Mood Hoovers in the Boardroom

By Bob Morrell on February 13, 2020

One of the problems with Board meetings is that they very rarely allocate enough time to focus on what’s happening right now. When the Board convenes everyone will have prepared something that summarises where they are and then pretty quickly, looks ahead. So that is several people’s perspective on what’s going to happen. So that means that the Board have to discuss and agree on a hybrid of those competing visions. What never happens is enough analysis of what is happening right NOW. If you spent more time really unpicking the current outlook – the most immediate events, developments, successes and failures, and get everyone’s sense of where they are now, that focus is what will then drive change.

It’s actually a coaching principle. You spend time examining where you are. Then if the CEO or Boss supports where that is, and examines where they are for long enough, that in itself is often enough to drive the need to change. Because no-one wants to stay where they are for long. So this is a great practice for bosses who want their people to drive that change agenda.

What is often the case though, is a mood hoover sucks the life blood out of all positivity and dampens all ideas. So many Boards have one, lurking, quiet, listening, been there, done it, don’t risk it, don’t try it, don’t do anything, just exist. The mood hoover thinks they are being clever. They think their caution, negativity, and dismissal of ideas is actually important and valuable. They love to watch as the positive people slowly shut down in the face of their common sense negativity. Passive aggressive people who pretend to be being constructive just enough for you to doubt your own sanity to the point where you abandon creativity. These are the ones who stifle growth. They’ll say ‘It’s because of our caution that there’s still a company to manage’ – this is rubbish. Their caution is the drag down that keeps you from real success. The person who started the business didn’t suffer such introverted habits – at some point they must have taken a calculated rolled of the dice. That caution comes from fear, and from not really understanding the modern world. Most senior managers are products of their own managers. They act the same, say the same things and pretend to be different. So the mood hoover does it because it was done to them. It also masks that they’ve not prepared anything in advance so their only contribution is to pretend that their objection has value.

So the next time you’re in a planning meeting that wants to make positive plans and someone sticks their oar in to stop it, be ready. What are their alternatives?  What are their ideas then? What are their positive plans? You can’t just sit and do nothing in any business, and you can’t always do what you’ve always done because then you get what you’ve always got. Examine where you are and support where you are – then watch the motivation for change kick in.