By Mindy Bortness
When I was working in the marketing department of The San Diego Union-Tribune, a job I loved from the moment I stepped in and sparked a love for hiring intelligence, I used to sign my name with a smiley face.
Every memo, email or handwritten thank you note, I always signed:
This little act of cheer was an extension of one of my core beliefs: optimism. It was, and still is, very important to me to extend optimism with every new interaction, client or project I’m working on.
To me, being optimistic is all about energy. When I approach a new situation with optimism, I’m bringing a lighter, more open energy into the interaction. This intention then becomes the focus. Despite what energy exists prior, or any somber facts that lead up to a current difficult situation, the infusion of optimism is always an energy reset for forward momentum and results.
One of my CEO clients leads a team of five strong, smart executives. One of those five, on a regular basis, went way beyond playing the Devil’s Advocate. (And doesn’t that title alone make you want to reset?) Back to the story – this executive we’ll call Sarah, could not help herself in bringing in all the bad or wrong that could happen, may happen, once did happen in any team brainstorming or strategy session. The others on the team spent the-meeting-after-the-meeting talking about Sarah. Lots of wasted productivity even at the highest levels. Imagine what the rest of the team talked about! Sarah was blind to her effect on the team and their outcomes. With direct and specific coaching from the CEO and myself, Sarah revealed a lot more that went into her negative approach to life and she found resolution within herself. She’s not a natural optimist, yet is now more well-rounded in her approach on the team.
Bringing optimism to the table allows others to move past their pain. While pain exists in the workplace – through tenuous relationships, stress of workloads and fear of failure, to name a few – my goal is to always help people push through. I don’t want individuals to spend too much time in their pain; instead, I want them to acknowledge it and learn from it for their better future.
It starts with optimism. Being optimistic about the situation at hand. Being optimistic that luck will be on your side. Having optimism that your team will rise to a new challenge. And most importantly, knowing optimism will help boost your natural talents to do great things.
Think about the last time you worked with a team where optimism wasn’t present. I’m willing to guess the void hindered communication, the open exchange of ideas and reaching toward greatness. Nothing squashes hope or brilliance more than negativity, and, as demonstrated through Sarah, it only takes one person to let this energy impact the group.
In today’s sometimes-cynical world, being optimistic can feel like an act of rebellion. However, I think optimism is less about a natural tendency and more about a personal choice. How do you want to show up in the world? How can you do your best work? What will help you be the most effective leader? Your energy has to have a spirit of optimism.