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Building a sense of hope for employees is absolutely essential to the sustainable success of an organization. Companies face more and more complexity and change as a part of doing business. With complexity often comes confusion and with confusion, disengagement. Hope helps employees to see a way forward when facing uncertainty. When asked whether their company's leadership made them feel enthusiastic about the future, 69% of employees who strongly agreed were engaged, compared with just 1% who disagreed or strongly disagreed. Hope is a powerful thing.
So, how is it that leaders can infuse hope into their work environment? Start by thinking about the words employees use when asked about hope. In the Gallup study, followers used words like direction, faith, and guidance. At every interaction, how are we instilling faith in the future? Are we guiding our people toward a tomorrow that looks better than today? Are we creating a sense of direction toward exciting possibilities ahead of us?
Leaders who try to instill a sense of hope need to consider the picture we paint about the future. Are we creating a dark and foreboding vision of what lies ahead, or are we helping our employees see a road that leads us to better times? Do we have hope of a better road ahead? Do we have faith in what we can accomplish? We first must get our hearts and minds around the positive possibilities before we can ever help others to see this future as well.
We must intentionally help employees see where they fit in this hopeful future. Consider the other needs of followers: People need to feel a sense of stability from the picture we paint. They need to be able to say, "I fit into that hopeful future." This also helps employees trust leadership more. Furthermore, it helps them feel cared about, because they can sense the compassion leaders have for their people as they try to help them see a positive future ahead.
Even the successful leaders highlighted in Strengths Based Leadership admitted they didn't spend enough time instilling hope. Instead, they say their focus is much more on reacting to the needs of the day. So, as leaders, we need to understand how to leverage our talents more effectively to help us do a better job of being positive and proactive about the future. These questions can help leaders to understand their approach:
- How can I leverage my strengths to help me see the hope in the future before me?
- How can I leverage my strengths to spend more time communicating a future of hope for my team and organization?
- How can I leverage my strengths to make sure I am helping employees see how they fit into our hopeful future?
- How can I use my strengths to pull out insights of hope from those around me?
- How can I use my strengths to create opportunities for employees to share hope with one another?
- How can I tie hope to our reality of today in order to help employees feel optimistic even in difficult times?
Hope doesn't always have to be about a faraway future. It can be about the here and now as well. Hope can come to life in the way that we perceive the challenges we face. I once observed two managers explaining the same situation -- a drawdown of temp workers in their part of the business -- to two different teams. One manager stood up and said, "Here we go again. The company is asking us to do more with less." This created grumbling and a true lack of hope in the room. The second leader stood up and said, "Here is our chance. We now have the opportunity to show the company what we can really do." The team was immediately excited and hopeful that this was a chance to create a better way forward.
There's a great quote in Strengths Based Leadership for leaders to consider: "If, as a leader, you are not creating hope and helping people see the way forward, chances are, no one else is either." As leaders, we have to keep our eyes, and the eyes of our employees, on a hopeful future. We have to involve them in building toward something better each and every day. And we can leverage our strengths to help us do this more consistently.
Dr. Shane Lopez, one of Gallup's most inspiring senior scientists, spent his life studying hope. Sadly, Lopez recently passed away. But he leaves us with a brilliant description of this powerful emotion.
Hope is: "the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so."
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