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Jack Dunigan


Seven Ways to Enthuse Employees With Hope

It's an invigorating force

Published: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 08:53

R ecently I shared five reasons why hope is not an effective strategy, but hope is, nonetheless, an essential attitude. What do you think influences that attitude? Let’s take a look.

There’s a difference between hope and hope so. The former is certain, expectant, optimistic. The latter is tentative, doubtful, and pessimistic, at least to a significant degree.

Hope is an energizing and invigorating force. It’s often the difference between success and failure. It provokes effort, creativity, and positive feelings of value. You can’t obtain hope by demanding it from others and you can’t maintain it without a continual source of fuel. The things that you do and do not do directly affect it.

Hopeful people come to work excited about prospects; they’re bolstered by past successes and future opportunities, and energized to address the challenges of the day. But hope also inflates the positives and deflates the negatives, and therefore clouds the faculty to make intelligent decisions and take intelligent action. When used as a strategy, hope will leave a team ill-prepared to address unexpected difficulties. Hope as an attitude, however, adds horsepower to the engines of enterprise so that obstacles are overcome and barriers are breached.

Stress is the negative force that drains energy and allows us to consider defeat as an option. Eustress (a term coined by Hans Selye who called negative stress “distress” and positive stress “eustress”) is the positive force that sparks enthusiastic participation, ignores fatigue, and never considers defeat an option. The difference between the two is the attitude of hope.

Seven things you can do right now to enthuse your associates and employees with hope

1. Be decisive even if you’re not always absolutely certain. Indecision and its brother, inaction, can influence a group’s desire to win, even its will to survive. Leaders lead. That means they have ideas, know what to do, give direction and take action. People follow leaders. They equate strength with decisiveness and rightly so. They abandon leaders who cannot or will not lead.

2. Be confident, even if you don’t feel very confident. Sometimes bluster is necessary. Not bullying or abuse, but that swag that comes with assurance. You as a leader must be comfortable with and confident in your position, your authority, your right to lead, and your responsibility to make things happen.

3. Smile even when you feel like scowling. Hope as an attitude is an intangible quality influenced and demonstrated by subtle markers. Look positive, sound positive, and act in a positive manner. Optimism breeds optimism, which can spark enthusiasm and energy.

4. Be nice even if you’re angry. Bluster and bull may make you feel better and you might think it produces big results, but those returns are only short-term. You succeed much more quickly and influence more people when you act in a gracious manner.

5. Acknowledge setbacks and failures but celebrate successes. Your associates are not stupid. They know when something has gone wrong. Admit it, address it, deal with it, and move ahead. Don’t be positive to the point of being insensitive. When one major American corporation changed its pay policy, it negatively impacted several thousand employees. Some of them experienced a $25,000 drop in annual income overnight. Local store managers tried to put a happy face on the new policy by saying it was a “positive move going forward.” For the company it might have been positive. For those employees who experienced a loss, it most certainly was not. Don’t be insensitive. Hope is born out of understanding the circumstances and the people who must deal with them. Anything less is not hope; it's pure fantasy.

6. Impart confidence in your team and in their ability to meet the challenges they face even if you have secret doubts and reservations. Don’t interfere with their sovereignty. Don’t butt in unless it’s absolutely critical. That’s called meddling and it only provokes annoyance and dismay. If you’ve done your job well, if you’ve recruited and hired competent people, let them do their job. You do yours, which is to lead—we all understand that leadership is an inspirational function primarily. Stay out unless and until you’re needed, and then tread carefully.

7. Give credit when victories are won, objectives are surpassed, and milestones are reached, even if there is still a long way to go. Every week, every two weeks, or once a month, money shows up in our bank accounts. Pay periods happen often on most jobs. Why? Because we have bills to pay? Well, yeah, but it is the periodic reward made in exchange for our work that keeps us coming back. Here’s a hint: The higher up the pay scale someone is, the more critical it is that rewards be more than monetary. There is the sense of satisfaction, the feeling that effort and talent have meaning that encourages us. Hope comes when we feel that we are making a difference. Giving credit can’t wait until the job is completely finished.

First published May 19, 2014, on The Practical Leader.


About The Author

Jack Dunigan’s picture

Jack Dunigan

For more than four decades, Jack Dunigan has been leading, consulting, training, and writing. His experience is varied and comprehensive. His training and consulting clients are as varied as the Chief Justice of the Navajo Supreme Court to a top-rated campsite management company. But his advice is not merely academic. His blog, www.ThePracticalLeader.com, is focused on practical advice for leaders and managers of businesses, corporations, nonprofit agencies, families, organizations, departments, anywhere and anytime a person leads others. His latest book is Three Absolutely Necessary, Always Present Skills of an Effective, Successful Leader (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2012).