And how to induce it in others.
How many of your leaders would you describe as being actively, infectiously “optimistic”? And how many of your employees? I dare to guess the answer to both these questions is, “very few”.
Often the optimism that fuelled the start of the business is whittled away over time and near impossible to regain.
We all intuitively know that such positivity has a fundamental impact on company success. Yet business people rarely talk of the need for optimism. It is only when I coach high-performing CEOs that it comes up. In fact, they often list it as one of the top requirements of their job.
Being optimistic is an underrated value in a business. It’s important generally, and it is particularly vital for creating momentum. The truth is that a baseline of optimism about the future vastly improves the potential for everyone in an organisation to be creative, innovative, productive, motivated and enthusiastic.
So how can you induce optimism in others?
It has become fashionable to talk about happiness at work and “employee engagement”, but it’s a bit of a loose term, and covers a multitude of sins. HR departments can be guilty of using such language without substance. The sad truth is that employee engagement has ended up being associated far more with dog-eared posters, poor training and failed intranet sites than with business transformation.
Besides which, the cultivation of true optimism is not something that can be delegated to HR. Woolly notions of ‘getting ourselves to feel great’ are a waste of time and often lead to nothing more creative than a false smile. True optimism doesn’t mean being chirpy, phoney or superficial. Surface optimism is often embarrassing for all concerned.
Whatever we call it, good leaders take responsibility for optimism themselves and think about it all the time. They ask themselves difficult questions to derive the truth and ensure optimism is a real business goal, sewn into the fabric of the corporate culture.