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Managers can learn to spread hope in the workplace.
Managers don’t necessarily have the budget or staff they need or want, but they do have an infinite resource—their own hope and the hopeful thinking of their followers. Your hope for the future can make hope happen for the people who work for you.
Employees need your hope, according to the 2008 Gallup study Why People Follow. More than 10,000 U.S. adults were asked to identify the most influential leader in their lives and to describe what that person gives to them. Hope, compassion, stability and trust were the most common attributes cited.
To give employees hope, become an expert on what hope is. Hopeful people don’t waste time wishing. They actively invest in the future. They have an unshakeable belief that the future will be better than the present, and they devise plans and work to make it so.
Some people may be more hopeful by nature, but any manager in any industry sector can spread hope and motivate others in concrete ways. Here’s how: Create and sustain excitement about the future. If you aspire to lead with hope, every message you share with followers should be meaningful and fear-free. Meetings, texts, e-mails, tweets, reports, speeches and interviews must communicate hope, trust and stability. When fear infects the words of a leader, it can make employees doubt their commitment. Auditing messages for hope and fear can help keep employees engaged.
Creating and maintaining excitement for the future doesn’t mean filling messages with exclamation marks, smiley faces and goofy emoticons. A hopeful message is serious, straightforward and engaging. It communicates realistically how the future will be better, that every recipient has a role in making it happen, and that the path to the future requires everyone’s commitment and effort. Knock down obstacles to goals, and don’t put up new ones. Managers lose influence when they make their employees’ lives harder. Hopeful leaders make employees’ lives better and easier. View the workplace from your employees’ perspective to uncover the procedures and policies you need to change or eliminate. Adjust goals when circumstances demand it. You may need to change course after spending days, months or years convincing others that you were on the right path. In the face of insurmountable odds, some people delude themselves and others and cling to unrealistic goals. Other leaders—the ones we want to follow—guide followers toward choices that balance rational and emotional interests. Employees look to leaders to capitalize on the spirit and ideas of the times, to dream big, and to motivate them toward a meaningful future. Your hope is a resource for tackling problems faced at work and sparking growth even when times are hard.
The author is a senior scientist at Gallup Inc. His book, Making Hope Happen (Atria Books, 2013), is scheduled to be published this month.
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