Management Responsibility 101: Optimism

Are you a positive voice right now in a vast sea of negative news?

Make no mistake managers, you must be.

When you talk story today, no matter the context, be a champion of what CAN be done, of what strength IS at hand, of faith you DO have, and of the confidence in OTHERS you do have. Speak with the steady calm and quiet way that soothes fear.

Troubled times are when leaders emerge, and they are often heard above all the noise though they speak with the softest voices. Are you that leader?

From the archives:

Did you know —truly know and realize— that positive and negative is a one or the other occurrence, and not a both at the same time?

I once heard it said that “hope has nothing to do with what is going on in the world.”

42. Fallen Seed and Pod (Yellow)

The seed of the wiliwili tree. It seems so stark and bleak where they fall, yet they they do take root and grow, finding the nourishment they need to become the magnificent wiliwili. In my mana‘o (belief) the kaona (hidden, yet storied meaning) of “wiliwili” is resilience, tenacity, and the determination and will to grow.

The managers we need today are wiliwili warriors.

4. Warrior in Bloom


  1. says

    Rosa, I agree with your basic premise, that leaders need to show the way ahead, and demonstrate resilience, tenacity and confidence…
    but will just put in a small plea for those who aren’t natural optimists. I’m not, which means that ‘optimism’ to us often looks unrealistic, or falsely hopeful. I think there is a place for pessimists amongst the psychological profile of leaders, esp if they’ve learned how to focus on what’s possible and what can and will be done.
    I find words like resilience and tenacity more compelling than optimisim/pessimism as people tend to fall one side or the other of the divide.
    I don’t know if I’m getting hung up on words this week… but thought there might be a point of interest for you in it

  2. says

    You do offer up good counterbalance to the point Joanna. Just talked about this with a manager yesterday afternoon over the phone because being the voice of optimism isn’t his “normal way” and he was trying, but felt like he was coming off as a Pollyanna, with the effect of having people think he was glossing over the real issues. So we talked about how he did have to focus on what was perceived in their workplace as the “real issues,” with his optimism kicking in with the approach they would all take in tackling them – such as having that can-do attitude of resilience and tenacity that is driven by realistic solutions.
    You bring up another good point about word association as well:
    There aren’t too many people who will call themselves pessimists outright -it’s become too much of a no-no to do so, and nobody wants to be labeled a pessimist, but that doesn’t mean those feelings of doubt and apprehension aren’t there. So I certainly don’t mean to imply that managers ignore them at all – they need to watch for body language and other symptoms and then address them in a forthright way.
    My shout-out here is that the manager needs to champion the most positive atmosphere in the workplace that is possible, that is part of their role and responsibility (Kuleana) and we can always, ALWAYS do more in that regard.

  3. says

    Joanna, I read your comment one more time, and in the second reading this jumped out at me:
    “I think there is a place for pessimists amongst the psychological profile of leaders, esp if they’ve learned how to focus on what’s possible and what can and will be done.”
    I will emphatically agree if I can change the “if” in your sentence to a “when.” I think this is the normal evolution of leadership growth in the individual manager who wants to now tackle more leadership roles, feeling ready for them. I believe that leaders need to be our dreamers – and they need to share/lead with their dreams, NOT their nightmares.
    The U.S. “war on terror” may be a perfect example of this. The dream is freedom from fear and tyranny, but the approach has been so negative and pessimistic, with overwhelmingly oppressive doom and gloom – we have focused on our nightmares of fear and not on the dreams of global freedom (and not just American freedom).
    Joanna, you and I coach each other well on wordsmithing and language of intention! I doubt that pessimism will ever have much place in my personal vocabulary, but I do use words like impatience and discontent in my leadership coaching, for those two things impel people to action, whereas I think pessimism holds us back.
    The point is that words are complex and riddled with past association and assumption, therefore my preference with “language of intention” as a NEW language we define with each other in our present contexts. It is a language of our design and invention, one we then use going forward, so that the ways we communicate with each other have been improved – and infused with new energies.

  4. says

    May I just enter your conversation, Rosa and Joanna? For me, what you mean with “pessimism” is “negative thinking”, and I would prefer to use that word. I think in some aspects the realities of life excuse pessimism, but what I hate or do not like is negative thinking. That means, you make a proposal regarding the solution of a problem, and then somebody says “that won’t work”, or “why invest the work or the money”, without taking the time to think about the proposal. I call it “the scissor in my brain / head”, which cuts off any further thoughts about any possible solutions.
    Just my 2cents,

  5. says

    Rosa, I would agree with your change to ‘when they have learned…’
    In defence of pessimists, I’d say that if you have a mangager who can see harsh realities and still be forward thinking, positive, and inspiring – you have a powerful force for change.
    But I wouldn’t suggest you advocate pessimism! Just really making the point that “optimism” and “pessimism” are triggers, and can make you feel awkward if you fall on the ‘wrong’ side of the divide (which in our current culture tends to be extrovert over introvert, optimist over pessimist etc)
    What I had been going to say was that talking about being positive is much more powerful because that is something you can learn, practice, develop and be coached to do better and better.
    Except Ulla already beat me to it :-)

  6. says

    By all means Ulla, you are always welcome to jump in! Your analogy to a scissors is a good one, for you are so right about thought getting cut off in negative circumstances; we all have a tendency to shut down and stop offering suggestions when we fear they will just get knocked down by another’s negativity.
    Thank you for returning to the conversation Joanna, for you know I appreciate your ever positive perspective! You always comment to help.

  7. says

    Ho‘omau: Reveal the Good, and Make it Last

    IF you are a MWAC “regular,” our value for the month of November should prove to be a good complement to the past month’s study of Nānā i ke kumu. In short, we will move from “Source and Truth” to