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Fresh News: The power of optimism

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The Power of Optimism

by Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

When Metropolitan Life used an assessment of optimistic attitude to select and hire salespeople, they saved millions of dollars in the personnel selection process. Regardless of a host of other factors, those who scored highest on the optimism scale outsold those with lower scores by 27 percent.

Long before Dale Carnegie, the human potential movement, or self-help videos, a positive outlook was acknowledged to be a crucial part of high-level achievement. In today's fast moving, always-changing business environment, a positive, upbeat, "can-do" attitude is vital for success.

After years of profiling people who do exceptionally well dealing with change (those I've labeled "change-adept"), I've seen the power of optimism at work.

In Chinese, the ideogram for crisis combines two characters: One is the symbol for danger, the other for opportunity. The same dual aspects can be ascribed to change. With any change, the danger of possible reversals coexists with incredible opportunities for personal and professional success.

When change-adept people are asked for verbal images they associate with change, they acknowledge the stress, uncertainty, pressure, and disruption, but they optimistically focus on the benefits -- the opportunity, growth, adventure, excitement and challenge. And, because they don't turn setbacks into catastrophes, these optimists are better able to bounce back from emotional and physical stress.

But it takes more than a "glass is half full" attitude to thrive in changing times. It also takes a willingness to put that positive attitude into action. And here is where I noticed a big difference between passive and active optimists. Passive optimists wait on the sidelines, hoping for the best, while active optimists get involved, persevere, and make things happen.

There is nothing wrong with sitting back and wishing the company well, but there is also nothing dynamic in that approach. Organizations going through change may appreciate the support of passive optimists, but they should treasure the concrete contributions of active optimists.

Obviously, active optimists do not dwell on negativity, but neither are they oblivious to potential danger. Rather, they analyze situations for both positive and negative aspects, develop strategies to minimize negatives and optimize positives, and then go to work to implement those strategies. Change-adept individuals realize that spending too much time worrying about troublesome aspects or negative outcomes is a waste of mental energy that saps enthusiasm and makes it more difficult to realize the potential opportunities that are also inherent in the situation.

I've seen it time and time again: People in an organization who seek to become involved in change efforts tend to have a much higher self-image when that wave of change has passed. Those who are swept along (whether positively or negatively inclined to accept change) are left feeling unsatisfied and disappointed in the way change controlled them.

Change is with us and will be with us for the rest of our working lives. No one can escape that fact.

We cannot control or influence all that happens to us during an organizational transformation. But we can control how we respond to what happens. If change is indeed a fact of business life, it is just a fact. And facts are external, objective events.

Active optimists choose to react positively and to look for ways to make those events work in their favor. Most importantly, they make the choice to turn their optimism into dynamic action. In the constantly changing circumstances that have become the new status quo, this is one powerful choice!


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is a coach, consultant, and keynote speaker who helps her clients thrive on change. She addresses association, government, and business audiences around the world. She is the author of ten books including "This Isn't the Company I Joined - How to Lead in a Business Turned Upside Down." Her newest book, "THE NONVERBAL ADVANTAGE - Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work," will be published by Berrett-Koehler in May 2008. For more information, contact Carol by phone: 510-526-1727, email: CGoman@CKG.com, or through her website: http://www.CKG.com.

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Reports I have written:

Measuring the impact and ROI of social media
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making social media work for your business
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: the new business communication landscape
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing

How to use social media to engage employees
Contributing author to How to use social media to engage employees - for Melcrum Publishing

Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing

 

 

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