Leaders who inspire hope keep employees fueled and motivated, and that propels businesses toward higher levels of performance and success. Hope, though, is not as straightforward as keeping a positive attitude and being optimistic. According to Gallup senior scientist Dr. Shane Lopez, hope is a recipe with two key ingredients: optimism and agency.
Hopeful people are surprisingly pragmatic. They know that a better future is the outcome of hard work, goal-setting, and grit. This differentiates hope from wishful thinking, i.e., positive thinking minus the effort to actualize positive outcomes. Considering that hope is a mix of belief and action, it’s not surprising that hopeful employees are 14% more productive than those who are not, as Lopez reports.
Better productivity isn’t the only reason for leaders to inspire hope, though. Hope is scientifically proven to alter neurochemistry, making us more adaptable and healthier — both physically and mentally.
In his book, The Anatomy of Hope, Dr. Jerome Groopman, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, links hope to improved resilience and a better ability to recover.
In today’s workplace climate, this matters, as employees are still feeling the lingering trauma of the pandemic, and a focus on mental health and wellness is a top employment trend for 2023. Many employees are flirting with burnout and disengagement if they are not already there. Hope is a possible antidote.
How Leaders Inspire Hope
Here are five things leaders can do to inspire more hope in the workplace and achieve higher metrics for performance and workplace wellness.
1. They set the right example.
Leaders who don’t feel hopeful themselves will have a difficult time inspiring employees to feel the same. This means managers have a responsibility to mode the practice of optimistic goal-setting combined with the hard work necessary to hit those goals. When this mindset is strong at the executive and middle-management level, it trickles down to all employees, who will then be more motivated to go above and beyond in the workplace.
Jason Shiers of United Recovery California puts it this way: “When it comes to creating hope in the workplace, it starts with a leader who is deeply rooted in their own hope. Leaders who have hope see the potential in their employees, and they believe that anything is possible.”
Pro-tip: to help articulate an optimistic vision for the future, write a leadership philosophy. A leadership philosophy clarifies both the goals of the company and the values and benchmarks needed to achieve those outcomes — a truly hopeful document.
2. They communicate clearly and gather feedback
Fact: employees lack trust and a sense of confidence if leadership fails to communicate clearly and transparently. Sure, leaders should share a positive plan for the future and celebrate victories, but they should also be open about challenges and setbacks. When leaders show vulnerability and speak honestly, they inspire better trust, and can spread hope even when delivering bad news.
Strong communication also involves giving employees a chance to offer feedback and contribute to broader workplace conversations. For instance, at Energy Casino, the company wants employees to feel included and invested in the organization’s success. To this end, the company holds regular town hall meetings that include company updates and opportunities for employees to ask questions and get feedback. COO Athina Zisi adds that his company also “provides opportunities for employees to provide anonymous feedback through pulse surveys, which helps us identify areas where we can improve.”
3. They support a culture of positivity.
We aren’t suggesting covering the walls with motivational quotes and kitten posters that say “Hang in there.” A culture of positivity is about cultivating the right mindset for confronting difficult challenges and supporting each other through ups and downs. It’s also a culture where employees feel valued and safe enough to speak up without judgment or repercussion.
According to Sreeram Sharma, Head of Management at Qik-chat, leaders can inspire a hopeful culture through simple collaborative exercises, i.e., team projects, brainstorming sessions, and/or social events. This helps employees “feel more connected to their colleagues, build relationships, and see that they are not alone in their struggles,” as Sharma notes.
Leaders can also support positivity and optimism through employee recognition, both with low-lift strategies like sending a positive feedback email, and/or through more formalized opportunities, like employee awards and incentive programs. Through whatever means, employee recognition boosts optimism and motivation, and can also add a sense of celebration and play to the workplace.
4. They provide employees with support and resources.
If there’s one leadership trait to rule them all, it’s empathy. Empathetic leaders are attentive to the needs of employees and practice engaged and compassionate listening that leads to meaningful follow-through. Leaders who practice empathy treat employees as whole people – not just means to revenue.
This means listening and responding to the unique needs of employees, whether that’s offering more training, mentorship, and/or more flexibility. How does this relate to hope? Natasha Maddock of Events Made Simple notes that employees feel more hopeful when they have the support and resources they need to overcome both personal and professional challenges. This helps combat “the powerlessness that some employees are experiencing as a result of external factors, giving them a sense of control over their future and empowering them to make positive changes.”
5. They invest in people and show respect.
Speaker and author Barry Maher believes that one of the easiest ways to inspire hope is to show respect to employees and motivate them to achieve more than they think they can. When leaders invest in people and help them achieve their personal goals, employees are more likely to find a sense of belonging and meaning in the organization.
As Mark Twain said, “Great people make you feel that you too can become great.” And when you make people feel great, “you’ll certainly get great results,” according to Maher.
Bottom line: leaders who inspire hope set up their organization and their employees for success, and that helps everyone work toward an optimistic future.
To learn more about how The Forem can help level up the members of your team and boost the hope and resilience in your organization, reach out to a member of our team to schedule a live demo.