationship issues when either one of us are in the lower Mood Elevator states. It might look something like this:

Larry: It looks like something is bothering you. Is it something you want to talk about?

Bernadette: No, not now. My thinking is not clear. If I need to talk about it, I’ll let you know later.

Using the Mood Elevator as your guide and not acting on low-level thoughts and impulses when you are feeling down is one of the key principles to doing less damage to yourself-and to others.

About Dr. Larry Senn

Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website,


Asking “Why?” …

Snow FLowerChip Bell regularly stimulates my leadership and management thinking … as he did recently with an amusing, but thought-provoking post over at the Lead Change Group, cleverly titled “Don’t Be A Leader of Stupid Rules, which ranks as one of my favorite blog post titles of 2016 so far.  

Chip’s post addresses the all too familiar tendency in the workplace to have rules and processes which everyone follows, but few know why.

Here’s my response to Chip’s post, with a little editing for clarity and expanded reflection:


I was once responsible for helping employees install a standardized organizational system for both paper and electronic workflow in an organization.  As part of that, I would spend much time working with individual employees as they literally took their workspace apart, organized all items into standardized categories and reorganized how they stored data and materials.

Analyzing work processes was a big part of this changeover.   One time,  an employee struggled with what to label a work step in which she received forms from another employee and in turn, gave them to a third employee, without doing anything to the forms, such as verifying or sorting.  After much discussion, we were unable to determine why she needed to do this step, other than that familiar “I was told this was part of my job and I’ve always done it this way” statement.

Similarly to Chip’s story about Catherine The Great and the flower , I finally learned from a long-time employee that decades earlier, two women who did not like each other each had responsibility for a step in this work process.  Since they could not get along, their manager chose to assign a third employee to receive and pass on the documents.

Over the years, just like the soldiers guarding the empty spot, generations of employees were taught to follow this  “system” without any awareness of why that step existed.

Two lessons here for me: 


This is first and foremost a failure of management.  The original manager had the authority and the opportunity to directly address the issue.

Had that original manager addressed the workplace impact of  both employee’s behavior with them, and either directed or coached the employees to work together without affecting workflow, this story would not be mine to tell to illustrate poor management practice.


Sometimes leaders overestimate their impact and sometimes they underestimate it.  Many employees, especially those new to a process, a workgroup, or an organization, will simply accept whatever they perceive as “the way we do it”.   In order to fit in, they then attempt to master doing whatever it is that the system requires them to do, with little reflection on why they are doing it

Fortunately, this is changing in the modern workplace, due to the efforts of a few thoughtful and forward-thinking souls.  A valuable employee is now more often seen as the one who will say “Wait … why are we doing this?” and expect a reasonable answer.   They will comply when to do so makes sense, but will question when motivations and reasons are not clear. 

Ira Chaleff is one of the most valuable and articulate voices driving this welcome workplace and societal trend.  For a great deal more about “FOLLOWERSHIP, click the link to read my previous post on this topic. 

Related Observation:  A GOOD MANAGER KNOWS WHEN TO ASK “WHY”  …

As an operations officer (think Chief Training Officer) in the US Army Reserve, I learned quickly that simply walking up to a tank idling in the wilderness and asking the crew “What are you doing?” as innocently as possible was a good thing.

Listening to the responses to this simple query would provide me with a wealth of insight into their morale, how the training was going, and whether they understood their roles and responsibilities within the context of our mission.

Pretty good return for a simple question …

Chip’s post is a good reminder of how we need to continually analyze what we are doing, why we are doing it, and whether we should stop or change doing it:)

Trying to remember to follow my own advice in the Heartland ….


Questions, Questions, Questions …

Question Marks in BoxI am guest blogging today over at the Lead Change Groupwith some pointed questions about questions and why we use them so darn much.

Here’s an excerpt from the section on Learning Questions to give you a small taste:

When we ask a question, and then listen to the answer, consider what has been said, and then respond, we are learning.

Questions help us learn something. We often ask a question because we want to know something we do not know. Sometimes we ask a question to test our assumed knowledge. We ask questions to move the ball down the field.

