The Mirror Effect

Yesterday I was watching a show about the human brain and some of its odd behaviors. One such behavior was The Mirror Effect. They showed a couple having an argument while the husband was making a salad. All of a sudden, the husband cuts himself with a really long, sharp knife and blood comes gushing out. I felt the pain through my body just by watching it. Weird right?

It’s the same mechanism that causes you to smile when someone else does. They called it Mirror Neurons on the show. It doesn’t look like scientists have much insight into how this works but it’s clear it does.

Then, today, I read Lew Cirne’s Q&A on the New York Times. He’s the CEO and Founder of a very successful startup called New Relic (an anagram on his name). One of the things he said there is the impact of a CEO on the psyche of his employees. Just one sentence can make or break their week.

I first experienced this a decade ago, when I was a young team leader at the Israeli Defense Force’s 8200 unit. I was managing 12 people at the age of 22 without a real clue what I was doing. One morning I came in very aggravated about something that happened earlier. My team members immediately noticed and it was clear it wrecked their day without me even saying a word. That’s when I learned my lesson. The impact of a manager is clearly profound.

With startup CEOs though it goes to the extreme. You have a daily impact on an entire company. Even if people don’t see you that day, they watch your actions as well as the actions of their managers, who in turn take their cues from you. I’m told this effect gets reduced once you cross 150 people (incidentally, that’s the number also mentioned in the Sapiens book as the limit to the size of a group of people where everyone knows each other).

So when Lew said that there are days he doesn’t come into the office if he feels he’ll have a negative impact, it resonated with me. It’s an interesting idea that I may find myself needing to implement one morning. Luckily, my optimistic way of seeing life has so far ensured I start my days positively energized.

Happy Hump Day to you all.

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