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From a psychological perspective...



Your employees and colleagues need to know that you are optimistic. What does this really mean?


Did you know “optimism” is probably the trait that correlates best with successful sellers and managers? Do you promote it? Do you screen for it?


What is optimism?  


Real optimism is not the cheery Pollyanna “happy fella.” It is much more than that.


Look carefully at a true entrepreneur, and you will see optimism. Like adaptability and achievement drive, optimism is one of the traits that separates the winners from the losers in nearly any business endeavor. This is true for executives as well as sales people.


So what is optimism?


I like to describe optimism, when applied to entrepreneurs, as “the lack of a Plan B.”

What this means is that Plan A is supported by confidence that it will work. If there are problems, those problems will be seen as temporary. Also, there is unwavering belief that problems can be overcome because they are related to specific events and not to a permanent weakness in the people or business involved. He or she knows that problems can be overcome, because of the effort and abilities of the leader or individual involved. Confidence in both abilities and effort is the foundation for true optimism.


A company made a product for the automotive industry. It involved customizing the client’s product for specific applications. One day, the CEO was told that the customer was going to begin including the modification in the standard product. Overnight, the company was going to be out of business. Instead, the CEO gathered his team to analyze what they did that was world-class. They decided that their core strength was with the fiberglass they used to make the modification. Then the key question: Who needs a fiberglass product? They increased the size of the company dramatically as they moved into the water sports industry with fiberglass products. They never doubted they could succeed. The setback was just temporary and situational.



These are tough times for most businesses. It is easy to panic. Yes, you may need to adapt with new methods and even new products or services. But optimists know that an answer can be found. They know they will be successful, because they see the situation as caused by outside forces rather than reflecting on their instrinsic value. They trust the strengths of their assets and the character of their people.

You know that you and your organization have the ability to succeed, because you have seen it in the past. Trust that you will solve today’s problems, and let your people know this, too!


In sales, the optimist hears an objection as an opportunity to explain a benefit; the pessimist hears a “no.” The difference is what he tells himself. The pessimist will say, “I can’t…”, “I don’t know now…”, “This is impossible…”, “My price is too high,” or “There is nothing I can do.” For the optimist, it is just a temporary hurdle to jump.


I was reminded today how often some executives and managers think they are helping by announcing the sky is falling and everyone must work extra hard. Blaming and fault-finding only slows down a person’s cognitive functioning, and it makes it even harder for someone to use the abilities and effort needed to be successful. Optimism is knowing a problem is temporary. Blaming implies a belief that the problem is with the individual rather than the situation. The sky is not falling; it is merely a hole in the roof that can be fixed.


Your company—the people in your organization—need to hear from you that you are an optimist. Tell them that you see this mess as temporary and you have faith in their ability to get past it. They need to hear what you are saying louder than what they may be saying to themselves. It’s just a hurdle to jump, right?



Lakin Associates
Wheaton, Illinois


Last modified: October 1, 2014
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