Optimism relates to one’s attitude and outlook on life. Your perception of possible future outcomes and to maintain positive, resilient and hopeful even in the face of adversity.
Being optimistic about life is generally a good thing. However, we must also balance a potential optimism bias and realism. Optimism bias would be someone’s tendency to overestimate the likelihood of having a good outcome to the detriment of certain facts and outcomes. A more extreme example would be if I put my naked hand into a fire and I am optimistic that it will not burn.
Most people have a general optimism bias which is much healthier of course. Having a good balance of optimism and realism does not equate to pessimism.
“Optimism isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better, it’s a conviction that we can make things better.” – Melinda Gates
Higher Range vs Lower Range Optimism
Someone who falls in the higher range of optimism tends to have a more positive and hopeful outlook on life and challenging situations.
• Greater overall feeling of contentment and a hopeful of a positive future.
• Look for the silver lining and confident that there is a way forward.
• Less fearful about the future and possible challenges.
• Be more aligned with goal setting and belief in achieving them.
On the other hand, someone who falls in the lower range of optimism is more likely to let life’s challenges weigh them down.
• Lack confidence to face adversity.
• Allow fear to control their life and choices.
• Be pessimistic and get caught up in thoughts of potential negative outcomes.
• Be less hopeful that challenges can be resolved and even lead to positive outcomes instead.
Impact In The Workplace
The overall optimism of a team will have a great impact in the workplace. Both in the overall culture of how they face challenges as well as the general outlook and potential of the organisation. If one does not believe that you are able to solve a problem, it is easy to become despondent. The same is true for the organisation that you work for. If you do not believe in the overall advantages that the organisation brings to the marketplace, one could start to feel as a fraud in selling their products. Example, a salesperson selling widgets that he feels is inferior and will not improve his clients lives. Not only is it incongruent, but it may start eating at their conscience. Someone who is not optimistic in their outlook in their job will probably resign sooner rather than later or start to feel lots of stress.
Optimists are just as likely to face challenges and have setbacks as someone who is a pessimist. However, the optimist tends to face the challenge and look for the resolution and way forward. Optimism in the workplace will help teams be positive and enthusiastic when facing their work tasks. This is more likely to create more productive individuals and teams. Those higher in optimism are more likely to:
• Encourage other team members.
• Not dwell on their own or other’s mistakes.
• Build positive relationships and look for positive traits in their colleagues.
• Not overreact to feedback and constructive criticism.
People who fall lower in the optimism scale, are less likely to feel that they can have and make a positive impact at work. They are more likely to:
• Find it more difficult to face challenges and setbacks.
• Criticize and break down colleagues for mistakes.
• Struggle to build positive relationships with colleagues and find common ground.
• More focussed on what could go wrong than what may go right.
When pessimism reigns, productivity wanes.
Impact In Leadership
Optimistic leaders are more likely to notice and bring out their team’s full potential. They are encouraging and motivating. When staff make mistakes, they look to see how they can help the team member overcome the challenges whilst providing constructive feedback. This attitude fosters a positive workplace culture where staff feel confident and empowered to do their best.
It reminds me of a story I once heard. In the 1940’s, a young IBM employee made a mistake that cost the company about one million dollars. As he believed he was about to be fired, he typed up his letter of resignation. He approached Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, to hand him his letter. When he explained to Watson that he expected to be fired so decided to hand in his resignation, Watson had an amazing response. “Fire you, I’ve just invested one million dollars in your education, and you think I’m going to fire you?”
When a leader with high optimism faces challenges, they are much more likely to look for the ‘silver lining’ and focus on problem-solving.
• They help their staff to believe in possibilities.
• Encourage others to “make things happen.”
• Look for opportunities in seemingly challenging situation.
• Look for lessons to be learnt from challenges to make things better in the future.
Leaders who struggle to be optimistic, may find it hard to rally their team behind them when faced with adversity. This is especially true if they overly focus on mistakes and potential difficulties. This may discourage staff and give them the impression that they can’t achieve or do well.
Potential pitfall of being overly optimistic.
While optimism is generally very beneficial, there can be times when to much is not a good thing.
Example: Imagine a staff member that frequently makes very costly mistakes. A leader high in optimism may potentially overlook these mistakes in favour of trying to focus on things they do well instead. However, if the staff member is simply negligent and takes advantage of such a leader, the organisation will suffer the consequences. There may be potential financial losses, other members leaving, losing clients and more.
In another example, an overly optimistic leader may not know when to accept that a project isn’t working or worth pursuing. One could imagine a gambler throwing good money after bad to try make up the losses. Hoping and wishing that it all works out.
“The predominant quality of successful people is optimism. Your level of optimism is the very best predictor of how happy, healthy, wealthy and long-lived you will be.” – Brian Tracy
Increasing Optimism and Emotional Intelligence
If you feel that this is an area that you or someone you know may want to work on, then help is at hand.
On completion of the emotional intelligence assessment, we will work together to understand where you may sit on each of the subscales of EI. We can then work with you to increase the specific areas that you feel will have the most immediate and positive impact in your life.
The emotional intelligence assessment is done online and followed up with a face-to-face coaching session, which can be done via Zoom or in person.
Working on one’s EI can lead to significant positive results in all areas of life. Not only making one over all happier, but more effective and approachable.
To find out more about how your organization can benefit, contact us today for a no-obligation conversation.