Three Steps to Create Optimism in the Workplace
If you talk about optimism, you’ll find no shortage of quotes, clichés, proverbs or stories to guide you. Optimism is the original American dream: the hope of every student, new parent, entrepreneur, fledgling small business or politician. It’s why we root for the underdog or follow a good football, baseball or soccer game. The belief that “Excellence is not a skill; it’s an attitude,” said Ralph Marston, or “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,” said Winston Churchill. So where does optimism fit in your business? How can it help you be a better leader, or to motivate your employees? Science has shown that optimistic people heal faster, perform better, live longer and report more happiness and fulfillment in their lives. Optimistic employees work harder, longer and with a more innovative spirit. Optimistic customers believe in the value of what you are selling, and make the purchase. Optimism frames and fuels decisions, and in the modern workplace, it fosters solid work, innovation and sales. So how do you harness Optimismfor your business?
- Lead by example. Since Steve Jobs’ death, experts have mulled the incredible success he brought to Apple as its co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer. There are the technical aspects – the first portable MP3 device, the first smart phone, the first tablet. But it’s more than that. Microsoft has no shortage of firsts for technology, but they fail to generate the same buzz. Jobs succeeded because he valued design and salesmanship as much as function. It’s not just an MP3 device – it’s an iPod. It’s not a smart phone, it’s an iPhone. It’s not a tablet, it’s an iPad. In branding, Jobs understood the power of optimism. He was also famous for the enthusiasm he brought to Apple’s annual meetings, where he would herald “the next big thing.” In “Marketing for Scientists” Marc Kucher listed words Jobs used to describe his products between 1998 and 2008: stunning, revolutionary, awesome, beautiful, best, tour de force, cool, remarkable. You get the point and Apple’s employees and America did too.
- Promote your company’s values. There is no shortage of access to bad news in our culture. Technology has connected us, but has also saddled us with 24/7 coverage of controversy, crimes, natural disasters and wars. Infuse optimism in your workplace through your company’s values. Be clear about what your company stands for and why you are in business. Consider a tagline or phrase that employees can easily refer to and believe in. Facebook recently released a commercial that revolved around the meaning of a chair – and how chairs were made for people and connected people. It seems trivial, but it communicated the company’s core values with great effect. Facebook connects people. Focusing on that simple principle unleashed the optimism of both employees and consumers alike, making them proud to be part of Facebook.
- Remove obstacles. Now this is huge. Optimism cannot thrive when employees feel stuck. Consider: are you holding potential leaders back in your company? Is bureaucracy weighing you down? How can you enable future leaders to rise? How can you encourage innovation? I cannot answer this for each business. What I can do – is compel you to ask the questions. As a leader you know what can be done. Do it!