Winston Churchill famously once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." It’s an age-old question…is the glass half full or half empty? What do you read when you read the sentence above? Do you read OPPORTUNITY IS NOWHERE, or perhaps, OPPORTUNITY IS NOW HERE? I’d like to think that on most days, and in most situations, I choose to answer the question, “my glass is half full.” But it begs the follow-up question though as to how important is outlook in the overall end result as it relates to our professional success? Is it valuable enough to affect the bottom line?
Optimism can increase productivity, enhance team morale and reduce conflict, which in turn, has a positive affect on the bottom line. Optimistic leaders set themselves apart due to the fact that they have a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ.) They are able to influence and convince others of possibilities and opportunities. This helps team members frame how they view a situation, initiative or movement within an organization. Optimism facilitates innovation which then informs creativity. It wouldn't be much of a challenge to convince a colleague that the idea of optimism is a good idea...it is always a good idea. But, does it made a difference in the overall productivity for the organization?
First to truly understand this leadership challenge and whether you have a positive outlook ask yourself a few key questions:
Do you have an insatiable thirst for knowledge?
Highly successful people are curious. If things aren’t going well, they are constantly on the hunt for new methods or processes to refine how they are conducting business. They read the latest research and business journals to gather as much knowledge as possible. They attend workshops, seminars, summits and find opportunities for professional development on a continual basis.
Do you have a personal mission statement?
A personal mission statement is a well thought out, goal-focused statement that strives to act as a statement of accountability. It gives you focus, direction in your career and is the first critical step to working toward your goals. Without having a measurable goal that you work toward, it is nearly impossible to keep perspective on whether you are making progress toward that goal or not.
Are you passionate about what you do for a living?
Are you passionate about what you do for a living? Optimistic people don’t see their work as something that they have to do, they see it as something that they get to do. That passion is what often makes them formidable in the workforce. They are focused, steadfast and are willing to stay the course for success fueled by hard work.
Ask yourself if you’re passionate about what you do by asking the following questions:
- Is my job something I would do even if I weren’t paid to do it?
- What do I perceive as constraints that hold me back (both personal and professional) and am I willing to take the appropriate steps to overcome them?
- What or who are my biggest influences that have helped to define my career? Do I have a work-life balance?
After all, when you consider when we describe what we do for a ‘living’ you can think of it two ways. First, that what we do fuels the opportunity for how we choose to spend our time when we are not at work. The other, and more optimistic viewpoint, is that what we do for a ‘living’ adds to our enjoyment of living. How could we want it any differently?
Do you prefer taking the road less traveled?
Big risks are often followed by big rewards. Being optimistic helps to allow people to not shy away from opportunity, be willing to try new things, take risks. If you are not stepping out on a limb on any kind of regular basis, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are some of the biggest risks that I’ve ever taken and how did they positively affect the outcome?
- What can I gain from taking a leap of faith?
- Am I taking the right risks for the right outcomes?
- Are there significant consequences for not taking risks at all?
Are you afraid to fail?
Optimistic people know that failure happens--they know how to learn from their lessons, and feel better prepared for their future by reflecting on the past in a way that allows them to do better because now they know better. The difference between failure and learning from failure is the ability and knowledge of how to better prepare for the situation the next time around.
Optimism DOES affect the bottom line.
- A study showed that new sales reps at Metropolitan Life who scored high on an optimism test sold 37% more in their first two years in the company.
- Software developers who scored in the top 10% for optimism/EQ test, developed software 3 times faster than their counterparts.
- A Dallas-based corporation showed productivity was 20 times higher among team members who scored higher in the areas of optimism/EQ than those who scored lower on the same test.1
Optimism is a daily discipline.
It’s not that every single day I wake up and AM an optimistic person, but I do wake up and DECIDE that I will be optimistic. And that helps me to discern that opportunity is now here. It’s a decision. It’s a discipline. I find that I never let myself, or others, down in the practice of being optimistic. I may crash and burn on some days, but I always try to keep in mind that I have another opportunity the next day to do it differently. In essence, if you want positive results--you need to begin with a positive outlook.
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