“Hope deferred makes the heart sick. But when hope comes, it is a tree of life.” Proverb
As the familiar saying goes, “Hope is not a strategy.” The word hope conjures up the picture of the person with unfounded optimism or just simply out of touch with reality. When we operate with too much hope, we’re often ridiculed for wearing rose-colored glasses or drinking the proverbial Kool-aid.
In the boardroom hope hasn’t received the credit it deserves. That’s too bad.
Add a Healthy Dose of Hope
As it turns out, there is hope for hope. Hope is a crucial ingredient for a leader, team and organization in how they define areas of strategic focus and correlating goals. Remember BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)? Many companies still have one big overall annual goal, or a best-case scenario set of metrics in their modeling. These can’t exist without hope.
All of us can recall times as business owners and leaders when a situation looked bleak. Somehow through either sheer grit, positivity or a lesser-known data point, we were one of the few who were able to assure ourselves and others. We can remember times when others felt we were too bullish or even delusional in our thinking, yet we pushed the team to move to an aspirational state toward markers that seemed impossible.
How did we do it? We had one key differentiator – hope.
In addition to our own experiences, we can look to research to proof out the value of hope both professionally and personally. Gallup asked followers, not leaders, about the attributes of the best leaders. Hope was one of the top four – in addition to trust, compassion and stability. According to authors Rath and Conchie in their bestseller, Strengths-Based Leadership, leaders who practice and inspire hope in the future drive greater engagement. Leaders who model optimism and positivity, especially during downturns or crisis scenarios, lead teams that are 68% more likely to be engaged.
This research is backed up by an article in Psychology Today highlighting the Hope Theory. According to positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues, “the person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.”
Since hope is often underrated, it’s time to give it the attention it deserves.
Here are some possibilities:
1- Focus on “bright spots.” In Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”, they talk about focusing on the spots where things are working and where they aren’t. Applying hope to making strong areas even stronger propels us to the next level.
2- Leverage hope in navigating through twists and turns during change instead of staying on the same hopeless linear path. Hope isn’t about operating with blinders on when we’re clearly not going where we need to go. It’s about acknowledging the reality and operating with optimism amid small or large shifts.
3- Recall your own and others’ experiences when hope won. What did you or they do to push through to the other side? How was hope a driving force that made a difference? We can look to the following examples among many:
· When Fed-Ex founder, Fred Smith, with enormous debt and his last $5k placed a bet to turn it into $27k. This allowed him to raise the $11 million required to begin to create a turn-around.
· How Apple hit a decade long downturn in 1985, then leveraged innovation (whose birthplace is always hope!) for a miraculous rebound.
· Then, there’s the story of our beloved Starbucks with a dip in 2008 that almost put them under. By asking their customers to give them a hopeful wish list of how Starbucks could be rebuilt, they managed to garner over 100 new ideas. This has led more than 27,000 locations globally with an anticipated solid growth trajectory.
As you, your team and organization map out next year’s organizational strategy and goals, or as you consider how to maneuver your current obstacles, remember to mix in a healthy dose of hope. It might be the one ingredient that determines whether you barely meet or exceed your targets.