4 Steps Toward Optimism
Low-energy organizations stumble over pessimistic leaders. Making a difference feels like swimming with rocks in your pockets.
Pessimism is a lifeless struggle toward oblivion.
“Shoe drop” leadership is necessary. Even in good times successful leaders are preparing for the other shoe to drop. But pessimism is only half the equation.
Fire yourself if you aren’t optimistic about the future.
If you really think it won’t work, do something else.
“Optimism is seeing the possibility of a brighter and better future while taking actions to create it.
The optimist doesn’t wish and say I believe tomorrow will be better. I believe tomorrow will be better. I believe tomorrow will be better.
The optimist says I know I will make tomorrow better.” Jon Gordon
“I think I can,” only works if you add, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go.”
A richer view of leadership optimism:
- Optimistic negative feedback. Clearly identify simple behaviors that make negative results better. Negative feedback is ultimately about the future.
- Optimistic problem solving. What’s blocking success? What will you do about it today? Optimism is the successful leader’s attitude when anticipating obstacles.
- Optimistic project management. We have the talent and resources to get this job done, if we bring our best. What’s next?
Believe you can make it work or don’t work at making it happen.
4 steps toward optimism:
- Believe. “Become an optimist by simply understanding that all things are possible to those who believe.” Jon Gordon
- Anticipate obstacles. “Cultivate your realistic optimism by combining a positive attitude with an honest assessment of the challenges that await you.” Hedi Grant Halverson
- Take action. Plan, act, learn, adapt, and try again.
- See the good. Ask,“What’s working,” at the beginning of meetings.
What are the dangers of pessimistic leadership?
How might pessimistic leaders step toward optimism?
Related material: Peter Senge on Breaking the Cycle of Fatalism.
Jon Gordon’s latest book: You Win in the Locker Room First: The 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life.
Heidi Grant Halverson’s latest book: No One Understand You and What to Do About It.
Your question on “Leadershipfreak Coffee Shop” on FB wetted my appitite for this post 🙂
This is such an interesting quality, leaders are called to both see what others can not AND balance steps that reflect some realistic measure, so those same folks can see the steps along the path forward. Leaders are called upon to use resources –human, financial, time, etc.– wisely. When communicating optimism or the tension of moving forward, I find use of a good metaphor very valuable… seeking an appropriate metaphor sometimes clarifies my thinking also.
FANTASTIC!!! I’m an optimist and to be honest a lot of people have a hard time digesting it. How can we get others on the same boat!??
I don’t think it helps to pressure pessimists to be optimistic. But, it might be useful to help people determine if pessimism is serving a useful purpose in their lives. What do you think?
Well, not to be misunderstood…I don’t pressure anyone into being optimistic. I didn’t mean “digesting” in that respect. I guess I should have said that I know several folks who aren’t receptive to my optimism.
I agree with you that it would be more useful to help people determine if pessimism is serving a useful purpose in their lives. I do feel like it’s easy to confuse pessimism with being realistic in our goals. If only it were easier to know how to walk that fine line…
Hi James. It looks like I came on a bit strong. I think we’re on the same page regarding pressure. I didn’t intend to suggest that you thought it was a good idea to pressure people. I was just saying that pressuring people isn’t a good strategy. Cheers 🙂
Good morning James;
S L O W L Y and methodically. ‘But’, don’t expect your efforts to work on all pessimist.
Regardless of the title you bestow upon yourself be it, (go-getter, hard-charger, self-confident individual), etc., etc. . You must remember, the pessimist does not share your ‘gusto’ toward life. This is why, an when, it’s so important for the optimist to tone it down a bit. Although the above mentioned attributes are admirable to most, the pessimist often views them as arrogant and cocky coupled with a know-it-all attitude.
Sometimes this misconception can ‘not’ be overcome…
“Good luck, hope this helps a bit!”
SGT Steve, you couldn’t have said that any better. Thank you!
