Mood Recognition and Inclusive Leadership

In this episode of the Inclusive Growth Podcast, I spoke with Rachael Edmondson-Clarke about the importance of moods and how you can check in with yourself to be a more inclusive and impactful leader.

My guest for the latest edition of the Inclusive Growth Show is Rachael Edmondson-Clarke. We met because we both work with the same client called Turley, a consultancy that specialises in planning permission and the built environment. Rachael has been working with people in Turley as a coach and developed a programme called “Empowering You”, which is all about helping people develop their influence and their confidence. I wanted to sit down and have a chat with Rachael because of her experience and expertise in inclusive leadership.

We got started with Rachael telling me a bit more about who she is and what she does.

‘I help leaders to create lasting behavioural change so that they can have more personal fulfillment and professional success. It means that I work with people on a broad spectrum of things that we’ve just been talking about, from building greater confidence and having more positive influence to dealing with stress and anxiety to having better health and wellbeing. Emotional mastery is a key part of the work that I do. This means helping people to direct their own and others’ emotions in positive ways. Essentially, I help people to navigate their professional and personal life so they become who they most want to be and they find greater joy and fulfillment along the way. My work manifests in several ways – from one-on-one coaching and experiential learning events to speaking to larger audiences.’

Emotional mastery is something that I’m planning to deep dive into with Rachael as one of those things that inclusive leaders can be conscious of. I asked her, ‘Why is managing our mood essential if we want to be an inclusive leader, and how does it impact workplace culture, would you say?’

‘Well, mood directly influences our behaviour and how we act and interact with others. Someone’s mood, energy and their ability to deal with stress can have a huge impact on the culture of a team or a department, or even an entire organisation. That’s particularly so I think if that person is a prominent leader.

Our moods are very clear signals to other people about how we’re doing. I’m sure everyone has worked with someone in the past where there were certain days when other people need to tread very carefully or it would create a little bit of tension, perhaps even some anxiety, wondering how that person might respond or react. So, a leader’s mood can set the tone for an entire team. The kinds of questions that go through our minds are, “Is this safe? Am I safe? Can I bring this up without fear of judgment or retribution?”

It’s really, really, really important. If leaders want to be inclusive and compassionate and want to harness the best performance, creativity, and innovation and have candid conversations with appropriate challenge from their teams and themselves, then being aware of their moods and their emotions, and recognising if they’re dysregulated and being able to restore or resolve those is absolutely essential.’

I reflected that for me it sounds like Rachael’s talking about creating psychological safety for our teams so I checked with her if that was the case.

‘It is, but it’s also about how we recognise those moods and emotions within ourselves as well. If we’re going to be more inclusive leaders, how do we recognise that emotions are often quite acute things and we’re probably keenly aware that those emotions are happening. Moods can be a little bit more sneaky, they can creep up on us over a longer period of time and we don’t necessarily notice. I often think that my kids are a good indicator to me of what kind of mood I’m in, I don’t necessarily notice it straight away myself or I certainly didn’t use to, but it’s in how I respond to them. They might have behaviour that one day I find is perfectly okay and normal and will smile and laugh with them, and the next day I’ll be really angry and frustrated at that same behaviour.

Since we don’t necessarily notice as some of these moods creep in, I think as inclusive leaders we’ve got to have a really good self-awareness of where we are at personally as well.’

What Rachael says is so interesting. Feelings can appear, at times, as something that we can’t control, but I know that Rachael believes we can control them. I asked to talk about how leaders can do that to enhance emotional and inclusive leadership skills.

‘The thing is that I’ve learned from decades of studying and practising and teaching this, is that our feelings are more predictable and formulaic than we might first think. When we understand how they work and what they’re doing, because they are very useful signals to us, we can become more aware. We can even start to predict what our mood will be like. That’s really helpful because when you can catch that you’re starting to head in the wrong direction, you can understand what you need to do to change it. You end up making better decisions, you restore yourself and you put yourself in optimum physical and emotional states to be able to perform at your best.

In terms of how you do it, I think self-awareness is the first step. Recognising our mood, which I’ve already kind of talked about, can be difficult because we can get ourselves into these funks and it can build up over time. I partner with CHX Performance, which is a fabulous organisation, that has a great mood profiling tool, which can give you hard data and a profile to help you recognise and better manage your mood in 60 seconds. But if you don’t have access to that, you can still become more aware of your mood. I would recommend literally just noting down how you are feeling. Have a piece of paper and pen or use your iPhone, iPad, whatever, your device and just note down three times a day over seven days, how are you feeling 10 to 20 minutes after you get up and wake up in the morning. How are you feeling in that after lunch period, maybe between 2 and 3 o’clock? And how are you feeling when you go to bed? If you just note all that down and look at that data over a period of seven days, what is that telling you?

