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Optimism at Work Starts at the Top

Creating an environment of positivity at work may seem like an impossible goal. However, optimistic leaders who inspire confidence and hopefulness tend to have more engagement, less turnover, and higher revenues.

Recessions, industry collapse, global unrest, and large mergers and acquisitions along with the new normal that is emerging from the pandemic can have leaders spending more time focusing on ways to mitigate risk than building an optimistic work environment. This causes tension that slowly, or not so slowly, disperses throughout an organization.

Leading with optimism shifts the way you look at potential risks or problems.

Optimism leads to achievement because it assumes that every challenge has a solution. It also shifts your leadership mindset so that you better leverage your colleagues and staff, rather than trying to do everything yourself.
When leading with optimism, understanding that everyone has different ways of thinking, approaching issues, and communicating is important. Learning the best way to communicate and discuss challenges and ideas with your individual team members allows you to tap into their unique abilities. This also ensures that everyone feels heard and respected, thus giving them a feeling of optimism in their work.

There are three key principles to leading with optimism:

Have a servant leadership approach - In business and life, approaching people and situations with a servant leadership mindset will dramatically impact how others see and relate to you. Cultivating a "we" approach in yourself and your team fosters a service mindset. It also creates a level playing field for all. This will not only boost optimism and engagement, but also productivity and innovation.

Accept imperfections
 - Perfection is unattainable. You can strive for 80-90% perfect but expecting complete perfection from yourself or others will sap motivation and leave everyone frustrated. It will also prevent your team from coming up with the next great innovation or idea. Instead of striving for perfection, look for ways to learn from mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth.

Be open to new ideas - Sometimes the best way to tackle an issue is to crowdsource a resolution. Brainstorming with friends and colleagues can bring to light a potential solution that you may not have thought of on your own. The key is to be open to any and all ideas, no matter who proposes it or how outlandish it may seem at the time.

Leading with optimism is a mindset shift that allows you to look at each challenge as a puzzle that can be solved. It fosters an environment that empowers everyone to be an active participant in solving the puzzle, which leads to a more positive and inclusive culture, greater retention of top talent, and increased productivity and innovation.

Tim Atkinson is a self-described optimist and vice president in Avaap’s management consulting practice. He brings more than 20 years of experience helping business leaders identify specific ways to align strategic goals for transformation and drive outcomes that benefit institutions, agencies and organizations and their students, citizens and customers.