Why is it important for leaders to see possibilities even when no one else can?
With our team, we have an attitude that there’s always a solution. It may not be easy, obvious, or painless — but it’s there. Taking this perspective forces you to imagine answers, and rearrange the pieces to make things click into place.
As a leader, you have to wield a machete, clearing a path for your team through the jungle to the possibility of magical treasure. Believing in what’s around the corner helps others to imagine the future, and work together to get there. Sometimes we have a map, sometimes just a hunch, but either way your belief in what’s to come can be infectious.
And sometimes it’s about getting things unstuck. You may not have the answer, but if you can help people see a new possible approach, they then are encouraged to go and find the best way to get it done.
Why is optimism essential when things are ambiguous?
Energy is contagious. And optimistic energy can be a very powerful thing. If you can outline potential paths forward amidst ambiguity — or share your belief that clarity will emerge — you can help people identify where they can carve out a small step forward and get one foot in front of the other. And as a leader, if you can’t imagine a future where a solution exists, how can you expect anyone else to? Optimism gives people the permission to take the necessary risks to move forward.
What do you do when you sense pessimism is affecting how you lead?
Balancing being authentic, transparent, and human with being a good leader can be a challenge. We all get frustrated. We all dwell on the potential negative outcome in a situation. In those moments, our facial expressions, body language, tone, and other subconscious reactions can be quick signals if what we’re feeling is pessimistic — even if we’re trying to sound optimistic.
It’s incredibly hard to always be that great leader who remains positive. In a conversation or meeting I try to take a breath and be conscious about how something makes me feel, using that bit of awareness to influence how I react to help ensure that I react as a leader first. Putting the good of the team ahead of personal feelings can be HARD but critical.
I think it’s very important to have conversations that constantly broaden and challenge your perspective. Often when you feel pessimistic you’ve lost perspective. Getting out of your routine or having a conversation with someone who has a totally different point of view can unlock the potential (and optimism) you missed.
Any tricks or tips for stoking optimism in your team?
We have an incredibly fast paced working dynamic that feeds off of our startup clients. It’s important that we pull back from that individually and as a team to keep the perspective we need to think about the bigger picture and the impact and purpose of what we do every day. The big reasons why the small things matter. I try to walk around our office and have random conversations with team members to hear how they’re doing, what they’re working on. A random chat about a small thing someone is solving can spark enthusiasm and shift the course of the day. And happy hours can help too. Finding ways to get the team socializing and inspiring each other, out of their day to day.