3 Ways to Restore Optimism at Work

3 Ways to Restore Optimism at Work

Posted on 08. Jun, 2010 by in Wake Up & Shake It Up

This is the second of 14 special blog posts in the Wake Up & Shake It Up Blog series. We’ve got 12 guest bloggers. Today I share my thoughts…

I need you to do one thing before you read any further.  I need you to silence the skeptic voice in your head. I’m asking you to read the rest of this blog from a perspective of what’s possible.

In organizations across the country the mood is anxious, at minimum. Not in all, but definitely in most. And it’s time to shift the mood to one of optimism.

Your organization can’t afford to wallow in the muck that’s accumulating around everyone’s feet.  It’s time to engage your employees. Research from Hewitt Associates put the price tag of employee disengagement at $10,000 per employee in annual profits.

To shift the mood requires your uncommon leadership.

Here are 3 ways you can restore optimism at work by reengaging your people through uncommon leadership acts.

Help Employees Self-Actualize: Yup, you read it here.  I was chastised by a VP in HR for believing this. Here’s the reality: your employees spend more time at work then they do at home.  They are giving up precious time to work on themselves.  Gone are the days where employees separate their work-self from their “real-self.” Help employees grow personally and professionally and then get out of their way. Let them show you their appreciation for recognizing them as a whole person with interests outside the company.

Human Engagement: Social media is helping us reconnect with each other.  Amazing conversations are happening; collaboration is taking on new forms.  This blog series was made possible because of social media – Twitter specifically.  Apply what social media is re-teaching us: engage your people through authentic conversations that aren’t spruced up with fancy presentations, impersonal emails, or rehearsed, recorded speeches.

Walk amongst your people. Sit down with them at lunch. Learn about who they are. Share who you are. People want to connect – it’s in our nature as human beings.

Own Up to the Impacts from Drastic Cuts: Many organizations made tough personnel decisions because of the economy. When it comes to profit and employees, organizations think short-term and hack the workforce to save profits. It only unravels a host of problems in the long run that I can’t explore in this particular blog post.

If you made personnel cuts you need to know that it hurt your employees more than you know. Talk about it. Don’t let it go unmentioned. Discussing the impacts helps the healing.  And trust me, there are some companies out there who are in serious need of healing.

And if this all sounds very touchy-feely, recall my request of you at the beginning of this blog post. Uncommon leadership means rewiring your style to connect with your employees as people, on a human level, not as a means to profit.


So, what are you willing to take on? Share what action you’ll take to restore optimism in your workplace.

Your comments could be included in the commemorative, free eBook highlighting reader’s experiences.  The eBook will come out in July after this series ends.

P.S. If you want a real world example, read this HBR blog post.

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11 Responses to “3 Ways to Restore Optimism at Work”

  1. Mike Henry Sr.

    10. Jun, 2010

    Shawn, great point about self-actualization. I also read it in The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. The best thing a manager can do for their team mates is help them make sure energy spent in pursuit of the company’s goals produces a result that furthers them toward their own goals. In my humble opinion, that’s the only way to address turnover in any business. You can manipulate that with short-term rewards or you can encourage that with honest, sincere leadership. Or you can help them find some place else to be. Why would any employee sacrifice their personal goals for the company? But more importantly, why would any respectable organization ask its people to do that?

    Mike…

    Reply to this comment
    • Shawn Murphy

      10. Jun, 2010

      From what I’ve seen, many companies struggle with allowing employees to pursue personal goals. It’s a traditional view. I also think it’s generational…though this may be a bit stereotypical. I think anytime an organization enables employees to grow in both their professional and personal lives, most employees are more apt to give more.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Monica Diaz

    12. Jun, 2010

    I am so blessed with an optimistic and down-to-earth team of great minds! I am happy to serve them. Leading is definitely about service and if you cannot see that the current business affairs are hurting your teams, you are not in the mindset of being a servant leader! It always amazes me how corporate people (like the HR VP you mentioned) do not understand why the organization should be investing in the well-being and development of their people in every aspect. You put it beautifully here, Shawn!

    Reply to this comment
    • Shawn Murphy

      12. Jun, 2010

      Thank you Monica! Being the optimist that we are, I believe the current affairs in our world is a wake up call for some leaders who hadn’t believed that work can contribute to the well-being of employees.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Louise Altman

    14. Jun, 2010

    Hi Shawn,
    New to your blog and wanted to comment on this one. First, I think you are right in thinking that these attitudes are based on “traditonal views” and are often generational. The thing is that they are pervasive. In our experience, much of organizational practice today is mired in the mental habits of yesterday. And that is especially true when it comes to people. You know the quote from W. Edwards Deming – “the problem with business is that its afraid of the business of people.” I think its at the heart of this. Its the old personal/work life false split. What managers like this don’t realize is that the “outside” or other interests an employee has, is where the passion is parked. So, instead of finding a way to engage and apply that passion to their jobs, they discourage it.
    Really liked this post Shawn, thx
    Louise

    Reply to this comment
    • Shawn Murphy

      14. Jun, 2010

      Hi Louise,
      Delighted to have you join us here. Your point is exactly why we wanted to start the Wake Up & Shake It Up blog series. Given the compelling recent events of poor leadership, managers need to wake up to the “business of people” (BTW love this quote) and work on shifting their mental maps so they can connect with their people. As an optimist, it can be done. For some, it will be an easier shift…

      Great response. I’d like to quote you in the ebook for the blog series. You okay with that?

      Reply to this comment
  4. [...] By Monica, on June 15th, 2010 This post first appeared on Shawn Murphy’s wonderful blog at Achieved Strategies, as part [...]

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  5. [...] artículo apareció por primera vez en el blog de Shawn Murphy llamado Achieved Strategies, como parte de su serie sobre liderazgo: “Wake up and Shake it Up”.  Me gustó tanto [...]

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  6. [...] I’ve written about the circumstances surrounding this pending problem.  And I’ve offered suggestions to course correct the direction of the [...]

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  7. Luke

    05. Jun, 2011

    Shawn,
    Great words and well spoken. It is almost like we haven’t progressed since Henry Ford was making Black model T Fords, as he is quoted saying, “Why is it I get a whole body when alls I want is a pair of hands?”
    We are always looking for cutting edge technology to make the difference in the work place, but the reality is if we do not have an engaged workforce then the new technology often just becomes another white elephant. When managers become leaders and start engaging people to capture their minds (rational) & hearts (emotional) we start to get discretionary effort and when we do self actualisation becomes infectious and part of the way we work. The question is, what mindsets ,behaviours and values do we really have to fundamentally change as leaders to get the best out of our people? To truely be successful & sustainable, Who has the biggest change curve ahead, employees or leaders?

    Reply to this comment
    • Shawn Murphy

      05. Jun, 2011

      Luke,
      Well said. My gut says that it’s the leaders who have the biggest change curve. The type of leadership required to help people self actualize challenges commonly held leadership beliefs that are now only starting to erode. It’s slow, though. In my interactions with thousands of employees, I’ve heard and seen that they are eager and waiting for their managers to engage them in a new conversation. Managers and leaders (they aren’t the same always) are slow to show up in the ways listed in this post.

      I like the way you look at the issues, Luke. It’s realistic. We need that if we’re going to make movement in restoring optimism in our workplaces.

      Shawn

      Reply to this comment

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