It seemed like yesterday when the world shifted, and a global pandemic brought on countless challenges and changes. While it is easy to zero in on the cons during these times of uncertainty, everyone needs to remember that there is also a positive side to the equation. During these times of change, it is more important than ever to stay optimistic.
What is Optimism?
There is more to optimism than only staying positive; it is a strategy that looks to seek new opportunities and develop deep emotional courage and resilience despite setbacks. When an obstacle is thrown their way, optimistic individuals can pivot and identify potential new opportunities. Optimistic individuals can also stay resilient in the face of adversity; they understand that there is a lesson to be learned from each challenge.
By cultivating optimism in the workplace, employees will improve their problem solving and stress management capabilities, overcoming any obstacles thrown their way. A positive work environment also leads to higher performance and a connected team. Optimism will allow employees to emerge from the changing workplace, both positively and resiliently.
The Dark Side of Optimism
It is important to note that optimism is one of the 15 core competencies of emotional intelligence. Too much optimism can contribute to avoidance instead of a strategy to stay persistent.
Therefore, leaders need to cultivate a balance of optimism. Team members must recognize that staying optimistic is not a method to filter out negative feedback and news, but rather an approach that urges them to look on the bright side – find new opportunities, and stay resilient.
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
Optimism is a skill that can be learned primarily through practice. Individuals are not born either optimistic or pessimistic; learning optimism is a skill that develops over time. The first step to practice optimism is recognizing emotions. When faced with an obstacle, what emotion(s) appear? Once emotions are named, they can be tamed. After identifying and coping with the feelings, the next step of practicing optimism is to now think about the lesson(s) learned. While the obstacle may not be in your favour, know that there is always a benefit to each challenge. Turn challenges into learning opportunities; as the famous saying goes, “when one door closes, another door opens.”
For example, use the situation of getting laid off in a job. It is natural to feel upset at first. There is a loss; you lost your job. Loss can evoke a myriad of emotions, from sadness and regret to anger and frustration. After taming the emotions, now it’s time to reflect upon the story’s moral. Despite being let go from the company, recognize that other opportunities lie ahead. Reflect on what you learned, along with what you enjoyed and did not enjoy in your previous role. Then, use that information to drive your next job search. Optimistic individuals think about themselves positively; do not let your challenges consume you. Instead, learn from your challenges, and use the lessons learned to propel you forward to seek new opportunities on the horizon.
When faced with conflict, it may be easier to focus on the negatives. To begin thinking optimistically, view your problems as temporary setbacks, not permanent conditions. By adopting this mindset, you will recognize that challenges are interim and learn ways to overcome the obstacle.
How to Cultivate Optimism in the Workplace
The traditional office life has shifted to remote work, now incorporating elements from employees’ personal lives. For example, team members are now invited into each others’ home offices virtually during meetings. With these changes, every employee has their own opinions and change tolerance. To boost morale and synergy, emotionally intelligent leaders need to be at the forefront of instilling optimism in the workplace, reminding their team members that they can make it through the turmoil.
Here are a few strategies leaders can implement to boost the workplace’s optimism and assist in the mission!
As mentioned in Leading Effective Virtual Meetings, a quick check-in at the beginning of a virtual meeting can help understand your team members’ emotional state, even though physically apart. The check-in can be as simple as asking ‘How are you doing?’ to dedicating a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting to discuss what team members did over the weekend. These check-ins help team members get to know each other outside of work and start the discussion and workday with a positive note before diving into work. By regularly incorporating check-in’s, employees will begin to feel a sense of optimism and self-worth.
Wired for Connection
Humans enjoy social connection; having a variety of deeper connections contributes to improved well-being. Since apart, employees may no longer feel as connected to the company or the people. To combat this, utilize technology to communicate with your teams. Communication can take form in an informal space to stay social, such as the #random Slack channel, or sending out a feel-good news article every Monday to kick off the week on a high note. Another option is to host virtual socials. Whether you choose to conduct a virtual happy hour or virtual game night, either will present a perfect opportunity to bond.
Creating a strong connection with your team helps cultivate optimism as it contributes to a positive environment. When you trust your teammates, you can collectively cheer each other and collaborate to see possibilities in each situation.
Be a Champion of Optimism
Leaders must ensure that they believe in an optimistic work environment before spreading the message. One way to show that you care is to hold one-on-one meetings with your team members. From the leaders’ perspective, you will provide valuable feedback on your team members’ goals and performance as a leader. In return, it allows for a deeper level of connection between you and your team.
During these meetings, showcase that optimism is a value you want to display in the workplace. If a team member is sharing their challenges, help them see the silver lining. Give them time to vent, but then use the conversation as a coaching opportunity. Ask them if they are open to having a coaching conversation, and if they agree, ask them what their goals are and how they think they can overcome their current challenges. By acting as the role model of focusing on solutions, not problems, you are naturally instilling your team to feel empowered and more optimistic. They will quickly realize they have the answers inside of them to solve their challenges. Your team members will soon adopt the same optimistic mindset you are modelling.
Cultivating optimism in the workplace starts with investing in your people and illustrating that you care. By nurturing an optimistic workplace, your team will feel connected with each other and resilient, able to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
If you would like to learn more about cultivating an optimistic workplace, check out our keynote, Staying Emotionally Connected Together Apart, available in live or virtual delivery. You can also check out our workshop on Corporate Culture, where you will learn how to foster a positive corporate culture by using emotional intelligence.