Emotions are typically more acute so we’re more likely to know when we’ve been triggered, but then what do we do about it? If I take each one of them separately, mood is our summary signal for how we’re doing on some very tangible biological measures. As I said before, I’m a mum. I’ve got young kids and I know if I don’t get a good quality night’s sleep, or enough of it even, that my mood’s going to be affected. If we eat poorly or not at all, and this is something I see a lot in the business world, that’s going to affect our biological system and that impacts our mood. Being hungry is a very real thing, certainly in my house. And it’s not just about sleep and food and hydration and those things that affect our mood, is also about daylight and movement and nature and meaningful social connection.

‘So, when it comes to our mood before we blame the kids or the workload or the team or your clients or your boss even, have you checked in on your own resources? Are you well rested? Are you nourished? Are you hydrated? Have you moved recently? Have you been out in daylight, in nature? Have you connected with people who you trust and care about?  The great thing is with a lot of those things that I’ve just mentioned, is that we can do a lot of those things simultaneously as well.’

What Rachael has said reminded me I wanted to get into journaling, but I never did really. I just don’t like to sit down and write long journal entries. But I’ve got a great app on my phone called Daylio, which is a way of doing very quick journal entries, just a sentence or whatnot. The app basically asks, “How are you feeling?” And then it shows five emoji faces from really smiley to really frowny, so you just click like how you’re feeling, and then you can then select other categories. What you can then start to see is how things are affecting your mood. You could respond as, “Oh, I’m really grumpy,” and then you could add a category of bad sleep, for example, so it starts to show you themes and patterns. I would recommend downloading it from an app store. It’s brilliant.

Rachael replied that she was glad to learn about the app, continuing, ‘I guess I have trained myself to become more and more aware of my moods. But I’m human like anyone else, and only a few weeks ago, I remember catching that my mood was becoming dysregulated. The thing that told me that I was becoming dysregulated was that after I dropped the kids off at school and I was walking back I couldn’t breathe properly. I thought, “Oh, my goodness, I’m getting stressed, I’m getting anxious.” My initial thought was that it was about workload, and then I actually checked in with my biology around some of these things that we’ve just been talking about, and I realised that I hadn’t had a great deal of sleep for a long time. That was impacting my bandwidth and my ability to deal with simple day-to-day pressures because there was nothing that was out of control or out of the ordinary. It was just what felt okay for me to deal with a few weeks earlier didn’t feel okay now.

I was due to go to the gym that night, and instead of going to the gym, I thought about what was going to best restore and serve me. Instead of going to the gym, I walked. Instead of working late, I had a bath and I went to bed early. I woke up the next day like a different human being. I know this sounds enormously simple, and I know it’s what everybody knows, but I often see people either neglecting or disrespecting some of these very basic things, which can impact our moods. So I would just encourage people to do that sense check on how are you with these different things and are you fully restored in these areas. Because they have a huge impact on how we feel.’

So as Rachael described, it’s not just checking and listening to what your body is telling you, it’s also practising that self-care. So choosing to go for a walk rather than the gym and get an early night. It’s about doing those restorative practices because they are essential.

Rachael agreed saying, ‘It sounds so easy, “Have an early night,” but actually when you’ve got a big workload and you feel maybe some deadlines might slip or you’re under pressure to perform, the temptation is to sometimes work later and to do more. Yet we’re not giving ourselves the best opportunity to show up and perform at our best in that moment, because we’re then under-resourced. We wouldn’t expect it of a high-performance athlete, yet we expect it of ourselves as leaders.’

When we teach people about inclusive leadership, we focus on six behaviours. Three of them are about being composed, open-minded and empathetic. I asked Rachael, ‘How do you feel leaders cultivate this composure, open-mindedness and empathy within themselves and for those teams in order to create a more inclusive work environment?’

‘I guess how leaders manage their stress, their energy and their moods is really, really, really important. As I explained previously when we are under-resourced as in my example, our bandwidth to deal with that stress can be compromised and our composure can be reduced. Being self-aware is the first step, but it’s then about forming good habits of sleep, diet, movement, daylight and meaningful social connection, so that we are restoring ourselves and are better able to manage moods and our energy so that we can have more composure. I think that would be one thing I would say.

There are probably a couple of others that I would add to this, and that is that I think great leaders ask more questions and listen more than they speak. There’s a skill in that, learning to quieten the voice in our own heads when someone else is talking so that we properly listen without comparing to our own experiences and thinking about what we’re going to say next. That helps people to feel seen, to feel heard, to feel understood. I think that naturally fosters a more inclusive environment and essentially, you’re role-modelling the behaviour t you want to see in your team.

