Teach optimism like any other skill

If you want your people to be more optimistic, you might need to teach them how. In a previous post Switch on your optimistic brain today, I explained four evidence-based techniques for promoting optimistic thinking. These were:

  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Taking on a curiosity mindset
  • Being mindful of the language you use
  • Leaving the past in the past

For HR and L&D professionals, these tips might seem easy to apply. However, many employees lack the basic foundation skills for being able to action these techniques, which are based on sophisticated research. So you can make a huge difference to the emotional lives of your employees by actively promoting the fact that optimism can be learned, just like any other cognitive skill. Here are some ways you can help people learn to be optimistic at work.

Encourage gratitude

As an HR practitioner, one of your primary tasks is to stay on top of new methods to improve employee well-being. Include sections on how to use gratitude journals to decrease stress in management training and change programs. Work with positive psychology trainers, such as Eleanor Shakiba, to develop practical strategies that can be implemented within teams. For example, teams that include gratitude conversations as standard items on meeting agendas learn how to optimise gratitude easily and naturally.

Train your people in how to adopt a curiosity mindset

Curiosity is associated with intelligence and problem-solving ability. It allows people to bring fun and novelty of thinking into the workplace. Encourage your people to look for alternative ways of doing things and keep work interesting. Welcome innovative ways of solving problems. Include models on creative problem-solving and positive leadership on your training calendar. Present participants with the evidence behind positive psychology, to help them understand that developing a curiosity mindset is not just a fluff activity. Let them know they’re not expected to hug trees, but that the research indicates that building optimistic thinking patterns benefits people at both personal and team levels.

Be mindful of the language used in your organisation

Challenge negative language in the workplace – in meetings, emails or in chat sessions around the water cooler. Reinforce the benefits of positive language by making sure all company communications reflect a bias for positivity. Get optimistic thinking started within the management team and it will trickle down to the rest of the workforce. Teach people at all levels to use techniques such as appreciative enquiry, solution-based thinking and positive leadership strategies. If you would like advice on how to do this, contact Eleanor Shakiba and her team of positive psychology trainers.

Focus on lessons learned, not negative experiences

Talking about ‘failures’ and ‘mistakes’ makes people feel helpless or ashamed. Obviously, this is discouraging and prevents them from learning. Teach managers to coach their teams. Show them how to encourage reflective thinking at group levels. And give them access to team problem solving tools. This keeps your workforce optimistic and solution-oriented.

A culture of workplace optimism is one of the most important things your organisation can strive to create. Play an active role in highlighting this fact, so you can stand out as a leader in your field.

About the author of this article

Eleanor Shakiba specialises in teaching smart people to work with social and emotional intelligence. She is passionate about using positive psychology to support and develop talented, high-performing people. Eleanor’s qualifications include degrees and diplomas in Social Anthropology, Applied Psychology, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. Find out how Eleanor can help you or your team here.

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