Posted by Sandy Yu on 11.5.2019
Successful leaders are able to move through conflict and push their teams to greatness. But when pessimism rears its ugly head and infects your team, it can be hard to right the ship.
Psychotherapist Bryan Robinson says that optimism is the key to happiness. As a leader, embracing optimism and coaching your team in that mindset leads to more effective and engaged employees who actually enjoy their work. We reached out to some industry leaders to pick their brains on how they keep an upbeat attitude, even when stress and the daily drudgery of cynicism tries to break through.
In the past, optimism was about seeing a clear path forward but the rapid pace of change has made it impossible to predict what’s coming next. As a result, the optimistic leader must shift their belief that their existing plan will work and instead embrace the belief that they can figure out whatever may come.
Since my childhood, I’ve maintained an optimistic outlook by following a few basic principles of personal and professional relationship building.
It starts with being aware of everyone around you as a human. Everyone has a story. The late or somber employee may have been up late caring for an ailing child or parent or may have just received a frightening medical diagnosis. Leaders should remain open to their team’s story and aware of the reasons behind their feelings, and treat everyone -- inside the business and out -- with courtesy and respect.
Additionally, offering genuine appreciation and gratitude for the company you work for helps display that you have their best interest at heart. When you believe in the work your company is doing and you radiate that positive attitude, your team and colleagues will pick up on your optimism.
When you put yourself out there in a positive way, you’ll not only feel more empowered to think bigger and act more boldly, but you’ll inspire others to do so as well. Don’t be afraid to stand out with a smile.
I always make sure that I give myself the time I need to recharge and rest. Being a business owner is quite stressful, especially in a rapidly-changing industry.
My job requires me to be completely focused, so I need to find ways of being fresh and energized for it. I tend to be much more optimistic when I’m not stressed, so I pay a lot of attention to self-care.
Nick Galov, co-founder of Review42
I’m an optimistic person, but as one of the co-founders of my company, I’ve realized that I have to stay positive even during the hard days. My employees know me... if I’m worried or stressed, they tend to be worried and stressed too.
At stressful times, it helps to stay open-minded. We focus on looking for a solution rather than worrying about issues and their causes. Instead of placing blame for problems, we keep up optimism by focusing on what we can do to fix them.
On especially tough days, I like to try to find some headspace. When I’m angry or anxious, a quick meditation helps to put my thoughts in order.
I have been running a business for several years and I’ve had to develop certain habits that helped me remain optimistic. First, I always read news and listen to podcasts about the successful business within my own niche. Their experience gives me hope and reassurance that I’m not the only one struggling with certain challenges. I often get inspired after hearing about a good startup and frequently apply some of the tactics to my own business as well.
Also, I have learned to accept failures since they are an inevitable part of the process. A lot of business owners want to succeed right away, so they get quite pessimistic if things don’t go as planned. I know that even the most successful companies have been through difficult phases, so I try not to allow bad moments to discourage me. I remain focused on my primary goal and work hard to make it work.
Darko Jacimovic, Co-founder Whattobecome.com
If you're not optimistic in general (or at least able to portray the impression that you are) your team tends to develop a very negative and overly-cautious outlook. Innovation and new ideas are immediately viewed with suspicion and shot down before they have a chance to be considered. Ultimately, it sets up an environment where failure is the expected default (and where people tend to look and be rather miserable).
It isn't possible for most people to remain optimistic at all times through all situations, particularly when you have a lot of responsibility. Be proactive in recognizing and mitigating stress at work by scheduling breaks and breathers, having someone to talk to about problems, and retaining your objectivity.
Additionally, focusing on the language you use and the way that you think about things can contribute to your optimism. Avoid statements that add the element of pessimism (like down playing success by highlighting how far you have to go) and focus instead on growth-centered speak. Focus on developing thought patterns and language choices that contribute to a more optimistic mindset.
Even if you're not really feeling it, make sure your doubt doesn't rub off on your team. Keeping your own stress in check helps your team retain their positivity and productivity. Their positivity will then feed back to you.
Polly Kay, Senior Marketing Manager at English Blinds
Having a positive attitude helps great leaders really engage their teams, but it's just not realistic to be optimistic every second of every day. We must both maintain an optimistic disposition (in spite of all the daily challenges of managing a business and a workforce) and coach employees to do the same in order to maximize their potential and improve the employee experience. By setting an example your team can follow, you create an entire environment of optimism.
Remain calm and poised - Remember that when you are present in a work environment as a leader, a major part of your job is to listen well in order to help your employees. Avoid getting wrapped up in the emotion that your people are putting forth, and be mindful of what you are saying and doing when you think no one else is watching.
Smile more - Facial expressions can say more than your words. Hone your focus in on the positive aspects of any situation. This will allow you to not only listen better, but it works to diffuse stress and anxiety that others around you might be experiencing.
Don't let anyone steal your joy - There are just some people that choose to be negative and have no desire to be optimistic. Regardless of the person or the situation, remind yourself that being optimistic is a belief and a behavior, and you have the power to choose to stand firm in your belief that no one can steal your optimism!
Control what YOU can control - When faced with adversity or negativity, remember that those events have already taken place and there is nothing we can do to go back in time and undo them. While it's easy to get frustrated, pass blame, and arrive at conclusions that are typically far worse than the actual truth, a more effective approach is to frame the issue in a way that focuses on a positive solution.
Always have hope and perspective - Optimism is hope. Envision and communicate a not-so-far-out future state where issues or negative situation you may be faced with are resolved. Putting things in perspective in the larger view of life helps your team navigate problems with more optimism.