Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hope: Wishful thinking or Goal planning?

MSNBC article titled
Reagan redux Like the Gipper, Obama offers hope — and wishful thinking compares President Obama with Ronald Reagan, the author went as far as coining a word for it “Reaganesque”. The concept of hope pervaded the analysis of President Obama's speech. The analysis questioned the feasibility of some of Obama's reform strategies, but likens this era to that of Ronald Reagan's reign. Reagan's optimism contributed to the improvement of the economy. Thus, even though the author questioned, he recognized the importance of hope and optimism in a crisis like this:

"Hope is who we are and what we do. We need to believe – indeed, the world needs to believe – that “We will emerge stronger than before.”

Hope and Optimism are two of several constructs of Positive Organizational Behavior that positive psychologist have studied. This school of thought believes that even though these constructs can be closely linked to a person's personality they can also be developed and can significantly improve performance.

What is hope?

According to psychologist C. Rick Synder hope is more than wishful thinking. It's about the will and the way. Hope involves the belief that goals can be set, ways of achieving them can be devised and one can motivate themselves to follow through. Thus, the truth in the adage: Where there is a will there is a way.' Research shows that hope has a positive impact on coping with challenges and illness, academic achievement and emotional health.

This is definitely a construct that managers should pay attention to with employees especially in this time. Synder offers some strategies that may help to develop hope such as:
  • Include employees in goal setting
  • Clarify goals, break down complex strategies in small steps
  • Develop action plans and pathways for achieving goals
  • Develop skill of regulating goals, so adjustments can be made where necessary in case of obstacles: thus avoiding false hope
President Obama has clearly done some of these things. It is important to note that a leader's level of hope is significantly related to the success and viability of their unit and satisfaction of employees. President Obama's hope surely has the potential of diffusing to the rest of the population and I have noted informally the positive results of this through daily conversations with people. It is also a good thing that he's hopeful as research as shown that people with hope in stressful professions become less burnt out and survive better.

My emphasis is on hope, but since optimism was also mentioned let me note that this also affects health and performance positively. Optimism can be developed as well by:
  • Identifying self defeating beliefs in challenges
  • Evaluate accuracy of belief
  • Replace with more accurate belief
How are your hope and optimism levels as an individual and within the organizations you are affiliated with?

What are your thoughts on the importance of hope and optimism?

What other constructs do you think are important?

: Luthans, F. (2002). Positive organization behavior: Developing and managing psychological strengths. Academy of Management Executive, 16, 57 -72.

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