One of the most challenging tasks for a leader is working with highly sensitive people. In these instances, it appears that every suggestion made is viewed as criticism. Nothing ever seems to work. Leaders faced with this dilemma often grasp at straws to locate one long straw to help determine a successful day. However, with enthusiasm and optimism, the leader starts over the next day in hopes of better results.
In Finding Nemo, the movie, Dory’s opinion about being in the whale’s mouth is half full of saliva. In contrast, Nemo’s opinion was that it was half empty. Though both are respected perspectives, only Dory’s offers positivity. It is crucial to understand what appears to be the opposite of positivity and reframe these statements to work for everyone involved when managing people.
Martin Seligman, a well-known psychologist, is admired for the term positive psychology; a term first coined by Abraham Maslow, said this “Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.”
Individuals’ optimism in the workplace and other areas of life can offer several key benefits. In addition, in his presentation to the American Psychological Association (APA) and in several of his books, optimism can be learned even if one does not hold consistent optimism. Seligman stated that “…the idea in positive psychology implies that optimism can be created in any situation by continuously challenging the negative “self-talk.”
- Can produce significant daily gratitude.
- It can provide a more meaningful life
- It helps to build resilience
- It creates a newfound self-esteem
- Everything said or done by a manger is no longer morphed into ‘self-identified’ criticism
- It helps staff members to earn more and propels career growth within the workplace
All roads to achievement consist of bums and boulders along the way. One must consistently ask whether crossing the bumps and moving the boulders is possible to succeed. Bumps and boulders in effective positivity are mostly formed in the mind. Through learned optimism, these obstacles can become obsolete.
Lastly, Seligman said, “They [optimists] tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder. These two habits of thinking about causes have consequences. Literally hundreds of studies show that pessimists give up more easily and get depressed more often.
To produce optimism in the workplace, leaders must think and behave optimistically in every instance. Leading by example often helps to build trust.
Dr. M. Charlotte Oliver
Seligman, M.E.P (2002). Learned Optimism. How to change your mind and your life. Free Pages
Seligman, M. E.P (2012) Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Houghton Mifflin
Seligman, M.E.P, Revich, K, Jaycox, L et al., (2007). The optimistic child: A proven program to safeguard children against depression and build life-long resilience. Harper Collins Publishers