Blimey the news is depressing! The brutal reality of the current cost of living crisis; the energy crisis; the war in Ukraine; the climate crisis; supply chain problems; labour shortages; pay disputes with strikes to follow; etc. All combine to portray a no-hope picture and heap pressure on leaders everywhere to strike a note of optimism to rally themselves and their teams as we end a pretty tough year.
Luckily, leaders who succeed through such crisis, have developed the skill of being able to see and then focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Partly this comes from the requirement they have to create a compelling Vision for their area, a strategic destination worth arriving at, one that gets people out of bed in the morning.
If they fail to do this then the journey into the near future will be akin to a trudge through a muddy pool, a prospect that motivates no one.
Leaders are purveyors of hope.
Leaders have, as an unwritten part of their job description, the need to be purveyors of hope. This requires them to summon up optimism when it is needed most, the darkest hour just before the dawn.
No matter how hard the headwinds and how steep the climb at this time of the year, leaders are obliged to set stretching, yet realistic goals for the year ahead. The challenge they face is to set them in such a way that the teams they lead can understand what it will take to achieve success whilst leaving room for innovation around how they can be delivered.
Such goal setting is an art not a science!
Set the goals too ambitiously then they will de-motivate and hopelessness will set in. Set the goals as last year + 10%, (often the default standard), then this simply encourages the efficiency paradigm where teams peddle their operational treadmill that little bit faster and not really consider new thinking and new ways of working. The requirement is to consider the opposing forces of optimism and reality and set goals that motivates your teams, expressed with the belief that if it was easy anyone can do it. Luckily you are not anyone!
Remaining optimistic and hopeful is a requirement for all great leaders. It is OK to vent about the unfairness of the hand you have been dealt, but not with your teams or your boss! Such venting can provide a cathartic release of emotions but if done with your teams it has a damaging effect. Remember we all want to believe we are working for someone who knows what they are doing, has a grip on current reality, and can explain how we are going to move forward and succeed.
New thinking in required
One thing is for sure, paraphrasing Einstein’s famous quote.
“The thinking that got us into this situation may not be the thinking that will get us out of it”
A new way of thinking has to start with a belief expressed by the leader that things will get better. Sure, they may get worse before they get better, but we have to believe success awaits, otherwise all hope will be lost. Not a prospect to contemplate!
As we exit another year, it is worth taking time to look in the mirror and reflect and feel gratitude for your achievements and look ahead to next year with hope and optimism.
You could consider the alternative, but I am sure you will agree this should be dismissed pretty quickly. If you want to know where to get this Optimism Pill then contact me and I will see if I have any left.