Harvard professor Daniel Goleman who popularize he term “emotional” argue that every 1 percent improvement in organizational climates (measured by staff surveys) leads to a 2 per cent increase in revenue and/or profitability. Optimist is not only essential when striving to realize the vision; it also improves people’s performance. It is powerful and contagious. But what is optimist and how do you build an optimistic organization? The shorter oxford English Dictionary defines it as “hopefulness and confidence about the future or success of something.
Optimist is the state of mind where one looks upon the world as a positive place. In a business context, optimist is strongly associated with leadership success. Most studies of successful business leaders show that they have a healthy dose of optimism. They set challenging goals and refuse to be restrained by apparent barriers but they also prepare thoroughly as many contingency plans. One model of leadership competency is Goleman’s emotional intelligent model. Optimist is one of its key features and has the following four levels (of increasing importance):
LEVEL 1: has a positive outlook. Expects favourable results from self and others.
LEVEL 2: it optimistic about the future. Demonstrate confidence and a sense of control over events.
LEVEL 3: is resilient. Has the ability to recover from setbacks.
LEVEL 4: learns from disappointments. Analyses setbacks to learn from them.
Research indicates that successful leaders operate at the third level and above. These leaders persist in seeking goals despite obstacles and setbacks. They operate hoping for success rather than fearing failure. They attribute setbacks to manageable circumstances rather than innate personal flaws or unalterable environmental factors. While optimistic leaders seem to be born rather than made the good news is that optimism being a state of mind can be worked on and improved.
Regular monitored practices in a supportive environment are the best way to develop your optimism “muscle”. Here are some ideas:
- Say something positive every day about the work of your colleague and encourage them to develop. Do this for a week and see how morale rises.
- Be courteous. Always say “please” and “thank you”. Integrity is a highly valued leadership trait so being trustworthy, kind courteous, respectful and grateful will bring you credit.
- Be realistic and frank about your errors. Apologize to people you may have treated poorly.
- Agree on clear objectives for meetings, presentations and activities with everyone involved. Rehearse the event, visualizing a positive outcome. Anticipate tough questions and challenges (honesty is usually best where expectations have not been met).
- Conduct one-on-one interviews with your staff. Be positive about their contribution ask them what their objectives are and support their developments plans.
- Agree on team “charter” with your staff that sets out the core principles of behavior expected, seeking everyone’s input. Praise people when they behave according to the principles. Point out any failure to adhere to the charter in private. This will start to mould a positive optimistic organizational culture.
- Seek consensus wherever possible. Hold regular team meetings to encourage the open discussion of objectives and problems but do not be drawn into “ moan fests”.
- Communicate a sense of purpose. Standard of excellent and clear targets to the whole team. Issue regular performance-updates – both good and bad. Reward positive behaviors that you want to encourage while discouraging the negative.
- Encourage regular discussion about targets. Be positive about progress and be realistic and optimistic about the chances of success. Encourage everyone to contribute in the spirit of moving together towards a shared goal.
- Hold the “post-mortem” in the event of a failed project involving all concerned. Be open praise the positives and identify the risk and costs involved. Avoid blaming people but agree how future projects can be improved. Prints and distribute learning points to everybody. Make time for regular project reviews.
- When thing go wrong take it on the chin and move on. Identify and implement the key learning points from the failure but do not dwell on the situation.
- Apparently optimistic people smile 38 percent more often than pessimist so try to see the bright side of life’s little mishaps. Of course there are grave occasions where seeing the funny side is clearly inappropriate.
Above all be open and sincere. Communication your aspirations frequently. Support other people’s development. Recognize and reward positive behavior at an individual level. Use regular meetings and one-to-one review to encourage this in all your staff, particularly managers.
If you value the positive and scorn the negative you will soon create a more optimistic organizational climate. Sir Winston summed up the qualities of the optimistic leader eloquently when he said: “An optimist is someone who sees opportunity in every disaster. A pessimist is someone who sees disaster in every opportunity.”