“How did you do that?” clearly opens the door for the other person to share their knowledge with us.

Please feel free to pop over and look for logical lapses, typographical or grammatical errors, and just plain misjudgements and lies by clicking below:

Riddle Me This …

While you are there, check out all the other valuable and articulate blog posts by some of the best minds in leadership and personal development.

Feeling pleased with myself in the Heartland ….


Not Much of a View …

Desolation - gratisography

Our choices have consequences … but you already knew that, didn’t you?

The “Straight and Narrow”, at least in my mind, usually refers to traditions like telling the truth, following the rules, living to society’s expectations, and generally being a model citizen.  You follow the law, act appropriately, and do what is expected of you.

You do not risk or engage in behavior which is not approved by society, or at least the majority of the society.

Some feel that this is not very appealing, since it at least implicitly seems to require sacrifice of more dashing behavior …

To say nothing of the sometimes rather lonesome aspects of walking your talk without much, if any, company.

We trade adventure and risk for other things … things like consistency and reliability.  We know where we stand and what we will do.

In the short term, following the “straight and narrow” sounds rather boring or even unappealing.

In the long term, it makes good sense in many ways.

Some might say “Why play it safe, if you are not going to enjoy the trip as much?“.  Well, that’s a good point, but taken to any extreme, it ends with statements like “Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse” and the like.

On the other hand, those who risk, who dare, and who do not follow society’s expectations, are the ones who often move us forward as a society.

How do you react to the pressure to stay within the “straight and narrow”?

How do you decide when to NOT play by the rules?

Which approach is generally more supportive of others?

Why do you think this matters?

Wondering if anyone will respond to this one in the Heartland ….




“Not Having All The Answers” – Guest Post by Guy Parsons and Allan Milham

Today’s guest post is an excerpt from chapter 8 of Out of the Question: How Curious Leaders Win by Guy Parsons and Allan Milham:

7e59ca13-a6b7-43f3-99b4-b954142779d6 (1)Not Having All the Answers

What happens when you don’t have all the answers and that apparent lack of knowledge makes you nervous? This topic is a great one to look at through the lens of how the Knower leader operates versus how the Learner leader operates. Both will handle the situation in profoundly different ways. If you think [about it], Knowers are about control, saving face, and looking good. They may have a reduced level of self-esteem or an unhealthy ego, which is probably why they feel they have to know all the answers.

One of the great attributes of many top leaders today is an ability to say, “You know, I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out together,” or, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.” What’s so powerful about this response is it displays the humanity of those leaders. They are prepared to show vulnerability; they acknowledge that they can’t possibly know everything. Having the guts to admit such self-awareness is actually going to score you higher points as a leader than if you were to pretend to know something you don’t.

Saying you “don’t know” can also create a shared future. The whole team becomes jointly accountable for results as you attempt to find answers together. In the old mindset, the Knower would prepare in advance and then walk into a meeting and tell everybody exactly what has to happen and why. That old mindset can produce a lot of unnecessary pressure. In the new mindset, the Learner can do some homework to find out what he doesn’t know and then bring questions to the team. The pitfall is when you are triggered by the circumstance, and it causes nervousness or fear. The opportunity you have, as a Learner, is to embrace the challenge and bring it to your team in a spirit of, “I don’t know, we don’t know, but we can figure it out and we have the very best people in the room to do it. So let’s go.”

How willing are you to admit you don’t know?

  Guy ParsonsGuy Parsons is the Founder and Managing Principal of Value Stream Solutions (VSS).  Allan Milham’s work as a professional leadership and performance coach over the past 16 years has centered on using powerful questions. For Guy, 20+ years of delights and frustrations consulting with firms attempting to make operational and cultural transformations sparked an evolution in his relationship with his professional coach, Allan, and was the inspiration for Out of the Question: How Curious Leaders Win. AllanMilham-214x300Their book has sparked a new mindset and a practical approach to thriving in the competitive and evolving landscape that today’s leaders face.


Images:  via Weaving Influence with permission