James Langabeer PhD, Professor & Vice Chair at UTHealth, is the founder of: Yellowstone Consulting, LLPa management consultancy.
Most of us have general tendencies, or tendencies, to see the world either as bright and sunny or as dark and gloomy. Especially given these times – amid ongoing Covid, war, rising inflation and a declining stock market – it is difficult to remain hopeful and positive. There is nothing right or wrong about moods or attitudes; they are largely just inherent human differences. But for small business leaders, these dispositions are vital because they can make or break your company’s bottom line.
Genetic predisposition suggests that your genes, or hereditary biological characteristics, are passed down in your family tree and dictate, in part, how you think and do. There are many other influences, such as your environment, education and social norms, that play a role. But genes are important. To some extent, your happiness (or lack thereof) is derived from your aptitude.
Optimism is determined as a belief that future results will generally (not always) be positive. Conversely, pessimism is more about doubt and the belief that things will not go in your favor. Theories of positive psychology suggest that what you think and speak will indeed become a fact.
Being optimistic can actually put you in a better position to succeed. A recent Harvard Business Review article showed that actively encouraging positivity in your team is linked to the ability to survive turbulence and achieve better results in the long run. This is one of many studies showing that a healthy dose of optimism can improve your decision quality and overall performance.
a lot of the Research on entrepreneurs shows a tendency to take risks. A higher risk tolerance is associated with a greater chance of entrepreneurship. So risk, optimism and the search for new ventures are all related for you, as a founder or leader. But what about your organization? Most people today see a lot of job opportunities, rising wages and flexible work structures, so they are much more likely to consider outside options and find a new position. How do we create optimism for our own business prospects within the organization?
Optimism can be: taught and learned† You can cultivate the aspects of your decisions and thoughts that are positive, or you can hire people around you who embrace the traits. To me, the foundation of building an optimistic business is to first truly believe that your business will succeed. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be there. And if you do, you need to actively spread that news to everyone you meet: your employees, customers, and suppliers. Optimism breeds optimism.
Optimistic leaders are generally good motivators. Motivating your team should be much more than just words and rewards. Creating an environment that nurtures, sympathizes, encourages others and allows creativity and personal freedom is necessary today. By keeping your employees motivated, the climate remains more optimistic.
Leaders can also encourage collaboration between different units within an organization. Optimists tend to be people-oriented and this encourages a spirit of collaboration. Collaboration generally produces better results than silos and solos.
But the question remains, how do you develop this mindset if you don’t already have one? A good way is to hire a coach to help you. Business coaches work on you as much as the business. The key is to learn and embrace a more optimistic mindset without becoming unrealistic or minimizing serious personal problems. Staying true to your leadership style, meeting your employees where they are, and encouraging a strong belief in your company’s values creates success.
However, excessive or false optimism can create an exuberant bias in the way you make decisions. If you are overly optimistic in your beliefs, you can take risks that are not wise or healthy and create a culture of toxic positivity where your employees feel undervalued. This has been repeatedly found as a cause of organizational failure†
So, to build a better business, learn to be realistically optimistic and expect the results to follow.