8 Tips to Cultivate a Culture of Optimism in Your Organization

Employee Engagement is Related to Optimistic Management

Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

This is the litmus test to see what kind of person you are. And though jokes abound about the liquid content of the glass, the bottom line is optimism is a big piece of employee engagement. Optimistic managers perform better and are more engaged. More engaged managers have more engaged teams. More engaged teams are more productive. The trickle-down effect of attitude is irrefutable.

So, if you’ve got a rainy-day kind of management style, or if your team is followed by the black cloud, you might want to consider these tips to open the door to optimistic management and employees in your organization.

1. Take out the “but.” We are always wanting more and wanting better from our team, from ourselves. When we celebrate successes, all the hoopla and toasting fizzle and die as soon as we say “but.” “That report was spectacular, but why don’t we use the numbers from last year as a comparison? “ “We reached our sales goals for November, but we need to make sure we don’t overspend on marketing.” But negates the celebration. Certainly there are always things we can do to improve. Stick with solid praise. Leave the buts for the next day when you’re planning on how to build on the great success of the day before.

2. Listen and communicate: This doesn’t only mean by physically “hearing”, but listening to the vibe of the office and getting a feel for when things are down. Take the time to engage with your team and check to see how your attitude is affecting them.

3. Workplace optimism is cultivated by managers. Both pessimism and optimism have ripple effects. Unfortunately, pessimism is more contagious than optimism. In fact, perception is a fickle thing. Sometimes companies may be marching full-force, but if the perception (due to pessimistic leadership) is otherwise, employees feel the weight of failure on their shoulders.

4. Acquire optimism: It’s hard to change the way we’re wired. Happiness studies have proven that much of how we view the world is genetic. Nevertheless, even the most pessimistic person can learn the tools to chin up. Margaret Greenberg and Dana Arakawa, graduates of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania, came up with a system to change pessimistic behavior with managers and employees through disputing, reframing, and active-constructive responding . (Jennifer Robison, It Pays to Be Optimistic, August 9, 2007, www.gallup.com).
a. Dispute: Refute pessimistic notions, whether they be your own or your team’s, your co-workers, with reasonable counter-arguments.
b. Reframe: Find the intent behind the action or pessimistic ideas. So, instead of reacting, your team and managers can respond, discuss, and no enter in panic, when they have to confront a complicated situation.
c. Active-constructive response: Listen to others’ great news, with intent. Don’t blow it off with, “Oh nice.” Really listen and respond with sincerity to the good happening to others.

5. Recognize that some people are negative: This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not good employees or engaged with the company. In fact, great leaders can see the value in this alternative perspective. Use that, but reframe it as a solution to a possible problem. This is called spin!

6. Focus on results: Set goals and take actions. People’s temperaments don’t change. But results can and do. Focus on the project and how to work better.

7. Shift the focus from function to responsibility: Oftentimes, we run into the, “It’s not my job” discourse. We need to talk about responsibilities, not functions. There’s an HR legend of possible candidates for a high profile job walking into an office with a piece of crumpled paper on the floor. Those who picked it up and tossed it in the garbage passed to the next round. Have your team ask themselves if something will negatively impact a potential customer or co-worker. If so, they need to address it because it’s their responsibility.

8. Invest in praise: Praise your team when they do well. Praise improvements. Be the manager that finds the good in what’s going on. Certainly, you don’t want to do this to the point it becomes toxic. But finding the positive shifts disasters into challenges, problems into opportunities.

So, is the glass half-empty or half-full? It doesn’t matter.

You can fill it up again.

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