I see great leaders actively seek different viewpoints and encourage individuals to bring their perspectives to the table. One of the great questions that I’ve observed asked is, “What’s everyone thinking, but no one’s saying?” I think that is a nice one. I always think there no amount of truth, no matter how ugly, scares me because it’s just more valuable information that helps us to make better decisions.

Finally, I would pick up on that point about psychologically safe environments. How do you facilitate, as a leader, and create an environment that fosters that open-mindedness and empathy? I know you do so much great work around this Toby, so that people feel comfortable being able to express themselves.’

Psychological safety is so important in creating an inclusive environment. Essentially, it’s creating an environment where people can speak up, and share their thoughts and opinions or views or concerns without fear of retribution or being silenced somehow. It links to some other critical things.

If you think about safety in the workplace, if you’re working in a factory and you make critical components for an aircraft, for example, but you work in an environment where you feel that you can’t voice a concern if you see a risk or an issue that can have a detrimental impact on safety. I say that because I was talking to an organisation that made aircraft components, and when I asked them why diversity and inclusion was so important to them, they literally said, “We don’t want airplanes falling out for the sky so we want an inclusive environment where everybody can speak up if they notice something wrong in the manufacturing process.”

So when leaders are faced with difficult or challenging situations, I was interested in Rachael’s thoughts on how they can harness that emotional intelligence to navigate conflicts and create a sense of belonging for everyone.

‘I think, again, the themes of what we’ve been talking about here, self-awareness and regulation of your feelings are key to be able to retain composure and to not let things escalate. Empathetic listening, which we’ve just been talking about as well, giving people your full attention and asking open-ended questions so that you can show that you genuinely care about understanding different perspectives. Expressing empathy and compassion goes a long way to creating that sense of belonging and helps people feel like it’s validated what’s going on for them.

Encouraging that open dialogue and creating the right environment, and I think what I would add to that is reminding anyone that’s in a conflict situation of the shared values and the goals. I always think we have a choice of what we choose to focus on, and we can ask, “Are we focusing on what sets us apart or what brings us together?”

Remind people of that and that we’re aiming for a win-win situation. It might take time and you may need some mediation and some specialist support, but I think that you’re always wanting to look ideally for that type of solution.’

I’m reminded there that conflict isn’t always bad. If we look at Patrick Lencioni’s ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ in his Pyramid he says, “You need to have trust at the bottom”. The next level up describes how dysfunctional teams avoid conflict, or they have unhealthy conflict. Functional teams actively seek out differing views of opinions, but because they’ve got that layer of trust underpinning everything, then people are able to have that kind of healthy conflict or challenge one another without having to kind of do any like back-stabbing or politicking or anything like that.

I asked Rachael where she thinks mood management and inclusive leadership intersect with one another, and what steps could organisations take to prepare for this intersection.

‘I honestly don’t think that you can have true inclusive leadership without supporting individuals and teams to better understand and manage their moods and emotions. I think the future demands of work are going to require more diverse and distributed teams to get the best results so that we’re innovating, leading markets and stretching the realms of what is possible. Mood management is going to be absolutely critical for that kind of collaboration to work. And I think people have got to act now with this, and I include people at the very, very top. No one is immune to the impacts of our moods and emotions, and the way that they can influence our behaviour, performance and our impact on others. I think we needed to understand this yesterday because the world is changing and evolving at pace right now. So this kind of mood and emotional mastery, I think is foundational to leadership and any kind of high performance that we’re looking to get from our teams today.’

I moved to the question that I ask everybody when they come on the Inclusive Growth Show namely, ‘What does inclusive growth mean for you?’

‘I think for me, it’s an environment where we can all learn from one another and grow together. I don’t pretend to have all the answers or know everything because nobody does. I’ve been staying humble and open to learning at every level, at every stage. For me, that is fundamental for life. One of my favourite sayings is that if we’re not growing, we’re dying or we’re dead. But when we grow, it has this aliveness to it. Even better than that, when we grow, we become more and when we become more, we can give more.

For me, that is where there is so much joy and so much pleasure, not from what we get, but from who we become and what we give to the world. And I think inclusive growth helps us all to be ever-evolving and better and better versions of ourselves every day.’

Hopefully, you’ve taken away some great information that you can apply to your own leadership and your organisations. We’ve talked about the importance of moods and how you can check in with yourself  to be a better leader, a more impactful leader. We’re going to do another episode with Rachael where we’re going to be talking about burnout. So, if that’s a topic of interest keep your ears peeled for that podcast episode.

In the meantime, if you’d like to get access to all the information, resources and tools Rachael has to share to help people, the best way to do this is to reach out to Rachael via her LinkedIn page.

As always, me and my team are available to help you at any time with your own diversity and inclusion journey. You can just contact us through our website, which is

Mood Recognition and Inclusive Leadership - Mildon