How to Be an Atmosphere Changer

First things first. I’m not catholic.

But I, like many, am fascinated by a pope that is sending new leadership signals.

Among the flurry of reactions to Pope Francis’ public demeanor, this comment tickled my fancy:

What we’re seeing is an incredible change in the atmosphere, Sister Carol Zinn, president of the umbrella group of American nuns, said in an interview. And when you have change in the atmosphere, it’s amazing what kind of things can unfold. (NY Times, Saturday, 9/21/2013)

Ah yes.

Atmosphere is not a superficial thing. Atmosphere describes the spirit and energy of an encounter, an event, a space. It is the unspoken force that surrounds and informs any moment in time.

And atmosphere is not a lucky accident. We contribute to it, every second of every day, with our public behavior.

Pope Francis consistently shows up with a wide beaming smile.

That’s atmosphere. It’s not superficial.

In most formal business settings, we tend to focus doggedly on what we want to get done. Atmosphere is an afterthought, at best. We disregard the very thing that will accelerate the outcome we desire.

How do we put atmosphere at the forefront of our business life?

1.    We name it. I consciously define the atmosphere I desire. I pick the adjective that best describes it: Playful. Open. Collaborative. Joyous. Serious. Energetic. The moment I name it, I am starting to claim it.

2.    We embody it. That sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Well, it IS that simple!!! Once I am clear, I act in accordance with the adjectives I have just claimed. Fully, wholeheartedly.

Not forced jovial. Not fake open. Not pseudo-serious.

No, I fully commit to the atmosphere I desire. I engage in behavior that embodies it.

The leap of faith in all of this? I know that what I say matters. It is my substance.  But I trust that atmosphere matters more. It is the spirit behind my substance. And this sprit is potent and infectious.

As Sister Carol Zinn so astutely notes, the right atmosphere will get us to amazing. It is the force that unlocks future potential. And that does sound pretty darn amazing to me.

This week, be mindful of the atmospheres you find yourself in. Ask yourself: Am I satisfied with the atmosphere of this meeting, this encounter, this conversation?

And then add your one/two punch. Name it. Embody it.

You will suddenly be acting as a conscious atmosphere-shaper. Not unlike Pope Francis …