• September 2011

Five Ways to Keep Your Employees Optimistic

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook

In today’s complex world, where we all are bombarded constantly with often unsettling and upsetting news, how can employers keep their employees from being overwhelmed—if not downright negative about the future?

There are ways! In fact, a client of mine, who is the president of a management consulting firm, has a wonderful way of keeping her team optimistic and focused on doing the best job they possibly can.

She spends a half hour each morning, with a coffee cup in her hand, walking around the office and speaking to each and every employee.

She doesn’t interrupt their work, but with a warm smile on her face, she greets employees with genuine interest in hearing how they are today. She asks about family members and how the kids did yesterday in the soccer match. And, she inquires about a sick parent or the status of a hospitalized sibling.

Most importantly, she lets the people who work for her know that she values each and every one of them as a person first and an employee second.

Since employees have come to expect her visit to their desk, many days she also hears suggestions for improving work processes or ideas on how to better deal with difficult customers. Talk about a success story.

So take a page from her playbook, and begin employing these tips.

Five Ways to Keep Your Employees Optimistic

1. Always give credit where credit is due. Sometimes, this manager finds herself racing back to her office to write down a suggestion and she always gives the person who made the suggestion full credit. “It was their idea, after all,” she tells anyone who asks.

2. Share corporate successes from the day before with everyone you talk to. And sometimes, she shares a concern that will have impact on the organization—but always with the feeling that she and the management team have a plan for dealing with whatever challenge they are facing. Or, she asks employees for their ideas on how to solve that particular problem.

3. Engage employees by sharing your expertise—but in a way that makes them want to do a better job. “My goal is to inspire employees to be the best they can be,” she explains.

4. Foster optimism. This manager knows in her guts that her approach is not only simple—it’s powerful. “No matter what I do, I know that anything is possible if we start by fostering optimism. There is always a way to solve whatever problem has surfaced. You just have to stay positive, and the solutions will find you.”

5. Help employees understand that they are part of something bigger than themselves. “This way, they can see the potential for the organization, and they learn its challenges, but they also are exposed to a leader who is optimistic, focused, and honest to a fault,” she insists.

Why don’t more leaders adopt this philosophy?

What most leaders want is to have employees who are self-reliant and confident. We want people who are adaptable and who can “roll with the punches” when change happens—and it will happen.

How can we keep them focused and optimistic about the challenges ahead? It starts with creating an organizational culture where employees are encouraged to bring suggestions for improvement forward, and where leaders and managers create an atmosphere of trust and optimism.

It is critical when adding people to the staff to hire people who approach life in a positive way.

Leaders like my client—who encourage people to do their best by focusing on results, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation—help everyone reap the benefits.

They encourage people to be optimistic, yet realistic, when dealing with the many challenges they face each and every day. For them, and for me, optimism is the key to success. I hope it can be for you, too.


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Mitchell is a graduate of North Park University in Chicago, with a degree in History and Political Science. Contact Barbara by email.

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