Being consistent and being real are important… By being real I mean although we (optimists) can see past set backs, I think it’s important we recognize their presence, if not the pessimists will see us as “pie in the sky” and tune out our message.
“Yes it’s tough, but I’m focused on staying upbeat..” is how I play it out IRL.
Thanks Ken. I love the idea that a metaphor can move us to think optimistically. How do we get the rocks out of our pockets, for example.
Thanks also for mentioning the Coffee Shop page. I’m glad you joined in over there.
I usually start my day optimistically. I tell myself that there is no day that is bad day. Every single day is good because I know i am the one who make it. Try to be optimistic, I do things better and happily.
Thanks Naren. I hadn’t thought about the idea that a day is neither good or bad, it’s what we do with it. Cool.
It is difficult for an employee in a 25,000 person workforce to be able to convince existing leadership to advocate changing an existing process. The response seems to be always “This was carved in stone, so to say, 20 years ago. The change would require a massive overhaul and is almost guaranteed to be not accepted by the higher-ups.”
Thanks Tarah. You are absolutely right. What might be possible is creating small changes in your immediate department. I find that some departments learn how to thrive, even when upper leadership isn’t that helpful.
Liked the post! The 4 steps towards optimism are quite good & comprehensive in nature.
* Pessimistic leaders will adopt the route of procrastination to work on the urgent important tasks.
* They will also have a care-free, wait & watch approach while handling the priority.
* There is a tendency of not empowering people and go with centralised powers to avoid the immediate steps.
* They even ignore the warning signals as pointed by a second cadre leaders.
** This lethargic attitude would certainly do good damages at the end. The blame then comes on the second cadre of local leaders.
Good morning Dan;
It can be a challenge if not down right difficult working under a pessimistic leader. A pessimist doesn’t like change, is generally ‘scared to death’ of outside the box thinkers, and typically are ‘NOT’ very good at preparring for, or, forcasting the organizations future. (IF) you should have a legitimate idea or a solution to a nagging problem and share it with the boss in order to ‘get him on board’, you had better be chock-full supporting data and a detailed fail-safe plan.
Pessimist will entertain just about any and all ideas. The problem is they only do this out of fear. The shoe drop syndrome guides and directs a great deal of these folks actions. Rather than using the skill, talent, and experience that got them to their position, they allow worry and fear of the unknown to cause them and their organizations to stagnate.
When pessimist are faced with fact they must take action NOW or ‘go down with the ship’, their negative approach will never allow them to adopt an (All-in Roll-up your sleave’s Attitude). Which leads team members and subordinates to but one solution, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”
NOTE: Attitudes are contagious. So ‘Go-Getters’ BEWARE, guard yourself against the infectious symptoms of the pessimist, before you become one yourself.
Good one my friend.
I would contend that there is a fine line between reality and pessimism. I know from experience that it is hard to differentiate the two when having to deal with reality. I have seen a lot of people who prefer to walk around with rose colored glasses on and pretend the world is beautiful. When they come in contact with a realistic leader full of vision and reality, they are deemed to be pessimistic. This is the farthest from the truth.
As with anything else, establishing a baseline is a required step in correcting anything. If we fail to be realistic, then the efforts of correcting are for not. The problem comes in when people are afraid that realization of the truth means culpability or blame and that also is the farthest from the truth. Correcting the problem is the effort not applying blame. Leaders are responsible to their people and one of the best ways to be accountable to your people is through honesty.
Create a climate that encourages honesty and openness, one that will establish a baseline of trust for your working relationship. You accomplish this by establishing open lines of communication, encouragement and honesty. When your people come to understand that you are not out to hurt them, you will gain their trust. This affords you the opportunity to be forthright and honest which quells chances of pessimistic nature.
Now that’s just ‘Darn Good Stuff’ I don’t care who you are. Let me see if I got this straight; “You purposely create an open, honest, & encouraging climate that builds trustworthy working relationships?”
What a refreshing idea, get back to the basic’s starting with building a solid sense of community in the your workplace. B R I L L I A N T . . .
“Well said Partner.”